By Angel Yong
“I want to increase my openness and vocalize my experience so that more people can grasp the true impact of living with diabetes,” shared 17-year-old Dynelyn Murphy.
On October 13, 2022, Dynelyn visited a clinic, thinking she had a common cold as she experienced weakness, fatigue and a dry throat. However, the doctor’s diagnosis shocked her – Type 1 Diabetes.
Dynelyn, a resident of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, had her life completely altered at the age of 16. While her peers had regular teen issues to deal with such as peer pressure, exam stress and boy-girl relationships, Dynelyn had to change her lifestyle and learn to live with diabetes.
Frequent hospital visits and feeling misunderstood
When she was first diagnosed, Dynelyn spent a good chunk of time in the hospital. It was not an easy experience, but she remembers helpful nurses and doctors who walked alongside her.
Type 1 Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by the pancreas producing insufficient or no insulin. Despite extensive research, a cure for this condition has not yet been found.
Effective management of Type 1 Diabetes involves insulin injections, dietary control, and lifestyle adjustments. Failure to properly treat and control diabetes can lead to severe health complications in the future.
Following her discharge from the hospital, Dynelyn began to feel the weight of loneliness. “Everyone tried to empathize with me, but no one truly understood me,” she shared.
Now, having adjusted to her new lifestyle as a diabetic, Dynelyn feels empowered to talk about diabetes and hopes that young patients or anyone diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes will have adequate support in their journey.
“If I could turn back time, I wished there were more people that I can turn to or people whom I relate to. It was quite a lonely journey,” she admitted.
Her experience ignited a new compassion for other Type 1 Diabetes patients, especially young patients, to assure them that they are not alone.
“I don’t want other young patients going through what I went through. I want to do my part to raise awareness of the disease and help others who are on the same journey. They don’t need to feel alone,” she said.
Getting through diabetes as a family
After receiving the diagnosis, Dynelyn underwent hospitalization for initial treatment. Her father remained by her side while her mother faced the challenging task of caring for her siblings, working, and ensuring essential items were sent to Dynelyn and her father.
Once back home, Dynelyn had to acquire the skills of self-administering insulin injections, monitoring her blood sugar levels, and managing her diet independently.
Recognising that sugar is the primary adversary for diabetes, her entire family made conscientious efforts to reduce sugar and carbohydrate intake in their meals. They worked diligently to adopt healthier eating habits in order to mitigate complications for Dynelyn.
“I genuinely felt sorry for my siblings because they adored sugary treats and sweets. However, due to my condition, they had to restrict the consumption of their favourite foods,” she expressed.
Practising self-control and discipline for better health
Managing any illness requires a change of lifestyle and habits. For Dynelyn, she had to grow in the fruits of the Spirit, particularly self-control, when it came to food.
“I used to love snacking, but I’ve sacrificed that. Before this, I didn’t even think about ‘blood sugar’ but now, that’s always on my mind,” she admitted.
She made significant adjustments to her lifestyle and now prioritizes her health. Diligently, she ensures she stays hydrated and maintains certain food portions and the types of food she consumes.
Dynelyn is also disciplined in measuring her blood sugar levels twice daily – before and after a meal and self-administers insulin jabs when her blood sugar level spikes.
“I play the role of my own pancreas now,” she jovially said.
The attributes of self-control and discipline have played a pivotal role in Dynelyn’s recovery. As she contemplates the measures needed to maintain her physical well-being, she recognises that they mirror the requirements for nurturing a healthy spiritual life.
“In the physical, I needed to practice self-control and discipline in the choice and amount of food I consumed. It helped me maintain optimum physical health. In the same way, spiritually, I had to intentionally cling onto God and be disciplined in my devotions to stay spiritually alive and well,” Dynelyn shared.
A tangible and real relationship with God was what kept Dynelyn emotionally and spiritually afloat.
“If I didn’t have God with me, I would probably be in a dark place now battling loneliness and thoughts of giving up. I don’t know what I’d do without Him,” she shared.
She added, “But, with God, I have hope and even through tough times, there is a purpose and I feel purposeful!”
Say a little prayer
While Dynelyn has managed to navigate the physical aspects of her diabetes, she openly acknowledges the presence of numerous emotional ups and downs in her life.
It is found that patients with Type 1 Diabetes are at a higher risk of mental health issues due to rapid changes in blood sugar levels causing mood swings, anxiety and fatigue. The diagnosis itself can take a mental toll on individuals causing them to feel depressed, anxious, stressed or worried. This is a term known as ‘‘diabetes distress’.
On occasion, Dynelyn has experienced numerous emotional breakdowns. Her mental and emotional burden became particularly overwhelming after her hospitalization, leading her to isolate herself from others for a period of time.
She recalls feeling irritated by well-intentioned words of encouragement from those around her. However, a sign she came across provided a moment of revelation: “You are expecting things in your life, but have you asked God?” It served as a reminder for her to pray and surrender everything to Him.
Dynelyn realised that had been suppressing her own voice, dwelling in self-pity, and passively waiting for miracles to happen without actively seeking God through prayer.
“God was reminding me to talk to Him. My prayer was nothing grand and the first time I verbally prayed, it felt a little awkward,” she laughed. “It’s like you haven’t spoken to a friend in a while. But once I got past that initial prayer, I began seeking God more and more. I sensed God’s strength and guidance in my daily life”
That nudge to say a prayer reignited Dynelyn’s spiritual life and even turned her daily routine around.
“I went from being lazy and unproductive to waking up early, doing skincare, having a daily routine, doing my devotion and even finishing a book! My blood sugar levels were controlled. God restored my life,” she testified.
“I’m learning to cherish my life and be grateful for the little things”
Dynelyn’s journey with Type 1 Diabetes has compelled her to mature at a faster pace, recognising the potential for her condition to worsen over time. In light of this, she emphasizes the importance of financial preparedness, urging young people to secure insurance coverage.
“Young people, peers, friends, make sure you get your insurance,” Dynelyn encouraged.
Through her own experience, she understands the pivotal role that financial literacy has played in her ability to afford necessary treatments and medical bills.
In addition to the changes in her diet and lifestyle, Dynelyn has undergone a personal transformation, becoming a more determined individual.
“I now know that there is more I want to do in life. I used to not be a ‘study person’ but now I’m more focused on my academics, interests and getting things done,” she said.
However, the most profound shift within her lies in her newfound appreciation for life itself. She has learned to treasure each moment, realizing that every breath is a precious gift from God.
“I’m learning to cherish my life and be grateful for the little things. Health is a gift from God and breath comes from Him. This journey has taught me to be purposeful in everything I do,” she shared.
Dynelyn ardently hopes that young diabetes patients, like herself, can also find their path to God and experience the transformative power of God in their lives.
This article was first published on Salt & Light. All photos provided by Dynelyn Murphy.