Advice for Type 1 Teen and swimming

My 14 year old son was just diagnosed this October. He is a competitive swimmer and just started swimming on his High School swim team. He also wears a CGM (Dexcom) but is very self-conscious about it because now everyone can see it. Any advice? He has not spoken to any other T1 swimmers and keeps saying that we (his parents) “just don’t understand”. I don’t know how to advise him. I know he has made this much bigger in his mind but it breaks my heart that he would stop swimming just because he doesn’t want people to perceive him as different. He is still coming to terms with the diagnosis itself and is far from comfortable being an ambassador for Diabetes at this point.

@ErinG Hi Erin,

this is going to take some time for him. I can’t tell you what’s in his head but I can tell you a little about what it’s like. I am over 50 now, and I was diagnosed 12 going on 13. At this age, fitting in with my peers was the only important thing to me. Diabetes made that impossible. at 13 I was immortal, and for good reason, I was 13. Now they tell me I have a life-long disease. My parents and doctors, to this point, could simply fix anything that was wrong with me. Now they let me down. THIS was something no one could fix. I felt as if I was singled out to be tortured, and I vacillated between hating myself and hating everyone around me that didn’t have diabetes. The disease completely re-wired my head and I was in emotional distress for the next 20 years.

this is going to sound weird to you. if the CGM is keeping him from swimming, ditch (or put on “hold”) the CGM. to me, swimming and being active is very much more important. It will be hard enough for him to test and to deal with insulin while swimming because it is very physical and he will have to take much less insulin and have carbs on hand, but to him, gatorade between heats looks way better than a cyborg transmitter taped to the back of his arm screaming I AM DIFFERENT.

now I know you you love the CGM and the idea of knowing your blood sugar is certainly an advantage. I can’t argue that. but for then next little while his journey will be acceptance that he has a life long incurable disease. Once he forgives himself the shame of getting sick, he may find he doesn’t care about what others think, or doesn’t care as much. The process of grieving the loss of good health is a long one, No one gets to take a short-cut.

he doesn’t want to right now, but contact with others that share the same pain will be very helpful to him. I urge you to recommend but try not to push. The idea of being an ambassador of diabetes at that age actually made the hair on my neck stand up… I get what he’s going through the first couple years can be rough. There are folks here that can identify with your son and are closer in age - but feel free to reach out if you need to talk I am always around. -Joe

ps I ran track in high school, other than my head coach I didn’t tell anyone for most of my high school career,

I agree that living life is more important than the CGM. The tech is great in theory but so awkward & tape covered in real life. I’m old now (44) but have had D since I was 4 and swam laps most of that time. I disconnect my pump & put a big waterproof bandaid over the spot when in the water. They’re a bit expensive but keep the site in good shape & I don’t get weird looks/questions at the pool.

I’m usually prone to lows for 12 hours on swim days & set a temp basal of 50% my normal rate overnight.

Erin @ErinG, a CGM is certainly an awesome tool for closely managing diabetes but it is not a requirement for living a very active and productive life. And if the CGM is preventing him from living life, I agree with @joe and ditch it - at least for a while. If he is not going to utilize a CGM, stress to him that it is HIS responsibility to train his natural awareness to be aware of changes in his BG levels, especially when BG is dropping, and then to be critically aware of how any exercise affects his body glucose levels up to 12 hours beyond his exercise period - and the effect will probably differ by type of exercise. When I was your son’s age, and for several years after that I enjoyed the challenge of long-distance swimming [a mile or more over open water] and that was in the days when a “simple blood sugar test” took a couple of days for a reading.

Hi Erin,
Age 14 too 52 years ago when I was diagnosed,
I very much understand your son’s impulse to hide the fact of T1D. It’s his choice - an essential recurring fact of management - whether to get real good with the CGM or work hard to detect sugar levels while exercising. I favor getting real good with CGM.
Dealing with the CGM may help him to come
to grips with the fact that he’s got T1D and, notwithstanding any sports participation, that acknowledgement is critical to his life success.
I felt like a wounded animal, angry, resentful of the fact I had a significant defect. I dug in my heels, I pretended I didn’t have it through H.S., college and the workplace. Word nevertheless gets out. I managed it well doctors approved;
I stayed healthy but with imperfections. At the 30-years point, my wife calling the rescue squad several times for glucagon to remedy my severe lows, I began to take full responsibility. Committing to not let that happen again, I made the necessary changes. I wish I’d done that earlier.
Bottom line: it seems that those who have the most success (are at peace with themselves + as healthy as possible) get on the ball as quickly as possible managing it - using all the technology available that’s practical and effective - which in turn allows them more freedom from it.
I empathize with your son. He can do it; it’ll be his unique way. A high five and a prayer for you + yours.
Regards, Chris

Hi. My daughter attaches her CGM to her backside hip area. It is covered by her underware /bathing suit. Having been without a CGM and now having it I cannot imagine her not having it. She LOVES it, it makes having diabetes and being aware of ones #’s so much easier as well as for us parents - she shares with my iPhone as well as her own.

I have had T1D going on 7 years. It is hard when you first get diagnosed. I would say the hardest time is the first year thats when you notice people looking at you. After the first year you don’t care anymore if people look. You even sometimes find it entertaining. But sometimes you do get sad again and cry and every once in a while you do get self-conscious again when doing a check in public. A few months ago i got self-conscious during a check at a restaurant when a woman was staring at me like i had two heads and was from space but once i was done with the check i couldn’t figure out why i was self-conscious. My point is he will be self-conscious for a while but it will stop tell him to ask his friend to not stare he’s still himself he just has to do an extra step for somethings. Maybe let him see some of these posts so he knows he’s not the only Diabetic in the world same as i often feel. Tell him it will be easier in time, take it from me

My son is 13 and felt the exact same way about his cgm …there maybe adhesive patches to cover it if hes more comfortable …he choose not wear it for a week. …he did have to check glucose more frequently. …tell son that his feelings are ok but don’t let diabetes stop him from doing what he loves…there are celebrity stories of those using the dexcom g5 …go onto website to read…maybe inspirational for him😊