A bittersweet existence: the lived experiences of four young women with diabetes mellitus
Walker, Kaitlyn Tara
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This study examined the lived experience of diabetes as told by four young women with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Assuming a qualitative approach, I asked participants to describe their medical, academic, social, and psychological experiences during a single, guided open-ended interview. Analysis of the data revealed the subjective and unique nature of the illness experience, and the variety of ways in which diabetes had influenced Abbey’s, Olivia’s, Hannah’s, and Melinda’s life choices and existence. Despite differing in the ways in which they experienced their illness, there were some similarities that existed across cases. These women all faced a variety of challenges throughout their lives, ranging from difficulties with the treatment regimen, with the lack of diabetes awareness in the school setting, and in coming to terms with their illness. Applying the Shifting Perspectives Model of Illness (Paterson, 2001) to the stories told by these four women provided an in-depth view of how these four individuals with diabetes made meaning of their experiences. Because these women viewed their lives primarily from a wellness in the foreground perspective, they were able to identify the many positive ways in which diabetes had transformed their lives. This study contributes to the understanding of the lived experience of diabetes in the literature, and is one of the few studies to explore the diabetes experience using a theoretical framework. Recommendations for teachers are made based on the participants’ interpretations of the needs of diabetic students in the classroom, and based on suggestions offered by these four women.