Living with Type 1 Diabetes as a Career

03/14/2017 12:48 pm ET

I feel very fortunate that, in addition to having Type 1 diabetes for 28 years, I have also worked and advocated in the diabetes corporate business space for over 20 years. And because of this, I’ve been given the opportunity to stay relevant and informed regarding existing and upcoming treatments, technologies, research and advocacy for those of us balancing this challenging life condition. And I find that I’m always motivated to do so because I take this responsibility very very seriously. On a personal level, I can’t say that working in diabetes makes my own management any less grueling but it does keep my hopes alive about the future for those of us with Type 1. Perhaps a carrot on a string motivates me? Perhaps I’m naïve? Perhaps. But I’m ever the optimist.

Who We Are

The Type 1 diabetes private and business community is a noisy, tight knit group of baddass folks who either typically live with Type 1 or are connected to it in a personal way. Our industry just seems to attract those of us who understand the daily realities of living with this condition and because of that, many of us have also made diabetes our long time careers. For a lot of us, that can sometimes become all consuming and it certainly has the potential to lead to burnout as we don’t get much of a break from our condition. The old “Lemonade out of Lemons” saying applies some of the time, but not always.

Why Type 1 Diabetes Specifically?

My personal approach to my career has always been to bang the drum for Type 1 awareness, education and advocacy. I do this strategically and specifically because there is so much misinformation and misunderstanding about Type 1 among the general public and even in the medical community. And now, we are facing the horror of, once again, being faced with pre-existing clauses, lapse in coverage clauses and high-risk pool language that, for me personally, sends shivers up my spine. I have been there, done ALL that many times over, including being completely uninsured and uninsurable for a time. And I’m furious that our community has to, once again, face the unthinkable and risk financial ruin just to stay alive. Unacceptable. Hang on while I breathe…

I Was Covered

We find ourselves, AGAIN, fighting for the right to purchase health insurance. And fight we will. What we are facing is the same sad, old song and dance, same old story, same same same. Seriously? Why are we going backwards?

Don’t get me wrong. In my opinion, buying health insurance through the Exchange is not optimal and it’s not perfected….yet. But it’s a start and it’s certainly a solid jumping off point for many of us. And it’s an opportunity to grow it into a program where all people can garner the tools they need to do their best to stay healthy and actively involved in their health without facing potential financial ruin. How do I know this? My family is currently insured under the Exchange and I’m grateful for it. Again, don’t misunderstand. There are challenges. But last month when I tripped in my garage and fractured some ribs, I cannot tell you how grateful I was to pull out my PPO insurance card. And what a lot of people forget to think about is that I need insurance for my overall health, not just my Type 1 diabetes. Being clumsy and tripping had nothing to do with my Type 1. But I was covered! I. Was. Covered!

The American Diabetes Association - Call to Congress 2017

I’m asking for your help, advocacy and your voices. On Thursday, March 30th, 2017, I’m excited to say that I will be meeting up with noisy diabetes advocates on Capital Hill in Washington DC for the American Diabetes Association’s Call to Congress. We have the opportunity and the obligation, to knock on doors, share our stories and promote the need for advocacy, and awareness of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. I’m asking you to please call/write your Congressional leaders while we are there. Tell them to meet with us and listen to us. We will carry your voices with us and be your advocates as well. On that day, lets have a swell of raised voices for diabetes! Let them know that we are listening, watching and will hold them accountable for how they treat our community.

It’s imperative that we keep up the heat. For me, I’ve forgotten what it feels like to not have Type 1 diabetes and that scares me. I don’t want to leave a legacy of apathy or complicity. It’s too late to hide our heads in the sand. It’s too late to go back to sleep. Together, we can do this.

Raise your voice!

Peg Abernathy*

@diabetesmedia

*opinions are my own

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