Diabetes: Profiles of Courage

Please join me in honoring all of the heroes who have diabetes and live in control. Each one is a human being doing their normal daily lives but knowing that every day will require the courage to do the myriad of things required to live in control. 

 

Lily Doyle

Lily (and her mom Katherine) has lived with diabetes since she was one year old. Lily is especially heroic at school. She feels different than the other children, not because of her down syndrome, which according to her is “easy breezy”. It is her diabetes that requires her do to things the other kids don’t. When she checks her blood sugar or even worse has to bear the pain associated with changing her insulin pump, this little girl summons the courage of a hero to just try and be a normal girl living her life.

Lily (and her mom Katherine) has lived with diabetes since she was one year old. Lily is especially heroic at school. She feels different than the other children, not because of her down syndrome, which according to her is “easy breezy”. It is her diabetes that requires her do to things the other kids don’t. When she checks her blood sugar or even worse has to bear the pain associated with changing her insulin pump, this little girl summons the courage of a hero to just try and be a normal girl living her life.

Elana Dumont

Elana Dumont is a busy graduate student getting her PhD in psychology at Yeshiva University in New York City. She is the perfect picture of a young woman earning an advanced degree preparing to make a difference in the world. Two years ago, she wound up in the hospital seriously ill and was diagnosed with diabetes one month before she was scheduled to start school. Facing an unknown future her family and friends suggested she postpone her studies. Elana had the courage to directly confront her future with diabetes, learned the skills necessary to manage the disease every day and enrolled as scheduled. 

Elana Dumont is a busy graduate student getting her PhD in psychology at Yeshiva University in New York City. She is the perfect picture of a young woman earning an advanced degree preparing to make a difference in the world. Two years ago, she wound up in the hospital seriously ill and was diagnosed with diabetes one month before she was scheduled to start school. Facing an unknown future her family and friends suggested she postpone her studies. Elana had the courage to directly confront her future with diabetes, learned the skills necessary to manage the disease every day and enrolled as scheduled. 

Chuck Seets

Chuck is a husband, dad and busy executive. Chuck has been living with diabetes for 22 years. His life with diabetes wasn't always in good control. In those days, Chuck recalls "family life always had to revolve around my condition and my wife worried every moment of every day about my safety and my impact on the kids". Chuck (and his family) has learned to live in control and now for him to travel is the most difficult. According to Chuck "so many variables can and do change when you travel, it makes staying in control very challenging".... yet Chuck travels a lot and is in control!

Chuck is a husband, dad and busy executive. Chuck has been living with diabetes for 22 years. His life with diabetes wasn't always in good control. In those days, Chuck recalls "family life always had to revolve around my condition and my wife worried every moment of every day about my safety and my impact on the kids". Chuck (and his family) has learned to live in control and now for him to travel is the most difficult. According to Chuck "so many variables can and do change when you travel, it makes staying in control very challenging".... yet Chuck travels a lot and is in control!

Kyle Kernan

Kyle has lived with diabetes for 32 years. Being a good athlete gave him a false sense of glucose control earlier in his adult life. Kelly, his beautiful two year old daughter changed all of that. Kelly’s birth gave him the courage to admit that he needed to be in better control. Kyle, like many of us loves to eat and it is in his choices of food where he has made the most change in his life, which has enabled him to be in good control of the disease. As Kyle looks to the future, he cherishes being Kelly’s Dad but is also interested in preparing a different kind of DAD, a Diabetic Alert Dog. He is beginning to work with a friend Fred Golik (www.soundhoundtraining.com) to learn how to train DADs.

Kyle has lived with diabetes for 32 years. Being a good athlete gave him a false sense of glucose control earlier in his adult life. Kelly, his beautiful two year old daughter changed all of that. Kelly’s birth gave him the courage to admit that he needed to be in better control. Kyle, like many of us loves to eat and it is in his choices of food where he has made the most change in his life, which has enabled him to be in good control of the disease. As Kyle looks to the future, he cherishes being Kelly’s Dad but is also interested in preparing a different kind of DAD, a Diabetic Alert Dog. He is beginning to work with a friend Fred Golik (www.soundhoundtraining.com) to learn how to train DADs.

Catie & TJ Atkins

For Catie and TJ Atkins diabetes is truly a family affair. Of their nine combine parents and siblings, five have diabetes. The dinner table is both the family gathering place and a source of complex menu offerings and calculations. For Catie it takes commitment and courage to come home from work every day and prepare three dinners, one for TJ, and one for her and one for the kids. For TJ it took a major event at 40 to help him find the courage to live his life in control. His message to all diabetics, especially younger ones, “pay attention to what it takes to be in control; otherwise you will end up like me with a heart attack at 40”. For the Atkins family, courage is also a family affair. 

For Catie and TJ Atkins diabetes is truly a family affair. Of their nine combine parents and siblings, five have diabetes. The dinner table is both the family gathering place and a source of complex menu offerings and calculations. For Catie it takes commitment and courage to come home from work every day and prepare three dinners, one for TJ, and one for her and one for the kids. For TJ it took a major event at 40 to help him find the courage to live his life in control. His message to all diabetics, especially younger ones, “pay attention to what it takes to be in control; otherwise you will end up like me with a heart attack at 40”. For the Atkins family, courage is also a family affair. 

Matt Knauss

 

Matt Knauss says “working out makes a big difference”. Well it surely shows on the outside but inside his body is where the biggest difference occurs. For him, as a type 1 diabetic,  keeping his muscles in tip top shape helps him minimize the amount of insulin he needs every day and thereby reducing the risk of dangerous hypoglycemia episodes and this is something he knows about first hand as one caused him to have a car accident while driving. Matt’s courage is the drive to work out and reflecting on this he offers “diabetes is a lifelong fight and it is a fight you can win”.

Matt Knauss says “working out makes a big difference”. Well it surely shows on the outside but inside his body is where the biggest difference occurs. For him, as a type 1 diabetic,  keeping his muscles in tip top shape helps him minimize the amount of insulin he needs every day and thereby reducing the risk of dangerous hypoglycemia episodes and this is something he knows about first hand as one caused him to have a car accident while driving. Matt’s courage is the drive to work out and reflecting on this he offers “diabetes is a lifelong fight and it is a fight you can win”.

Khalil Edouard & Shenekia Loud

Khalil and his mom, Shenekia are a formidable force fighting diabetes. When Khalil was diagnosed, Shenekia taught herself, with no help from anyone, how to care for and teach Khalil to manage the disease.  After that, the obvious thing (according to her) was “to start my own company, the Kenkou group” which provides concierge healthcare for those new to and managing the disease every day. Shenekia and her team have touched the lives of over 8000 patients. The one life that she touches every day is Khalil’s. For him it takes courage to enjoy his beloved sports he while constantly worrying about the healing process afterwards. However, Khalil’s message is simple “Don’t let diabetes take over your life. It’s a lot of changes and can seem overwhelming but you need to learn to still live your life.”

Khalil and his mom, Shenekia are a formidable force fighting diabetes. When Khalil was diagnosed, Shenekia taught herself, with no help from anyone, how to care for and teach Khalil to manage the disease.  After that, the obvious thing (according to her) was “to start my own company, the Kenkou group” which provides concierge healthcare for those new to and managing the disease every day. Shenekia and her team have touched the lives of over 8000 patients. The one life that she touches every day is Khalil’s. For him it takes courage to enjoy his beloved sports he while constantly worrying about the healing process afterwards. However, Khalil’s message is simple “Don’t let diabetes take over your life. It’s a lot of changes and can seem overwhelming but you need to learn to still live your life.”

Kenny Horowitz

For Kenny Horowitz, as for all diabetics, food plays a starring role in their everyday lives. Kenny says, "It is possible to fight diabetes, you must fight it and it all starts with food." He admits when he was first diagnosed, he was clueless about food and the impact it has on his body and the disease. Kenny taught himself how to eat right, count carbs and as a result lost 35 lbs. For him the ah-ha moment came when he was in the grocery store and picked up a container of yogurt and read the label.  He taught himself nutrition and how to manage the disease by reading the labels. He muses "there should be a diabetic aisle in the grocery store," but until then he has the courage to eat right and stay in control.

For Kenny Horowitz, as for all diabetics, food plays a starring role in their everyday lives. Kenny says, "It is possible to fight diabetes, you must fight it and it all starts with food." He admits when he was first diagnosed, he was clueless about food and the impact it has on his body and the disease. Kenny taught himself how to eat right, count carbs and as a result lost 35 lbs. For him the ah-ha moment came when he was in the grocery store and picked up a container of yogurt and read the label.  He taught himself nutrition and how to manage the disease by reading the labels. He muses "there should be a diabetic aisle in the grocery store," but until then he has the courage to eat right and stay in control.

Jessica Altuch

Jessica is a vibrant happy freshman at the University of Rhode Island. Her diabetes is never far from her mind. Every day involves multiple glucose checks and multiple insulin injections. She works hard at her school work and she works harder at managing her diabetes. Why? More than anything she values her independence, and for her, being under control gives her the independence she prizes so much. This in turn allows her to live a full life on her terms and enables her to do the things she loves like being outdoors exploring Rhode Island. 

Jessica is a vibrant happy freshman at the University of Rhode Island. Her diabetes is never far from her mind. Every day involves multiple glucose checks and multiple insulin injections. She works hard at her school work and she works harder at managing her diabetes. Why? More than anything she values her independence, and for her, being under control gives her the independence she prizes so much. This in turn allows her to live a full life on her terms and enables her to do the things she loves like being outdoors exploring Rhode Island. 

Guy Henninger

In Junior High School Guy learned how to fly airplanes through a family friend. This love of flying later inspired him to join the Marines where he attended flight school. As it turns out, today he draws heavily on these experiences to manage his diabetes and be in control every day. In 2011 Guy found himself at a crossroads. His diabetes was not under control and he needed to make major changes for his own wellbeing. He went back to his pilot training, and specifically learning navigation, and developed a motto to live by. Just as in navigating, making constant but little course corrections helps him stay on course. Thanks to this little motto Guy has been in control of his diabetes ever since.  Guy is a hero for his service to the country and for his courage to control his diabetes. 

In Junior High School Guy learned how to fly airplanes through a family friend. This love of flying later inspired him to join the Marines where he attended flight school. As it turns out, today he draws heavily on these experiences to manage his diabetes and be in control every day. In 2011 Guy found himself at a crossroads. His diabetes was not under control and he needed to make major changes for his own wellbeing. He went back to his pilot training, and specifically learning navigation, and developed a motto to live by. Just as in navigating, making constant but little course corrections helps him stay on course. Thanks to this little motto Guy has been in control of his diabetes ever since.  Guy is a hero for his service to the country and for his courage to control his diabetes. 

Marissa Georgiadis

Marissa has been an avid dancer since she was 5 years old. At 10 she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Dancing is Marissa’s true passion, and when she was first diagnosed she and her family didn’t know if dancing and diabetes could coexist. Initially,  Marissa would wear a sweatshirt to hide her insulin pump during dance. Marissa did not want her diabetes to be a distraction during her dance classes. However, for Marissa, giving up dance wasn’t an option. With the help of Sarah Goldberg, her friend and diabetes mentor, Marissa became comfortable with wearing her insulin pump and integrating diabetes as just another part of her daily routine. According to Marissa, now 13 years old, “Everyone has their bad days, it is fine, you can do this”. Not bad words to live by from a diabetes hero."

Matt O'Sullivan

For Matt, like all diabetics, the constant fluctuation of glucose levels is well…..constant. For him the key challenge every day is to maintain mental clarity. “The mental cloudiness that accompanies insulin/glucose level fluctuations can make it tough to think abstractly, recall information and focus on the tasks at hand.” His biggest weapon in this daily struggle…..exercise and goal setting. While he enjoys basketball, he has found that the commitment to daily exercise in any form is the key. It gives him the energy to meet and exceed expectations. This diabetes fighter uses the power of exercise to live the life he wants on his terms.

For Matt, like all diabetics, the constant fluctuation of glucose levels is well…..constant. For him the key challenge every day is to maintain mental clarity. “The mental cloudiness that accompanies insulin/glucose level fluctuations can make it tough to think abstractly, recall information and focus on the tasks at hand.” His biggest weapon in this daily struggle…..exercise and goal setting. While he enjoys basketball, he has found that the commitment to daily exercise in any form is the key. It gives him the energy to meet and exceed expectations. This diabetes fighter uses the power of exercise to live the life he wants on his terms.

Liam Murray

Liam is a high voltage 8 year old who happens to have T1 diabetes. By all appearances he is just a normal kid. However, coping with the realization of the rigors that are and will be required is something he hasn’t fully come to terms with. Liam was angry when he had to miss class because he had to go to the nurse’s office to test his glucose. Like many boys his age, Liam loves to play Minecraft. He often says “I just want to put diabetes in a box and blow it up”. The water is his sanctuary where he is truly at peace and finds the courage to come to terms with diabetes. Like all things time helps and just recently he was proud of being able to give a live demonstration to his class about what it is like to live with diabetes.

Liam is a high voltage 8 year old who happens to have T1 diabetes. By all appearances he is just a normal kid. However, coping with the realization of the rigors that are and will be required is something he hasn’t fully come to terms with. Liam was angry when he had to miss class because he had to go to the nurse’s office to test his glucose. Like many boys his age, Liam loves to play Minecraft. He often says “I just want to put diabetes in a box and blow it up”. The water is his sanctuary where he is truly at peace and finds the courage to come to terms with diabetes. Like all things time helps and just recently he was proud of being able to give a live demonstration to his class about what it is like to live with diabetes.

Madison Savarese

Madison is a caring and determined young woman of 13. She has had a love affair with gymnastics since she was 5. So it came as no surprise to her parents that at 7 when she was diagnosed with T1 diabetes she went back to the gym the very same week she was discharged from the hospital. In the intervening years she has learned how to live with diabetes, excel at school and enjoy gymnastics among other things. At school Madison has helped another young girl Makayla who is 8 and who was diagnosed as an infant. At times Makayla looks to Madison as much as she does to the school nurse for guidance. With regard to diabetes, Madison puts it this way: “it is not really that scary, not that hard and totally annoying”. Spoken as a true diabetes hero. 

Madison is a caring and determined young woman of 13. She has had a love affair with gymnastics since she was 5. So it came as no surprise to her parents that at 7 when she was diagnosed with T1 diabetes she went back to the gym the very same week she was discharged from the hospital. In the intervening years she has learned how to live with diabetes, excel at school and enjoy gymnastics among other things. At school Madison has helped another young girl Makayla who is 8 and who was diagnosed as an infant. At times Makayla looks to Madison as much as she does to the school nurse for guidance. With regard to diabetes, Madison puts it this way: “it is not really that scary, not that hard and totally annoying”. Spoken as a true diabetes hero. 

Sarah and Walker Bland

Sarah is a young active professional whose life is filled with the complexity of a rock star. Sarah cares deeply about all of the things in her life: family, friends, work, community, to name a few. She also happens to be a T1 diabetic and a new mom. Sarah was diagnosed when she was six years old, so in many ways diabetes is her normalcy.  She is also a former Division 1 athlete, so the combination of an early diagnosis paired with the rigors of a competitive athletics was challenging to balance but instrumental in developing a mental toughness.  For Sarah, the hardest part of managing diabetes is the balancing act of caring for herself while successfully juggling all of the priorities and important people in her life.  For her, succeeding in the “mental game” requires the most courage. Her inspiration to find that courage is her two year old son, Walker.  During her pregnancy, Sarah was a high-risk patient, which required even further attention to managing her diabetes.  Since the day Walker was born, he reminds her that a big part of managing her diabetes is to care for herself so that she can care for others.  For Sarah, there is no reminder that could be more powerful or more important.

Sarah is a young active professional whose life is filled with the complexity of a rock star. Sarah cares deeply about all of the things in her life: family, friends, work, community, to name a few. She also happens to be a T1 diabetic and a new mom. Sarah was diagnosed when she was six years old, so in many ways diabetes is her normalcy.  She is also a former Division 1 athlete, so the combination of an early diagnosis paired with the rigors of a competitive athletics was challenging to balance but instrumental in developing a mental toughness.  For Sarah, the hardest part of managing diabetes is the balancing act of caring for herself while successfully juggling all of the priorities and important people in her life.  For her, succeeding in the “mental game” requires the most courage. Her inspiration to find that courage is her two year old son, Walker.  During her pregnancy, Sarah was a high-risk patient, which required even further attention to managing her diabetes.  Since the day Walker was born, he reminds her that a big part of managing her diabetes is to care for herself so that she can care for others.  For Sarah, there is no reminder that could be more powerful or more important.

Nicole Sciarrino

Singing is a big deal for Nicole. Like all people with diabetes, it is her constant companion 24/7. Diagnosed T1 at two years old, Nicole, now 13, works hard to deal with the everyday burdens that come with diabetes. For her though, being different is just fine but being different because of diabetes is not a good thing. Enter singing. Nicole is truly a gifted singer. Along with her group the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of New York, she has performed at Carnegie Hall and Citi Field, to name a few. Nicole is proud of her voice and it gives this diabetes hero something to distinguish her beyond diabetes, which is a good thing. 

Singing is a big deal for Nicole. Like all people with diabetes, it is her constant companion 24/7. Diagnosed T1 at two years old, Nicole, now 13, works hard to deal with the everyday burdens that come with diabetes. For her though, being different is just fine but being different because of diabetes is not a good thing. Enter singing. Nicole is truly a gifted singer. Along with her group the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of New York, she has performed at Carnegie Hall and Citi Field, to name a few. Nicole is proud of her voice and it gives this diabetes hero something to distinguish her beyond diabetes, which is a good thing. 

Tony Colomba

42 years ago Tony was diagnosed with T1 diabetes. Along the way there has been ups and downs but the one constant has been bike riding which is Tony’s passion. Before the 2016 NYC ADA Tour deCure fundraising event, Tony reflected, “The complications of the disease are always on my mind, they worry and scare me. For me biking is the one thing that relieves me of all of the troubling thoughts and concerns associated with diabetes.” Tony finds his courage to be a diabetes hero everyday on his bicycle. 

42 years ago Tony was diagnosed with T1 diabetes. Along the way there has been ups and downs but the one constant has been bike riding which is Tony’s passion. Before the 2016 NYC ADA Tour deCure fundraising event, Tony reflected, “The complications of the disease are always on my mind, they worry and scare me. For me biking is the one thing that relieves me of all of the troubling thoughts and concerns associated with diabetes.” Tony finds his courage to be a diabetes hero everyday on his bicycle. 

Max and Katie Fraidstern

On the surface, Max, who is now 7 and was diagnosed with T1 diabetes when he was 4, lives a pretty normal life.  However, for Katie and his family, it is not the same normal that most of us know.  Max is obsessed with baseball, and anytime he goes anywhere, including to see his favorite team, the Mets, his parents have to pack medical supplies he needs to access and use multiple times per day, including emergency supplies.  Max loves to play sports and run around like every other kid, but he hates that at times he has to stop in the middle of play to check his sugar and treat as necessary with insulin (if high) or juice (if low).  For Max and Katie, it takes the most courage to try to find a carefree time: enter, dessert on Friday nights!  Making and eating dessert on Friday nights is a moment Max looks forward to every week, an opportunity for him to enjoy being a kid.

On the surface, Max, who is now 7 and was diagnosed with T1 diabetes when he was 4, lives a pretty normal life.  However, for Katie and his family, it is not the same normal that most of us know.  Max is obsessed with baseball, and anytime he goes anywhere, including to see his favorite team, the Mets, his parents have to pack medical supplies he needs to access and use multiple times per day, including emergency supplies.  Max loves to play sports and run around like every other kid, but he hates that at times he has to stop in the middle of play to check his sugar and treat as necessary with insulin (if high) or juice (if low).  For Max and Katie, it takes the most courage to try to find a carefree time: enter, dessert on Friday nights!  Making and eating dessert on Friday nights is a moment Max looks forward to every week, an opportunity for him to enjoy being a kid.

Blayze Wood

Blayze is 21 and been living with diabetes for 16 years now. Three things strike you about Blayze; his confidence, his perspective and his desire to give back. “Growing up as a kid with diabetes you are different and that difference is hard”. Blayze used this to his advantage, he has always wanted to prove “them” that they are wrong and he is no different than anyone else. His advice to those who are newly diagnosed to diabetes, “keep pushing and keep it in perspective, it could be much worse”. Finally, Blayze is driven by a desire to give back. Every summer he comes back to ADA Camp Needlepoint in Hudson Wisconsin to be a counselor. He knows that one magical week can last a lifetime in helping a child with diabetes grow up to have the confidence and perspective he has.  

Blayze is 21 and been living with diabetes for 16 years now. Three things strike you about Blayze; his confidence, his perspective and his desire to give back. “Growing up as a kid with diabetes you are different and that difference is hard”. Blayze used this to his advantage, he has always wanted to prove “them” that they are wrong and he is no different than anyone else. His advice to those who are newly diagnosed to diabetes, “keep pushing and keep it in perspective, it could be much worse”. Finally, Blayze is driven by a desire to give back. Every summer he comes back to ADA Camp Needlepoint in Hudson Wisconsin to be a counselor. He knows that one magical week can last a lifetime in helping a child with diabetes grow up to have the confidence and perspective he has.  

Elisabeth Pederson

Elisabeth is 24 and diabetes has been part of her life since she was 11. Today she works as an EMT and Medical Scribe. Her plan is to go to medical school so that in the future she can personally, every day, take care of those with diabetes. For her, staying in the routine of constantly checking your blood sugar is the hardest. Where does she find the courage to do so? ADA Camp Needlepoint in Hudson, WI, where each summer for the past 7 years she has worked as a counselor or Medical Staff Volunteer. For her, walking the talk and serving as a role model to the hundreds of campers who attend is very important. “I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I want to help them find the joy in life and help them make diabetes just a normal part of everyday life.”

Elisabeth is 24 and diabetes has been part of her life since she was 11. Today she works as an EMT and Medical Scribe. Her plan is to go to medical school so that in the future she can personally, every day, take care of those with diabetes. For her, staying in the routine of constantly checking your blood sugar is the hardest. Where does she find the courage to do so? ADA Camp Needlepoint in Hudson, WI, where each summer for the past 7 years she has worked as a counselor or Medical Staff Volunteer. For her, walking the talk and serving as a role model to the hundreds of campers who attend is very important. “I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I want to help them find the joy in life and help them make diabetes just a normal part of everyday life.”

Duncan Stevens

Duncan hates being the only kid at school with diabetes. He also hates to check his glucose before meals and to change his pump. Diagnosed at twenty months, diabetes is all he has known for the past 10 years. However, Duncan LOVES sports. All sports, basketball, hockey and especially baseball. Sports are his happy zone, his safe zone. When he is playing, the act of competing transcends diabetes. Duncan does well at sports, especially at baseball. One of the reasons he is so good, he practices….any place, any time, with equipment or without. Sports are the source of courage that enables him to do all the things he hates so he can do all the things he loves.

Duncan hates being the only kid at school with diabetes. He also hates to check his glucose before meals and to change his pump. Diagnosed at twenty months, diabetes is all he has known for the past 10 years. However, Duncan LOVES sports. All sports, basketball, hockey and especially baseball. Sports are his happy zone, his safe zone. When he is playing, the act of competing transcends diabetes. Duncan does well at sports, especially at baseball. One of the reasons he is so good, he practices….any place, any time, with equipment or without. Sports are the source of courage that enables him to do all the things he hates so he can do all the things he loves.

Elijah Zapzalka

Like many kids his age, Elijah enjoys a variety of sports, especially hockey. However, unlike most, he is forced to integrate diabetes into his active lifestyle. Elijah loves technology and uses the latest technological advances to help maintain a tight control over his diabetes. He is rarely seen without his Dexcom or Omnipod; whether it be at home, school or on the ice. Sports help integrate Elijah’s perspective on type one diabetes and everyday life. “Having diabetes doesn’t mean you have to limit your future possibilities. It is a disease that I can control and I will not let it control me." Wise words from an 11-year-old diabetes hero.

Like many kids his age, Elijah enjoys a variety of sports, especially hockey. However, unlike most, he is forced to integrate diabetes into his active lifestyle. Elijah loves technology and uses the latest technological advances to help maintain a tight control over his diabetes. He is rarely seen without his Dexcom or Omnipod; whether it be at home, school or on the ice. Sports help integrate Elijah’s perspective on type one diabetes and everyday life. “Having diabetes doesn’t mean you have to limit your future possibilities. It is a disease that I can control and I will not let it control me." Wise words from an 11-year-old diabetes hero.