Shane Abeyta, a 24-year-old in Westmoreland, Kansas, has had a long struggle after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the tender age of 10-years-old. Raised in Farmington, NM, he graduated high school and moved on to work as a sheet metal apprentice along with other side jobs. Shane has seen his share of ups and downs in the 13 years since being diagnosed, and feels robbed of his childhood due to the disease. Thriving with work, he also has a job where he builds decks, houses, and many other general construction jobs. “It’s fun and it’s a career. I went Union and they pay me to go to school, provide work, and full benefits. It sounded like a pretty good deal to me. The Union takes pretty good care of its members out here.” When he’s not busy with his demanding career and side job, he spends his free time skateboarding, longboarding, mountain biking, snowboarding, and anything that sounds fun and exciting at the time. Shane recently spoke with Everyday Diabetes from his home in Westmoreland, Kansas.
Being diagnosed as a child is a difficult and confusing time. Did you know what was happening and what the doctors were telling you? Well, my mom had a pretty good idea. I told her I was going to the bathroom a lot and drinking a lot of water and she didn’t think much of it until we went to the mall. At that point, I’d make it about 10 feet into every store and I’d need to go to the bathroom. She took me to the doctor to see if she was right or not, and when we went I cried most of the way there because I knew if she was right I couldn’t join the military like my dad did and that’s all I wanted growing up. After seeing the doctor, I was diagnosed at ten years old and spent about a week at the hospital. My fifth grade class all sent me get well cards while I was in the hospital which was pretty cool. I understood what was going on because my mom had type one diabetes my whole life so I was use to it. Learning to calculate how much insulin I needed to take took time to get use to. For the first year I couldn’t even give myself my shots, it scared me so bad. Eventuality I learned to do it. When my doctor told me about what was happening, I fully understood since my mom had it. If it wasn’t for my mom having it I don’t know how well I would have learned to manage it. America needs to teach it better in school. In my 9th grade health class, I taught the class about diabetes because I had it and knew a lot more information than the old inaccurate textbooks did.
In my 9th grade health class, I taught the class about diabetes because I had it and knew a lot more information than the old inaccurate textbooks did.How did you feel after your diagnosis at that time? Pretty much being diagnosed stole my childhood. Everything I knew was taken away. I couldn’t eat or drink what I wanted anymore. It also made me feel different since I would leave for lunch early so I could go to the nurse’s office everyday to get my shot and check my sugar. It was really hard to accept that I couldn’t be like everyone else anymore for a few years after being diagnosed. Then, later on in life, I became severely depressed from other things going on in my life and I absolutely didn’t care about my blood sugars so my A1C was ridiculously high and it caused damage nobody can see. I went through difficult times because my blood sugars varied quite a bit. I just didn’t care anymore. Since you went through your ‘not caring’ phase, have your outlook changed? Yes, I have changed, but only after hitting as low as I could. I planned to commit suicide my senior year of high school. Someone found out and I got sent to Albuquerque to a mental hospital. It was where I discovered to never give up no matter what.
“Being diagnosed stole my childhood.”As for your breaking point during your senior year of high school, what advice would you give other people suffering from diabetes and depression? My advice: don’t give up. I know it sounds stupid and cheesy, but it’s the truth. Life’s hard and being diabetic makes it harder. Uncontrolled sugars affect our moods a lot. Being depressed is already a struggle, but not taking care of your diabetes can turn you into a ticking time bomb. Having a day feeling down and out with blood sugar out of whack can cause you to overreact and want to you to give up even more. After being where I was, I know anyone can make it. More people care about you than you think. Asking for help is hard, but when you really feel like giving up, say something. Don’t try to fight it alone. Since then, what have you done to change your the way you live your life? I’ve opened up to people instead of trying to do it all alone. I’ve worked on controlling my sugars better, and I forced myself to have a more positive outlook. When I was suicidal and went to that mental hospital, I saw something so basic and simple it opened my eyes. Since then, I’ve been pushing through it all, and chasing what I want more than anything. I can’t say if everything I want will ever happen or not, but it gives me a reason to keep going no matter how bad it gets.
“I’ve never had any issues at work. I just tell someone “hey give me a sec, I need to sit down and eat a snack I can feel my blood sugar coming down,” or something like that and it’s never been a problem.”You boldly continue to push through. As for your diet and exercise, do you have anything you do specifically? Well about a year ago I was going to the gym everyday, but that stopped because I started working out of town and didn’t have time. Now that I’m working back in town when I get off 12-hour days, I plan on going back to working out. However, I get constant exercise at work doing hard manual labor for very long hours. I consider that constant physical activity. On the weekends I’m always active and go longboarding or ride my mountain bike. My diet isn’t as high in protein since I’m not working out, but I try to eat as healthy as I can. Do you now keep track of your levels and use your insulin as instructed? I don’t log the sugars like I did when I was first diagnosed, I just calculate my insulin for what I need. I have to use my stuff everyday or I start feeling bad. I can go two, maybe three days without my insulin before having to go to the hospital. I only know that because I’ve run out before and couldn’t get more for a couple of days. How about your jobs; do your employers always accommodate to your needs well? I tell every employer I have diabetes when I get hired. Usually they have no idea about diabetes when I first bring it up, so I have to inform them what they need to know. So far, I’ve never had any issues at work. I just tell someone “hey give me a sec, I need to sit down and eat a snack I can feel my blood sugar coming down,” or something like that and it’s never been a problem. I’m Union. If I was ever fired because of diabetes, there would be some serious consequences for that company. What do you think America could do as a whole to prevent the increase of children being diagnosed with diabetes? America needs to teach it better in school. In my 9th grade health class, I taught the class about diabetes because I had it and knew a lot more information than the old inaccurate textbooks did. America is lazy and unless all the unhealthy food disappears, diabetes will always be there. The food they give in schools is awful and I don’t think kids get enough exercise while in school. Physical Education might not be for everyone, but instead of cramming useless information down the throats of kids, have a daily 45-60 minute walk around the school. If habits like that were established young, then as adults there’s a higher chance of staying active. If you were to meet a young child who was recently diagnosed, what would you say to give them support? I’d tell them the truth about what’s going to happen and how things will change. I would also tell them how they will start to feel, so that when the change starts happening it wouldn’t be a huge shock to them. God has a plan for everything and it seems unfair to be given something you’d never want, but the strongest people are given the heaviest burdens. I may not be the best example, but I’ve done so many things in my life that I was told I couldn’t do because I have diabetes. So don’t let anyone or anything stop you from what you want.