I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in August 1993. I was 18 years old with a great future ahead of me. Diabetes felt like a death sentence and I spent the first 7 years believing that was true. In 2000, I took my first role as a patient advocate, sought a new healthcare team and starting managing the disease with an insulin pump. In 2010, I added a continuous glucose monitoring device to my “bionic” parts. During this time, I’ve gotten married, had a child and lived my life despite a chronic disease. I’ve also experienced moments of depression, burnout, isolation and helplessness.
It’s not easy. Diabetes affects me, and my family, everyday. It’s taxing to play the role of an internal organ: dosing the right amount of insulin, figuring out how certain foods affect my blood sugar, balancing physical activity and keeping a level head through it all. But I’m fortunate: I have access to healthcare, a team of educated healthcare providers and the ability and access to learn more on the advancements of where diabetes is going.
In 2011, I learned of DiabtesSisters, a national nonprofit dedicated to educating and supporting women living with diabetes, and my advocacy efforts expanded to other people living with diabetes. I joined the staff as Operations Manager, hosted a mulititude of conferences for women, grew an in-person support group model, and relaunched our website – www.diabetessisters.org. Last year, I became CEO of the organization, and am proud to represent women living with all kinds of diabetes.
In my role, I’ve been very fortunate to create peer support networks that help other women living with diabetes. Regardless of what kind of diabetes our community has, our goals are the same: minimal complications over time, in-range blood sugar, less stigma, more education for ourselves and the public. And, most importantly, access to quality care and affordable treatments for everyone.
As patients, we have the ability to affect change in how our condition is treated. We have the right to demand collaboration with our healthcare team on order to find a treatment plan that works for our individual lifestyle. No two diabetes are the same. But working together, we can change the way diabetes is viewed.