Jillian Rippolone comes from Long Island, New York and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1997 at the age of 9. I caught up with her for a Team DiAthlete chat about her life with t1 diabetes and ‘finding your confidence back’ with it Here is what Jillian shared:
“I have been a diabetic now for almost 20 years! It’s been a long road that’s for sure. When I was younger my parents sent my brother (who is also a type 1 diabetic) and I to a diabetes camp, to be around other kids like ourselves and feel accepted, it was cool! I’m still friends to this day with the girl I went to camp with!
“Growing up when technology wasn’t as advanced, it was a bit challenging. Trying to figure out carbs and take needles all day long, it wasn’t easy on my mother having two diabetic children.
“As a teen diabetes didn’t really affect my social life negatively, however when you’re a teen and have a disease, internally, I felt a lower self esteem; it wasn’t until I was in my mid 20’s I felt fully confident.
“I would never advertise or show off I was a diabetic nor tell many people, because I guess I felt it wasn’t necessary. However, at age 28 now, I want the world to know and let others know that I’m a diabetic – to help spread awareness, motivate and inspire others to feel confident and proud to be living with t1d. Nothing should stop us from anything.
“People need a leader, and now I’m that leader. I run a 3k type 1 diabetic Facebook community page (www.facebook.com/type1titans) as well as two Instagram pages, one for diabetic memes (@kissmypancreass) and my personal diabetic/fitness Instagram (@t1dchick). I love posting funny diabetic pics that will make people laugh at jokes we all get! I also love posting about our everyday blood sugars, events, news, activity, questions, suggestions, and people’s photos of how they are living and dealing with diabetes on the Facebook page. It’s really great how we are all coming together and honestly it’s thanks to social media.
“Sometimes people feel alone and aren’t able to fully relate to others because of having diabetes, so having a supportive diabetic community where we can all gather together is really a beautiful thing. I also participate in every Jdrf walk to cure diabetes and also do other events such as the ADA tour de cure to help raise awareness for t1d. I like to stay connected and be around those who I relate with and all gather together in efforts of finding a cure! Faith and hope my friends!
“Let’s talk about my social life! It’s crazy! Although as I got older and more mature it’s settled down, diabetes has never ever stopped me from anything. If you do things in moderation you will be ok. You just can’t abuse anything, like drinking. I don’t smoke, never recreationally tried drugs and I’ll only drink in social settings, and when I say drink maybe have a few at most nowadays! Everyone will go through a party phase. I went through that in college, but as you grow up you realize how unnecessary it is and how it will mess up your blood sugars and make you feel super sick. It’s just not worth it. I think the best thing is having a great group of friends. Friends that don’t pressure you into anything or say anything negative when it comes to drinking and diabetes. All my friends are so supportive and care so much about me and that’s what’s great about my social life I have people that want me to succeed.
“Some struggles that I have faced with diabetes was DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), unfortunately I went into DKA twice in my life. Once was being young and dumb and not caring fully about my diabetes and the other reason was the insulin resistance not getting into my body. It was horrible and I never want that to happen to me ever again. Other than that I have never had any problems with passing out/ diabetic comas thankfully! I think hearing all these horror stories really shaped me into the person I am now because I don’t want to lose my legs my toes or anything else for that matter. I want to live a healthy, long life.
“I made @t1dchick (instagram) to connect with other diabetics and overnight it felt like I had a crazy following! People are so intrigued with my fitness and daily life with my diabetes! Exercise is a huge part of my life now. I won’t sit here and say I’m in perfect shape or have perfect numbers, because that’s just not true. It’s a constant struggle everyday to eat well, control glucose levels among everything else! I can go from 120 to 340 (mg-dl) like anyone! It’s about control. I like to set realistic goals for myself with my blood sugars. It all starts with baby steps, miracles don’t happen overnight; just like how my muscles won’t grow after lifting once in the gym, just how eating one salad won’t make me thin. Get it? There’s nothing wrong with little goals to end up with achieving your ultimate targets. You have to start somewhere. If you need help or support, ask! People are there for you, I’m here for you, just ask! Building confidence is key. You will be happier, live longer, and maintain a healthy life with type 1. Don’t hide anymore, have a voice, be heard, be seen because life is beautiful, you are beautiful. Let’s stand strong and fight diabetes together!”