By the looks of things, 13-year-old Braxton Johnson appears to be just another teenage student at Los Olivos Junior High, playing on the basketball and tennis teams and kicking his way toward a black belt in karate. But when he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) three-and-a-half years ago, his life became much more difficult than that of his peers.
With the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s annual three-mile Walk to Cure Diabetes coming up on Saturday, October 12, at 10 a.m., I checked in with Braxton to learn more about his everyday struggle and what diabetes is all about.
Tell us a little about what life is like with Type 1 diabetes.
It’s definitely not fun. I feel like I have learned a powerful lesson early on in life about how to face challenges and adversity. With T1D comes multiple blood sticks and testing every day with neverending carb-counting. The highs and lows are always a concern. I am most concerned about the lows at night while I am sleeping bc I’m afraid of going into a diabetic coma.
Are people surprised that you can be as active as you are?
Yes, they are surprised when they actually find out I do have T1D. I rarely announce it because I want to fit in and not make a big deal out of it. Plus, I want to feel like I was able to accomplish the event or make the sports team or whatever it might be because of my ability and the work and effort I put in.
Do people often confuse your diabetes with Type 2, which often comes from unhealthy lifestyle choices? How are they different?
All the time, but usually it’s the parents of friends or acquaintances because they don’t understand. However, I realize they mean well now.
My message that I share is anyone with T1D can live a healthy and fulfilling life doing whatever they want and dream of. I also want to make sure that my friends, family and community are aware that there is a difference between T1D and T2D. When I was diagnosed with T1D, I quickly realized that it was not my fault, but learned that it is an autoimmune disease that attacks the pancreas and shuts down the production of insulin.
The main difference between T1D and T2D is that T1D is irreversible. At this time there is no cure, where T2D can be reversed through proper diet and exercise. If you had the opportunity to correct it, why wouldn’t you? We with T1D don’t have that privilege yet. The greatest hope is the artificial pancreas. Thanks for writing such an informative article. [Read that here.]
Who should participate in the JDRF walk and why?
Everyone. Our goal is to raise funds and awareness. We need the help of the community.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s three-mile Walk to Cure Diabetes, which helps fund the artifical pancreas project, is on Saturday, October 12, 10 a.m.. See walk.jdrf.org/santabarbara to register.