CNN reporter Oren Liebermann says that being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes hasn’t changed him. “I refuse to ever think I can’t do something because I have diabetes,” he says. “My life is just as fun and adventurous as I’ve always wanted it to be.”
“Adventurous” is a good word to describe Liebermann. In 2013 he and his wife, Cassie, decided to take time off work and explore the world. They traveled to remote places like the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and the Masai Mara in Kenya. They saw the Florence Cathedral and Cinque Terre in Italy. The couple was having the time of their lives until Liebermann became very thirsty and started to lose weight. They were in Nepal when he received his diagnosis and returned to the U.S. to learn how to care for type 1 diabetes.
As soon as Liebermann had regained his strength and had the day-to-day management down, he and Cassie were back on the road.
“I won’t let diabetes limit me. I’ve traveled around the world with diabetes, hiked the Inca Trail, spent a night on the Great Wall of China, and many more fun and amazing adventures. To me, diabetes is a nuisance. It is an ever-present nuisance with very serious consequences, but if I take care of my blood sugar levels, I may never have to worry about those consequences.”
As a person who does live broadcasting for CNN, you might think hypoglycemia would be the first thing on his mind.
“I have to take a few extra precautions,” he says, “including always having sugar with me whenever I head out on a story, but it doesn’t bother me at all. Occasionally, I’ve had to test my blood sugar during an interview or a meeting, but everyone either immediately understands what I’m doing or isn’t afraid to ask. I’ve never been embarrassed or ashamed of having diabetes, so I’m happy to explain what I’m doing.”
On a few occasions, Liebermann has felt low before a live broadcast or during a shoot. “Once, I was in the chair a few minutes from going live and I felt a bit low,” he says. “I just told my producer to grab my bag and bring it into the studio so I could eat a bit of sugar. After my diagnosis, I simply thought about all the ‘what-ifs’ and how to solve them. This was one of those cases.”
Keeping to a tight management schedule helps Liebermann avoid unexpected lows. “After I take insulin for a meal, I set my watch alarm to test my blood sugar two hours and fifteen minutes later. My alarm did go off once during a live broadcast! I knew to quickly silence my watch, and I’m not sure anyone noticed.”
Liebermann is lucky to have the support of his employer. He says diabetes has never been a concern for CNN. His team knows he has diabetes and he’s taught them how to inject glucagon in case of emergency. In April, CNN sent Liebermann to Nepal – the place where he was diagnosed with diabetes – to cover the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.
“Going back was overwhelming,” he says. “I was busy with work the entire first day, but it all hit me when I finally had a moment to relax at the end of the day. I had to sit down and take more than a few deep breaths. But it’s all about perspective. The last time I was in Nepal, I was the one who needed help.
Now it’s the entire country that needs help.” Working for CNN has given Liebermann an incredible opportunity to advocate for people with diabetes and to demonstrate that diabetes doesn’t have to stop you from following your dreams, even when those dreams send you halfway around the world to report live in front of millions of people. “Never let diabetes slow you down,” Liebermann says.
Jessica Apple is the co-founder and editor in chief of the online diabetes lifestyle magazine A Sweet Life. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Financial Times Magazine, The Southern Review, The Bellevue Literary Review and Tablet Magazine. Apple is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
© 2015 The DX: The Diabetes Experience