Wednesday Warrior: Christine McKee

I’m pumped for this week’s Wednesday Warrior: Christine McKee

Christine and I met on Facebook when a friend tagged her in one of my posts. We instantly connected over our love for travel and I truly feel like I’ve known her for forever!

Christine’s story is beautiful. She has a different perspective on her condition because she was diagnosed just one year ago. She is still adjusting to her new life with diabetes and is constantly learning how to find the balance between life and school.

She is currently living in Switzerland and studying her Master’s degree in International Development (so awesome!). When she was diagnosed, she was overseas, away from home and was about to start school. She had to learn to adapt to her new life in a new country, where it was hard to communicate what was going on.

She’s the definition of a Wednesday Warrior and this is a MUST READ.

Every day, Christine gets stronger in her fight with diabetes and I’m very thankful she wanted to share her journey with us. 

Here is her story. 

I was diagnosed on August 15, 2017.

I’ve been living with diabetes for 1 year.

I’m living in Switzerland.

My current occupation is Master´s Candidate in International Development.

  1. What type of diabetes do you have?

Type 1

  1. How was your life before your diagnosis?

I was raised in a small town in the Sierra Nevada, California. I grew up climbing mountains, skating frozen alpine lakes, skiing and enjoying the great outdoors. I love to travel (when I was diagnosed I was in the middle of a huge life-changing trek across Europe) and lived in many different countries!

After graduating from UC Berkeley, I served for two years in the Peace Corps in rural Guatemala working with sustainable agriculture and food security. I´ve worked at hostels and surfed in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, spent half a year in Brazil learning Portuguese and bartending, backpacked around Central America, moved to Spain for two years to travel Europe and teach English…lots of fun adventures!

I´ve always been an active person, meeting new people, eating different foods and learning languages are some of my favorite things!

My diagnosis won´t change that, but it will be a lot different with my pockets full of insulin pens…. (although my Endocrinologist was less than thrilled when I told her I am planning a 5-week trek across Siberia this August) ?

  1. What were your first thoughts when you were diagnosed?

When I was finally diagnosed after two months of getting sicker and sicker and after I could barely walk and afraid I would never get better, I was so relieved!! What I was feeling had a name and it had treatment that would help me recover.

I had just made it to across Spain and France to Switzerland, where I would be starting my Master´s program for two years. I was terrified as well, but I didn´t have much time to process anything at all with school starting in one week. I couldn´t think too much about it because I was afraid I would just fall apart.

Luckily, I had so much going on there wasn´t much time to be sad or afraid, I was more worried about passing my Statistics final than anything else!

  1. What changes did you have to make after your diagnosis?

Everything changed after being diagnosed. It really wasn´t that long ago, but even after a year I am still making daily adjustments and learning more about my body and what it needs every day. One of the most positive changes I have experienced is being able to connect with people on another level, and learning that everyone has something going on, even if it isn´t visible.

  1. Did you try to hide your diabetes?

As I was starting at a new school in a new country and learning a new language, I wasn´t sure how to act about it all! At first I gave my injections and checked my blood sugar levels in the bathroom, not sure if it would make it harder to make friends if I started poking my fingers and lifting my shirt to give insulin injections at the lunch table, but after a few days of that I figured anything was better than trying to juggle everything locked in a tiny bathroom stall!

Some people would ask me, and I quickly learned that saying I had diabetes would result in a polite nod or a quip about how healthy I ate and how strange it was that I was diabetic! I hated that feeling of not being able to explain myself, describe what was happening to me, so I started trying to hide my diabetes, thinking of it as a weakness, something that made me less whole.

When hiding didn´t work, I started explaining what diabetes was and avoiding the word `diabetes´ all together. And it worked wonderfully! I found people really don´t understand and won´t ask if they already assume they know, but talking about my pancreas and my autoimmune system made it a much more open conversation.

  1. Do you do anything else to manage your diabetes more effectively, such as exercise, diet, or other medications?

I´ve found it´s all about balance! I practice yoga every morning for at least 20 minutes and go for long walks with my dog, which has helped me a lot.  Now that I am recovering from the first couple of months of being diagnosed (and the months I went un-diagnosed) I am pushing myself to do a lot more cardio and I can´t believe how much it has helped my levels! And I´ve been eating lots more leafy greens and balancing my carb intake—I´m the kind of person who always has her pockets full of snacks, usually crackers and granola bars, and now it´s nuts and dark chocolate!

  1. What are the hardest parts of being diabetic?

Right now? Everything!! I´ve heard it gets better though!

Brooke´s blog and the Facebook group has shown me that.  Every day I get stronger, every day I learn something new.

  1. Where do you get your support from?

My partner has been absolutely amazing, I could not have survived my first year of a master´s program—studying 14 hour days, 7 days a week, losing half of my hair from a late diagnosis, not being able to walk more than 10 feet without needing to lie down, the ups and downs, trying to balance it all and pass my classes— he has been a complete angel, the positive light in my life.

He tells me I can do it, he takes care of me, he comforts me in my months of sadness and worry and my nights of defeat.  We met in Spain and have been together 3 years now, and 2 months. After my diagnosis he proposed, telling me he wanted to love me forever, that he would always be there for me no matter what.  He is my light in the darkness!

  1. Are you diabetic proud? Why or why not?

I honestly haven´t thought that much about it! Again, this is all new to me.  I´m not sure if I´m at the stage of complete acceptance, feeling like I can do anything  or want to show the world that diabetes is part of me. I am finding different parts of me are stronger, even if I have to relearn how my body works and what is best for me.

I am proud of myself for getting through this first year and feeling better and better every day!   

  1. What is a piece of advice for someone who was just diagnosed?

I want to share a quote that I read in a book late one night when I was trying to stay awake long enough to finish my juice box:

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is ever for naught. Hardships teach us qualities that we can get in no other way.  Like patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we endure, especially if we endure it patiently, builds up our character, it purifies our hearts, and it expands our souls.”

I stopped and read those lines over and over again. Then I wrote it down and kept going back to it.  I absolutely believe this to be true.  Be patient, it will get better, and you will be stronger for it.

  1. What would you like someone who doesn’t have diabetes to know about your diabetes?

ASK ME QUESTIONS!!! Talking helps me process my diabetes and helps me connect with others! Don´t be afraid to ask ?

If you would like to personally connect with Christine, please don’t hesitate to reach out! She would love to connect. 

You’re not in this war alone. We’re fighting this TOGETHER.

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