For Kerri Morrone, 28, managing her type 1 diabetes requires constant monitoring and acute self-awareness. "Diabetes touches everything," she says. Morrone receives daily doses of insulin from a pump that's always with her, and she takes blood-pressure medication because, like other diabetics, she is at increased risk for heart attack and stroke. But managing type 1 diabetes, which results from an autoimmune attack on insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, involves a lot more than taking meds. Scheduling meals carefully, counting carbohydrates, exercising, monitoring blood sugar levels, and adjusting her day-to-day activity accordingly are all pervasive facts of life for Morrone and other type 1 diabetics. "You spend the entire day thinking about it, whether it's on the front burner or the back burner or on fire. There is no time off from this," she says.
Even when diabetes patients follow all the doctor's orders, the unpredictable nature of the disease can undermine medication adherence, says Morrone. "You can follow everything to a T, but your own body can thwart you. Your blood sugar can crest upward without your permission—just because you felt a little stressed out, and even though you did everything right."
A supportive social network is part of what keeps her going. (An upbeat outlook also helps.) Morrone calls on those close to her to help her manage the disease: Whether it's her girlfriends keeping extra juice boxes in their purses or her boss not minding the testing strips littered across her office desk. "The more people who know, the more protected I feel," she says.
Morrone also maintains a blog, called SixUntilMe, that she says functions as an online community and support network for other people living with diabetes. Blogging offers her the opportunity to share practical advice and provides a window onto the "real stuff": the emotional ups and downs that come with managing a chronic disease day after day. Of the couple of thousand people who visit her blog, Morrone says, "I don't know if it's them calling on me or me calling on them. [But] it helps confirm that [we're] not alone."