Capoeira is a centuries-old Brazilian martial art that combines combat and music. It involves aerial and acrobatic movements that can be taxing on the feet and legs. It sounds like something someone with diabetes wouldn’t be able to do. However, no one told this to Melissa, a 32-year-old resident of South Boston, MA.
Melissa was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 18. She’s had a very active lifestyle since she was a child and that hasn’t changed, but it took her a little time to figure out what diabetes meant for her body.
“I basically had to take the time to learn what to eat and how to treat my body so diabetes wouldn’t stop me from doing things I enjoy doing,” she says.
Melissa lets out a chuckle as she recalls her childhood and her love for candy. One day while in middle school, she packed her own lunch before leaving home. Her choice? A one-pound chocolate bunny. And her breakfast on the day she was diagnosed with diabetes? A bowl of candy corn.
Diabetes clearly meant a significant change in how she looked at her diet and its effect on her daily activities.
“When I was diagnosed I didn’t know anything about diabetes,” says Melissa. “I just said okay and went to work straight from the doctor’s office. I told my mother and a few hours later my aunt who is a nurse showed up at my job and made me go to the hospital to check my blood sugar again and learn about diabetes.”
The first doctors Melissa saw didn’t make things easier for her. She was put on a very strict diet that lead to rapid weight loss and anemia.
“I felt like they just gave me a cookie cutter regimen to follow. I wasn’t overweight to begin with and now my ribs were practically sticking out and I had no energy. I finally had to say to the doctor, ‘Look, I’m hungry. I’m going to eat something right now.’”
Melissa sought out a new doctor and a nutritionist who helped her learn how to live life to the fullest—without diabetes stopping her short. It was a life-changing experience for her. Gone were the days of her starving herself because she didn’t fully understand diabetes.
She has seen the treatment of diabetes evolve along with her own understanding. She credits her use of insulin pumps over the last five years for teaching her more about her body and how to care for it. Calibrating the pump involved some trial and error, but she’s now completely comfortable and can’t imagine life without it.
Despite the laundry list of misconceptions about diabetes, Melissa says she doesn’t get mad when someone asks her questions or isn’t informed.
“I didn’t know anything before I was diagnosed, so I can’t expect everyone else to. I welcome people’s questions. I think it’s a good thing. Ask away”