Real Life: Jo Treitman on Insulin, Beer and Bringing People Together.
Jo Treitman is currently the Program Director at the College Diabetes Network (CDN). She graduated from Wellesley College with a B.A. in Neuroscience in 2011 and is now living in Boston. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 14 and is now one of the founders of Diabesties, now a program of CDN. Jo founded the Wellesley College CDN chapter in 2011 as a senior, and since then, has been an involved member of the team. After graduating, Jo worked as a research technician at Tufts Medical Center in a Biology lab studying the effect of BPA exposure to breast cancer incidence.
I spend so much of my time now thinking about college and diabetes, and yet I don’t get much time to think back to my own experiences – especially when it comes to alcohol…
One of my favorite diabetes stories from college is about how I met my friend Sam. After class one day, a few of us went to grab dinner in the campus center. As we were sitting down, I made a random remark about how all that was in my fridge was beer and insulin. She gave me a weird look (which I sometimes get when I make diabetes jokes – some people aren’t aware that diabetes humor is a thing… weird). Instead, she bends down and grabs an insulin pen out of her bag! I couldn’t believe it – someone else with diabetes? Only yesterday, I had met my new friend Natalie (also Type 1) at lunch! So, a week ago, I had no Type 1 friends on campus, and now I had two? Cool.
The three of us instantly hit it off – I guess we broke the ice by laughing about how convenient it is to have ‘chasers’ at parties when you’re low… it felt so good to know that someone else GOT that. Also, let’s just talk about how convenient your T1D friends can be – THEY HAVE TO CARRY METERS TOO! All we had to do was bring one meter to the bar, and three lancets – less to carry! Above all, it was great to have people to ask about carb counts and how alcohol affects blood sugar – it made me feel safer. I realize now that having Sam and Natalie around not only made me feel safer, but my non-T1D friends began to notice what to pay attention to – just by listening to conversations that Sam, Natalie, and I had, they became diabetes advocates at parties, on campus, and now in the greater community.
Just the other day, I showed up to a bar to meet some college friends – I sat down, checked my sugar (they’re used to it now) and sure enough I was low. They know that this is sometimes the one time I will agree to have a “fancy sugar drink”, but this time I opted out for a sprite followed by a beer. Unlike the “beer” that we drank at college, the real world has the good stuff. When I started drinking REAL beer, I came to the obvious conclusion that light beer is water, and real beer has WAY more carbs. For the first time, I found myself taking insulin with alcohol – a concept completely new to me. When Natalie (who is younger than me) turned 21, we started texting between bars about how much insulin to take, when to eat a snack, etc. I guess what I’ve learned about drinking with diabetes is that it’s always important to have a plan, to have people who know about diabetes by your side, and that good beer is usually worth the insulin.