I remember my wedding like it was yesterday – my dress, the flowers, our band and all of the very special people that came to share in our joy. I also remember the months of planning leading up to the big event and doing everything I could to ensure the day was just right. While getting to know members of the diabetes community, I’ve learned that people with diabetes have a number of additional things to consider when planning their weddings. One person who knows this all too well is recent bride April Blackwell, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 11 years old.
In kindergarten, April knew she wanted to be an astronaut and would look for satellites and planets with her father who was an aircraft mechanic. She was crushed when she found out she had diabetes because she was afraid it would stand in the way of her dream.
“One of the things I had up on my bulletin board as a kid was the list of the physical requirements to be an astronaut,” April said. “So when I found out I had diabetes, I was almost one hundred percent sure that it was going to disqualify me. I went through the paperwork again, and sure enough, it was there. It made me very upset until someone suggested I could be the first diabetic in space and then I was back on track.”
In pursuit of her dream, April went to college on a full-ride scholarship to study aerospace engineering at Arizona State University. One summer during college she decided to work as a space camp counselor in Huntsville, Alabama where she met Chris, a fellow counselor, aspiring aerospace engineer and her future husband.
The space-loving couple dated long-distance during the two years it took them to finish their degrees at their respective universities. After graduation, April moved to be closer to Chris and two years later they were engaged. As the wedding planning began, it was obvious that their love for space was going to be a key theme in their wedding.
“Since we met at space camp, we ended up having the reception at space camp under the Saturn V Rocket,” April said. “I went all out with the space theme. On our invitations there was a rocket with little hearts coming out, and there were little quotes at the reception like ‘I love you to the Moon and back.’”
Before the wedding, April made special preparations to help manage her blood sugar on her big day.
“I went and looked at dresses with my mom and actually ended up taking my insulin pump off while we were shopping because it was annoying trying to mess with it while putting on huge dresses,” April said. “Then I found one I really liked, and I had no idea how I was going to wear my insulin pump while wearing this dress because it was mermaid style – a little tight and sort of flared out. I ended up doing what I do every day, which is wearing my pump in my bra. It turned out perfectly.”
Like many recently engaged women, April flipped through wedding catalogs and read wedding blogs. Additionally, she reached out to her friends with diabetes to hear their experiences. “We have a couple of diabetes bloggers that live here in Huntsville and we get together every once in a while,” she said. “One of them told me that if I’m feeling low during all of the pictures, just tell them to stop so I could check my blood sugar and take some juice breaks if necessary.”
April warns brides to not stress out on their wedding day. “Whatever is going to happen will happen. As prepared as you are for every situation, something will happen you won’t expect,” she said. “At the end of my wedding night, I ended up having a pump error. Fortunately, I had given my barrage of supplies to my bridesmaid, and she had them ready. I ended up giving myself shots when that happened and everything worked out.”
While April didn’t allow her diabetes to take center stage on her wedding day, she did acknowledge diabetes in her life. “I made up little cards and set them at each table and told the guests we were making a donation to JDRF instead of favors,” April said. “We had several compliments, and that was something special to both of us because even though I’m the only one with diabetes, Chris is very involved with it too.”
What a great idea – love it! I want to thank April for sharing her love of all things outer space as well as some of the steps she took to help manage her blood sugar on her wedding day. Congratulations to Chris and April – we wish you a long, happy life together!
Disclosure: April Blackwell received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.