An experienced educator

Thinking about diabetes, I have had many experiences. Although I don’t have diabetes, many people I’m close to, both friends and family were diagnosed with this disease. At the age of 12, I knew more about diabetes than the average adult. My neighbors Marc and Jason, who are like family to me, both have type 1 diabetes. I have known them my whole life and have grown up watching them maintain and fight against this disease. From as long as I can remember, going on family vacations, and spending a lot of time with them, I have adapted to the life of someone who had diabetes almost as if I had it. Certainly, I would never compare myself to anyone who is dealing with this disease and I will never know exactly what it’s like, but with me seeing the symptoms, checking sugar levels, seeing blood being tested, giving themselves insulin and always scheduling the day around it, has helped me to understand better than most.
One of the things I remember most was the importance of meal time awareness. Marc and Jason would need a snack or have to get dinner at a specific time. Nowadays thankfully, there are better ways of testing and taking insulin then having to eat right after a shot. When I was younger I didn’t fully understand this, but as I grew older I was aware of what symptoms to look for and knew almost as soon as they did or sometimes when they were unable to, that they needed a snack. They always had to monitor their sugar levels and take a test throughout the day to make sure blood levels would be at an appropriate number. They would feel sick from time to time with what they ate or because of a high or low level. I’m not going to lie; it was scary from time to time. No one ever wants to see a loved one hurt in any way. I learned to understand from being around them. Seeing how this was handled on a daily basis, it no longer became uncomfortable, but just part of reality seeing them take a shot or checking their blood. I’m so proud of my Aunt Sue and Uncle Stuart for how involved they are with diabetes and how well they have always dealt and coped with it. Not just with their own kids but within the community as well. My Aunt Sue is a diabetes educator and they both have educated people about this disease. Helping more people with knowledge/awareness and the steps of what they can do to get involved can make a difference.
I remember choosing diabetes as a topic for a class project and both of them were a great resource. Uncle Stuart sat with me and went over the terms and helped me make a body diagram of a person with diabetes and a person without. Aunt Sue reviewed terms and gave me t- shirts to pass out, with the body diagram that she used to educate at some workshops. I was also able to answer many questions from my classmates. I ended up doing really well and got an A with their guidance. This project was not just another presentation, but very close to my heart and important to me. I had passion for this topic and was happy to teach everyone something that was close to my heart.
They both have spent over 30 years teaching and caring for both of their children in such incredible ways. They always went above and beyond for their kids, but never once treated them like they had a disease. Jason and Marc never let having diabetes stop them from what they wanted to accomplish. It’s truly inspiring to see how successful they both are. They are such great role models. Jason is now a Doctor devoting his time to helping others and Marc is a pharmacist doing the same. Obviously, technology has changed a lot since those days. I was at dinner last night with Jason and I saw him on his smart phone and it showed what his sugar levels were. It’s encouraging how much people have fought for better technology and advancement to improve the everyday life of people with diabetes. I know someday soon we will find a cure!

Leah Lauren Nappi
Leah Lauren Nappi

Growing Up With Diabetes

Growing up , my grandmother would babysit my two cousins Jason and Marc and I, they were more like brothers to me. They were my role models, the foundation for what I aspired to be. Jason was the oldest and I took to his interest of running and medicine, I still remember continuously being asked for a sample of my skin so he could inspect it under the microscope. Years later, I still enjoy running and found my calling in the nursing field as a nurse practitioner. Marc, he was my best friend and the “cool” kid, in my eyes anyway. These were and still are my fondest memories. If you ask me about being asked to leave the kitchen so that my aunt could give the boys shots in the behind, I wouldn’t have thought it unusual, it was just apart of the routine that we called life. My aunt did this knowing years later this would be a site they would be unable to reach and she wanted to rotate sites to prevent skin damage, as they are type 1 diabetics and insulin dependent for the rest of their lives. Diet soda was not a fad or a get skinny gesture by any means, it was all that was stocked in the fridge and became an acquired taste that I still prefer to this day. I never understood the anxiety and somewhat fear that was projected in my aunt and grandmother when asking the boys to check their blood sugar or grab a snack until I understood fully the pathophysiology of diabetes and until I became a mother myself. 
Halloween was always fun but I never quite understood why my uncle was paying my cousins for candy, did he like candy that much? Marc is still pretty good at negotiating for what he wants and my Uncle Stuart still loves candy! I didn’t see the struggle, the frustration or the hurt when other kids didn’t want to wait for them to check their blood sugar, to stop for a snack and/or give themselves a shot of insulin. I admire this in them to this day because there’s no doubt that all those emotions were there but they certainly didn’t let it weigh them down. 
To this day I remember walking with my father down the street to the store and him appearing down. I was about eight years old. When I asked him what was wrong he said, “today isn’t a good day, we just found out that Marc is diabetic too.” We walked in silence the rest of the way. Jason was diagnosed as an infant, and Marc not until about the age of ten. How ironic that his example of how to cope with this life changing condition would be his bigger brother. I have never seen two people carry such a load with such grace and dignity. I never, not once,  heard them complain. They took it in strife and excelled at life in full force. When I hear people regard diabetes as this horrible disease I am in disgust. Of all the “diseases” to have, I’d choose this one. You can control it, you have power of your wellness and overall quality of life if you choose to take control and that’s exactly what my aunt and uncle instilled in their boys. They were probably healthier than most children as far as fitness and diet because they chose/had to be. They chose life over self pity, self loathing and self destruction. Jason is now a doctor and Marc a pharmacist. I can assure you I would not be where I am today as well had I not had them to look up to.

Nicole Levy