Type 1 diabetes and mental health advocate Emily Vuong has been living with diabetes for most of her life, after being diagnosed at just 14-month old. Emily has never let diabetes hold her back and believes she can accomplish anything by making her diabetes her superpower – including studying for her master’s degree in Education and advocating for mental well-being within the diabetes community. There’s no stopping Emily – she has even completed the New York Marathon!
We recently had a chat with Emily about how she stays motivated, some of her biggest challenges and what it’s been like living with type 1 diabetes – particularly while juggling her studies. Read on to learn more!
Q. Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at such a young age – 14 months of age – you have never really known life without diabetes. What are some of the things you have done to ‘take ownership’ of your diabetes and make it your superpower?
From a very young age, my parents let me make choices about how I wanted to manage my diabetes. I think having that freedom to choose was instrumental, in allowing me to accept my diabetes and feel empowered to take control of my own health.
One of the hardest parts about being diagnosed at such a young age, in a time where diabetes tech was not so advanced, was having to do fingerpricks all the time^ and not being able to predict the direction that my sugar level was travelling. Now that I have the Dexcom G6, I feel so much more empowered to make those diabetes decisions because I have the data to back me up.
Q. How has your diabetes helped to drive your ambitions?
When I was younger, I used to believe I had to prove to people that I could do anything, despite my diabetes. This feeling has continued to motivate me through much of my life. Now that I’m a bit older, my diabetes drives me to be a balanced and realistic role model for kids and young adults growing up with type 1. I hope to show people that you can live a full and happy life with type 1 diabetes, even though sometimes you need to allow yourself extra rest and self-care.
Q. Looking back on your diabetes journey to date, is there anything you would have done differently? What advice would you give your younger self?
If I could, I would go back in time and give myself a big hug. I used to be so hard on myself with my diabetes management – I’m a perfectionist by nature which drove me to obsess over my diabetes.
I would tell my younger self not to stress so much about each blood sugar reading, and instead to look at the overall picture. I also wish I could go back and tell younger me that things are going to get so much easier with all the support and technology available in the future!
Q. What was your experience like when it came to managing your studies and glucose levels? Did your diabetes present any additional challenges you had to overcome as part of studying?
Stress has a huge impact on my diabetes, so managing my blood sugars around exams and assessment deadlines has always been a bit of a juggle. Having high blood sugars often causes me to feel tired and lethargic, which is not conducive to studying and writing assignments. I’ve had to work hard to implement self-care and stress management strategies such as mediation, journaling, yoga and nature walks, so that I can balance out the stress with some more positive things. I also find that walks on the beach or sitting in the sand, not overbooking my calendar, and setting boundaries around work or study along with rest help me to keep my stress levels in check.
Over the years, I’ve had some hiccups with having to jump through hoops to get special consideration for my studies – so that I can bring my insulin pump, glucose monitor and hypo treats into exams. I have learnt to be assertive and advocate for my needs, which didn’t always come naturally to me.
Q. At the end of your studies for your Master of Teaching Degree, what are you most looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward to not having to sit exams or complete assignments anymore! I feel like when you’re doing a degree, there’s always something that needs to be done. Sometimes it feels like I’m being pulled in 10 different directions so I’m looking forward to some more down time.
Q. Are there any valuable lessons that living with type 1 diabetes has taught you – about yourself, the people around you or about life in general?
I’ve had diabetes for 24 years now, but the most valuable lesson I have learned has only been integrated into my life in the past few months. The cool thing about being able to see my sugars through the Dexcom G6 app* is that I have tangible data about how things like stress, adrenaline and lack of rest affect my body. Over the last school holidays, I felt completely burnt out from everything I was juggling. I felt incredibly stressed, and as a result, my sugars were so much harder to control. I could see my time in range dwindling on the Dexcom Clarity app, even though I was trying my hardest to get my levels under control.
The lesson I learned, and the lesson that my diabetes has showed me, is that there is nothing more important than prioritising your health, rest and happiness. There is a parallel between my diabetes and my life. Just like anything in life, when my diabetes decisions come from a place of inner peace and calmness, everything flows so much more smoothly. On the other hand, when I am reactive and highly-strung, my blood sugars, like the rest of the things in my life, are so much harder to manage.
ALWAYS READ THE LABEL AND FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FOR USE. Read the warnings available on amsldiabetes.com.au/resources before purchasing. Consult your healthcare professional to see which product is right for you.
Emily is an Australian Dexcom Warrior. For more information on the Dexcom Warrior Program, please click here
*The Dexcom G6 app is available for iOS and Android devices. For a full list of compatible display devices, please visit https://www.dexcom.com/en-AU/compatibility
^ If your glucose alerts and readings from the G6 do not match symptoms or expectations, use a blood glucose meter to make diabetes treatment decisions.
This testimonial relates to an individual’s response to treatment with our products and has been edited to ensure it is consistent with the products’ indication(s). The testimonial does not provide any indication, guide, warranty or guarantee as to the response other persons may have to the treatment. Responses to treatment with our products may differ. It is important to consider individual circumstances and consult with your healthcare professional before considering any changes to your diabetes management.
Dexcom and Dexcom G6 are registered trademarks of Dexcom, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries.
“One of the hardest parts about being diagnosed at such a young age, in a time where diabetes tech was not so advanced, was having to do fingerpricks all the time^ and not being able to predict the direction that my sugar level was travelling.”
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