I’m 20, and a pre-med student at the University of Wyoming. I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 8, and then diagnosed with spherocytosis later that year. Now, I play rugby and live in a house with three other girls. I want to travel and backpack along the Welsh coast. I’d also like to have a cat!
What is the weirdest question you’ve been asked about your diabetes, and how did you respond?
“So… your pancreas was removed?” No. No, it wasn’t. It just doesn’t work. “And they don’t have a surgery to fix that?” Nope. Not right now. That is why I have an insulin pump. Curing diabetes is the ultimate goal, though.
Has anyone told you that you couldn’t do something due to your diabetes, and you proved them wrong?
I was told all the scary stories: you’ll die young, you can’t eat sugar, you’ll go blind and your feet will fall off, you’ll get heart disease and be fat, you can’t travel out of country because you need so many medications.
None of that has happened.
I’ve had the betes for nearly 12 years now, and I’m still doing okay. I went to the UK and I’m looking at a study abroad. My friends all know that I love cupcakes. I play rugby, I cycle, I’m a pre-med major, and I’m working a couple of jobs. I keep myself busy, partly because I think I’m still running from all of those stories. I think I’m going to be running from them my entire life, because they’ve been drilled into my mind.
People need to stop telling diabetics what they can’t do and tell them what they CAN do. The stuff your parents and your endo and your friends and teachers tell you- especially when you’re young- will stick with you. Kids need to hear that they can join a swim team, they can be a model, they can be astrophysicists, and they can travel to Argentina if they so desire.
How do you inspire others?
I try to be myself. I try to prove that diabetes can’t hold you back. It’s an annoyance, yes, and it sucks, but you can beat it. As long as you bring some insulin and tabs, you can do anything. I want to go into medicine- specifically pediatric endocrinology- so I can help kids get to their dreams. Sometimes all they need is a hand or a step up. I’m old enough and experienced enough now that I can give that hand to someone. I want to give a step up to all the people I can.
Tell us a story about how diabetes has affected you.
It changed my whole life. I don’t remember life without ‘betes, but every once in a while, it hits me how different we are. All the carb counting, the shots, the highs and lows, and just staying strong through it. Normal people don’t understand. When I bring it up, I just get weird, blank looks. I don’t see myself as a strong or particularly brave person, but I guess we are. That’s something that I think is really important to tell kids, especially those who are so tired of being diabetic. They need to know how brave and strong they are. They are so strong and brave and amazing. I volunteer for an ADA summer camp, and the kids there are my heroes.
How has diabetes contributed to forming you into the person you are today? Mentally, physically, or emotionally?
It has been everything to me. It’s made me stronger, made me more thoughtful, forced me to pay attention to my body and its needs. I think I pay more attention to other diseases, too, and I have a better understanding their effects. I would have been in art or theater if not for diabetes, and while I miss being in the wings or a sound box, I think medicine is the niche for me now. Diabetes shaped my life.
Would you rather fight one horse sized duck or 100 regular sized ducks?
Ummmm…. the 100 regular ducks.