Finding my diabetes sweet spot
As someone who has experienced all the highs and all lows of type 1 diabetes, Sarah knows that managing diabetes is an extremely personal journey.
Sarah Richter, Public Relations Manager at Roche Diabetes Care
I was 11 years old in October 2004 when my parents picked me up three days early from a tennis camp. They’d just received worrying lab results from a routine examination I had done a few days before.
I saw the apprehension in their eyes, but didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.
When we arrived at the hospital, I received the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, and watched as the doctors worked diligently to get my blood sugar level back into range. It was all scary and uncertain back then trying to get an idea of the new lifestyle I would have to adapt to. Watching candy commercials on TV from my hospital bed put me in misery, and getting my hands on a chocolate Santa Claus for Christmas that year seemed like a faraway fantasy. Luckily, my parents and I received training sessions and we began to learn the basics of my diabetes therapy. To my excitement, I was able to have some Christmas sweets in the end. Life with diabetes didn’t seem so bad after all, right?
My childhood and teenage years were defined by a strict diet. My mom was persistent at being “on top of the game.” She routinely put sticky notes in my lunchbox with the number of carbs I had in front of me and the amount of insulin I had to inject. Although we never spoke about it outrightly as I tried my best to avoid such conversations, I realise now we carried a lot of fear that I would suffer from long-term complications if we didn’t manage correctly. For example, every time I visited the eye doctor she would scare me with the message that if I didn’t take care to manage my diabetes, I would go blind. I eventually told my mom that I didn’t want to see that doctor anymore, so we found someone else.
My relationship to diabetes changed in 2018. I went from putting in minimum effort and otherwise ignoring it to educating myself about it and taking charge of my health. The change was spurred by two events. The first was that my partner recently had also been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and the second big change was that I joined mySugr, which had become part of the Roche family in 2017.
From the moment I began working there, I entered an empathetic, open and accepting culture. I’m still in this bubble where having diabetes feels normal: injecting insulin right at the lunch table, coming in late due to a rough night with rollercoaster blood glucose levels, or slipping out of meetings to grab a hypo (low blood sugar) snack are as common at mySugr as the sun spinning around the earth.
Being in this environment, I realised that I'm privileged in a lot of different ways. Although it took me a few years to really accept and take care of my diabetes, I always had the possibility to do so – not having to worry about where to find a specialised doctor, education or the supplies I need for managing my condition. This isn't the reality many people with diabetes live in. Access to the most basic care still remains a huge challenge in many parts of the world. As I learned more about this issue, I became very passionate about raising awareness. I love that I'm part of a company that recognises the hurdles and is working in different ways to improve the access to care for people with diabetes – this makes me proud and I enjoy my role in these efforts, using my voice as a communicator to take part in that conversation.
When you live with diabetes, it grows with you. I'm not the same kid that thought the worst part of having diabetes meant no longer eating sweets. I've learned a lot about the world along the way, like how harmful stigma and inequality in healthcare are, and that it's important to do something about it. As challenging as it's been, I'm happy that at least it brought me closer to a lot of things and people I love.
This article was originally published on Roche.com.