Diabetes is not a death sentence

by | Apr 17, 2021 | Diabetes, Holistic solutions, Yoga | 9 comments

Image by Robert Wu

At age 16, I peed in a cup and my life changed. I was at the medical center for a physical to attend Girl’s State, a model government experience that promotes leadership for high school girls. I was not sick…or so I thought. The blood draw confirmed it. I had Type 1 diabetes.

Well, shit. This overachieving star student would spend the week of Girl’s State hospitalized learning diabetes survival 101.

I don't recall having a dramatic emotional response to my diagnosis. I was surprised and curious. My mother was stunned and understandably frightened. She carried the same questions as me, but I recall that I asked many questions of the kind endocrinologist (whose name I regrettably forget).

WHY me? There is no family history of diabetes. What does this mean? What suddenly changed in my body? Isn’t there a cure?

My stay in the hospital that June before my junior year was great, truly. I was there 5 or 7 days while they stabilized my blood glucose and monitored insulin levels. I was educated on nutrition, human physiology, insulin dosing and so much more. It felt like summer school and did I mention LEARNER is my core strength?

As I learned about my new bff diabetes, I could see the symptoms clearly in hindsight: Incessant thirst and consequential frequent urination, mood swings, and weight loss. All the symptoms could be rationalized – Mood swings? I was a teenager. Weight loss? I was hustling busy shifts as a hostess at IHOP (that's International House of Pancakes for you Waffle House fans).

I will never forget the day the RN came in with a large navel orange, syringes, and insulin vials filled with water and said, “You can go home once you've mastered giving yourself shots.” 

My mom was with me that day and looked at me wondering how I would respond. I was crystal clear as I stretched my arm with the IV, “Sure. Will you give me the orange?”

I surprised myself and certainly my mom when I saw her expression – mouth open and eyebrows raised – ease into a smile with a sparkle of joy in her eyes.

I imagine her joy was rooted in the fact that I embraced the challenge rather than shrank from it. I really wish my mom was here so I could hear her tell this story. Little did we know she would lose her battle with breast cancer less than 7 years later.

As challenging as life with diabetes was then and is now, I appreciate the role I play in it. I can’t explain why, but I didn't hesitate to take responsibility for my disease; I accepted it. 

I guess I felt grateful that it was (and is) a condition I can influence directly. In fact, many (and I may say all) conditions are ones we can influence with our disposition, thoughts, and actions.

I want to be VERY clear here. I am not saying you can think your way out of diabetes. What I AM saying is how you see the world…and more importantly your place in it with a disease…affects your nervous system and those around you. You need not be defined by it. To read about my real-life pivot point to learn this lesson click here.

Diabetes is not a death sentence; I see it as a life sentence – a path to mindful living.

It is entirely possible to live a long, full, healthy life with diabetes. I choose a mindful, compassionate, and informed approach to achieving good numbers, building awareness of my patterns, and remaining agile in my approach. I invite you to shift from controlling diabetes to living in harmony with it.

I am stepping up and out to share what I’ve learned over 35 years living with diabetes and 20 years thriving with it. I’m certainly not perfect, but what I AM is not defined by my diabetes.  

If you are devoted to learning and healing and this post resonated, join the my email circle to stay in touch below. 


  1. Freedom Ciavarello

    This article is a must read for anyone that is curious about mindfulness around lifestyle choices and the impact of our mindset

    • Dawn Browning

      Thanks Freedom! That’s my hope in sharing this story. 😉

  2. Dr Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani

    Thank you for sharing this important message for the world. So many have no clue how to live a life of purpose and get struck in negativities. may your inspiration motivate everyone to take up the challenge and become the best version of themselves through love, care and responsibility.

    • Dawn Browning

      Dear Dr. Sir, thank you for your kind words and for always being a conduit the the powerful teachings of yoga.

  3. Karen L Ray

    Inspiring article, no matter the challenge faced. Thank you for sharing. This statement resonated in particular: “In fact, many (and I may say all) conditions are ones we can influence with our disposition, thoughts, and actions.” I have found choosing joy in the face of rough circumstances (even if I do whine, rage, or cry a bit first) to be a powerful way to live life. Love your can-do attitude and sense of humor, Dawn.

    • Dawn Browning

      I appreciate your thoughtfulness Karen in your reply. “Choose joy” is a powerful mantra. I’m so glad to know that someone gets my sense of humor. Methinks we’ll be good friends.

  4. Michelle

    I too learned to give a shot to an orange…then gave my first insulin shot. 😆 I wonder if kids today with all their electronics still use the orange as a teaching tool for shots?

    • Dawn Browning

      Michelle! That is a great question. I wonder how teaching technology has evolved? My first guess is that they still use the orange because, sadly, insulin pens or pumps as delivery systems are not available to all. Thank you for reading!


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