Setting the Record Straight: Karolina Witek
06 October 2016
Read 19 year-old Karolina Witek’s story of her struggle and triumph to do what they said could not be done. Karolina is from Poland and was inspired by Team Novo Nordisk when she came across our video on Facebook page.
Before my diagnosis, I was training as a cyclist – mountain biking, cross-country and road racing. One day after training, when I came home, I felt bad and fainted. The next morning I went with my parents to the doctor and he looked at me and immediately measured by blood sugar.
Now I don’t wonder why he reacted the way he did but it made no sense to me at the time. I was 13 years old, 168cm (5’ 6’’) and weighed 31kg (68lbs). I looked like death and felt like it too. I knew that I was a very skinny but I thought it was normal since I biked a lot.
My sugar levels after fasting were 580 mg/dl.1 The doctor told me and my parents that the matter is very serious and it was a miracle that I’m not in a coma. He sent me directly to the hospital where I spent two weeks just after Christmas and into New Year, 2012.
Those were the worst days of my life, my little “end of the world.” As a young girl I didn’t know what a pancreas was and I had never heard of such a disease as diabetes. Nobody in my family had diabetes. I was first.
Additionally, the diabetes department at the hospital was being renovated so I had to stay in the surgery ward where the operations took place. One failed and I heard crying parents after the death of their child. I was afraid that soon I would die too.
Only later did the nurses explain to me what diabetes is. Then the doctors told me that exercise was bad for people with type 1 diabetes, meaning that I had to give up my cycling. I was very depressed.
Both my doctors and nurses said that my life will change by 180 degrees. It was too much for a 13-year old girl. The first month I constantly weighed, calculated and tried to make sense of everything. I had to give myself advice alone.
Then a cycling friend shared a Facebook video where he said that he also has diabetes. I immediately wrote to him with many questions and he told me about Team Novo Nordisk. He was preparing to join their Talent Identification Camp. I was amazed. I thought that I was the only one who was different.
Nowadays, I meet a lot of people having the same problem as I. I’m stronger and I don’t give up. In the beginning, I was depressed. Now I am eternally cheerful and enjoying a full life.
I have been told a lot of things about living with type 1 diabetes. Things, like, people with diabetes can’t play sports, can’t drive a car, can’t eat like normal person, can’t lose weight, have difficulty in finding a job. I think that all of this is strange. A person with type 1 diabetes is not any worse off, on the contrary, they are careful and diligent. These myths must be overthrown!
I am grateful for people who show what is possible. Team Novo Nordisk riders are amazing people who don’t give up. Thanks to them I know that diabetes doesn’t limit anything. I also have down days with severe hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia, but my bike is my love and diabetes won’t prevent me riding on it
This story was originally shared as part of the November 3, 2016, edition Novo Nordisk’s TBL Quarterly.