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Living With Type 1 Diabetes- Christina Marie Mulchandani

Diagnosis Story

After a 3-week stay at a Vancouver hospital’s ICU, my sister was finally cleared to fly. My siblings and l were so relieved to land in Montreal even during a snowstorm on April 7, 2016.

Unfortunately, that relief was very short-lived.

Since l wasn’t feeling well and had lost so much weight in BC, l promised myself that l would deal with my health once home. So on April 8, l went to a clinic. When they checked my blood glucose, the meter was unable to register a reading because my sugars were so HIGH.

Immediately, the doctor provided me with a medical note and asked me to go to the nearby hospital. As soon as the Triage nurse saw it, l was whisked away to an ER bed. For the next 36 hours, l was hospitalized as it was imperative to lower my blood sugars.

FACT: The human body should be less than 7.8 mmol/L after 2 hours from eating.

MY REALITY: l hadn’t eaten anything in 7 hours, and I was over 34 mmol/L. l was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, which would later be reassessed as Type 1 Diabetes (T1D).

I remember freezing in the ER bed. l was near the exit door that led to the outdoor entrance. When l politely asked the orderly for a blanket, it was literally thrown at the foot of my bed. I was unable to reach it. My arm had an IV tube and there was not much give. To make matters worse, when the night nurse checked my blood pressure, l yelped in pain as the IV insertion made my arm tender. I mentioned this to her, but she chided me saying that it was only a small piece of plastic and left me alone.

It was THERE that I reached my breaking point. l sobbed uncontrollably. I felt so alone and utterly defeated:

▪ First my mom’s cancer diagnosis in July 2015;

▪ Then her death 4 months later;

▪ The obstacles l faced to honour her dying wish to bury her ashes and my dad’s ashes in the Philippines (my dad died in 1997, and she held onto his ashes all those years); and

▪ My sister’s close brush with death.

Now here l was – shivering in the darkness – in a hospital bed. My body trembled in utter despair, and interestingly enough, a thought popped up in my head and l held onto it... l had a strong feeling that l would be released on April 10 — because April 10 was the 19th anniversary of my dad’s death – and my intuition was correct. I left the hospital on April 10th .

Learning and Adapting to Do Things in Public

From the day of my diagnosis, I publicly would inject insulin – a clear liquid that keeps me alive until a cure is found. I would also lance my fingers 11 to 12 times per day to check my blood sugars. Sometimes, it would be more if I was treating a low or high blood sugar episode. It was never during convenient times as I would need to interrupt a gym workout, exit the highway and park on a side street, or race between innings during a softball game. I quickly discovered that winters weren’t great to check blood sugars with cold fingertips, and that during frigid temperatures, the battery on the glucometer would stop working.

I suffered from anxiety due to diabetes. A year into my living with T1D, I joined the softball league at my place of work. It was a conscious first step to overcome my anxiety and panic attacks that stemmed from hypoglycemia (i.e., low blood sugars) and hyperglycemia (i.e., high blood sugars) in public. I felt that if I was with people who knew my situation, l would gain the confidence to manage my diabetes outside the comforts of home.

That first season, I checked my blood sugars with fingersticks. This meant racing to the public washroom to wash my hands between innings. It was hard to see if my readings were falling or skyrocketing while I played. I ended up depending more on how I FELT during a game. Imagine abruptly having heart palpitations, shakiness, and mentally feeling off-centred. This was not great for my game performance.

Before the second season, I celebrated my 2nd Diaversary (i.e., the anniversary of the day someone was diagnosed with diabetes) by switching from fingersticks to using Dexcom’s continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology. It not only literally transformed my diabetes management but also improved my game. I was no longer as preoccupied with poking my fingers. Instead, I discreetly glanced at my phone to check my glucose levels, and if I was trending high or low, I treated myself accordingly. If I didn’t hear my personalized high and low alerts go off, my team would let me know. I focused on the enjoyment of the game, the camaraderie, and becoming a better player.

Everyday Life

Managing any chronic health condition is a second full-time job.

My day begins at 6am on weekdays. I may hit the snooze option for another 30 mins, just to get more shut eye. This usually happens if I have low blood sugars during the night, thereby resulting in interrupted sleep and feelings of lethargy over the course of the day.

My morning routine is to first inject my basal insulin. Basal insulin (also known as long-acting insulin) helps to stabilize my blood sugar during periods of fasting, such as in between meals or while I am asleep. I then prepare and pack my breakfast, inject some fast-acting insulin, and run through my mental checklist in my mind:

1) Do I have my insulin pen in my purse? Is there enough fast-acting insulin in the insulin pen to last the day? Do I have extra needles for my insulin pen?

2) Power bank to ensure that my cell phone is always charged since I use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) as my primary way to measure my blood sugars;

3) Glucometer with extra lancets and test strips as a backup of measuring my blood sugars;

4) Extra Dexcom G6 sensor in the event that my current sensor will expire during my workday; and

5) Enough snacks to quickly increase my blood sugars (aka “hypo treats”) such as juice or fruit snacks in my purse and in my car.

As I head out, I drink my pre-workout drink and ensure that my blood sugars are at a safe number to drive.

At the gym, I start my routine with hypo treats nearby and my phone at arm’s reach so I can discreetly check my blood glucose numbers. I later shower and get ready for work.

I inject fast-acting insulin about 10 mins before I eat my breakfast.

By 11am, I have a light snack to make sure that I don’t experience a hypo.

Before I walk towards our onsite cafeteria, I recheck my blood sugars. If I am trending low, I sip some juice. It is not a pleasant experience to be in a line up waiting for food and then being alerted by my Dexcom mobile app that my blood sugars are dropping...

Afterwards, I sit down with my colleagues for lunch. Based on my meal, I inject my best guestimate of the dosage of insulin needed.

By mid-afternoon, I have another snack.

Finally, it is an end of a workday. I recheck my blood sugars before driving. Depending on my blood sugar readings, I treat myself accordingly.

Supper time -- yes, you guessed correctly -- I need to inject myself again.

As part of my nighttime ritual, I ensure that I have placed my glucometer, blood glucose test strips, lancets, insulin pen, juice, bottled water, and my cellphone onto my night table. Having done this, I am ready to treat hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia during the night. My Dexcom mobile app will RING and wake me up in the event that my blood sugar numbers are too low or too high.

I used to have actual snacks by my bedside for my low blood sugar episodes, but later l would have to brush my teeth and floss through a sleep-induced haze. This ultimately led to my being wide awake and unable to fall back to sleep.

Each night, my Dexcom mobile app rings AT LEAST once, and I basically end up averaging 5 hours of shut eye per night. So when l do have (on the rare occasion) uninterrupted sleep, l feel like a whole new woman!!!

Why I Picked this Challenge

This year marks JDRF’s 30th year of Walk for a Cure for Diabetes which consists of a 5km walk in different parks throughout Canada.

On June 3, 2023, I will be doing a personal fitness challenge that symbolizes resiliency, patience, and discipline in my mind, because diabetes management is a 24/7 lifetime commitment in addition to joining the Montreal event in Angrignon Park on June 4, 2023.

My goal this year is to raise $17 500 ($2500 for each year since my diagnosis) for Type 1 Diabetes research.

Christina Marie’s Fitness Challenge

  • 130 chin-ups

  • 130 burpees

  • 13.0 km bike ride

Though diabetes is a life-threatening condition, it has taken me on a lifechanging path of unique opportunities, of making amazing friendships within the T1D community, and of the mindset that with the right tools & support, I am able to unlock my endless possibilities and thrive to live my best life.

Written by: Christina Marie Mulchandani


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