We have highlighted the stories of some supportive “type 3’s” here on the blog, including David Schlissel, Lori Kuzma and Michael Williams. We also featured the story of Leigh Farber on The DX for Mother’s Day, sharing how she supports her mother in the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes. Caring for someone with diabetes is a role that Leigh gladly accepts – both her mother and husband live with type 1 diabetes, as well as her husband’s two sisters. Today we’d like to share a bit more of Leigh’s story.
Leigh grew up watching her mother manage her diabetes. “I never knew anything else,” she said. “I remember vividly as a child waiting for her to take her insulin before we ate. I knew the signs of when she was low. I learned how to treat it early on because I had no other alternative especially as the oldest child in the family. I took an interest in supporting her care. I still speak to her every morning when I get up and she always jokes that even now I can detect her low blood sugar over the phone.”
Leigh and her mother are very close. “My mom is one of my best friends,” said Leigh. “I admire her as a parent, as a person, as a friend and as a woman. She taught me a lot about who I am. She’s a huge part of my family’s life. We’re very fortunate.”
To honor her mother’s daily challenges with diabetes, Leigh began walking in the Boston JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes, and has raised more than $325,000 for diabetes research over the past 15 years.
While supporting her mother through JDRF events, Leigh never would have imagined that she would end up marrying someone living with diabetes. She and Scott met online in 2004, but she wasn’t aware he lived with diabetes until they tried to set up a time to meet in person. “We were trying to find a date for us to finally meet,” she said, “but the next weekend was the JDRF walk and I said I couldn’t meet then because of the walk. He asked about it, and it came out that he and two of his three siblings also live with type 1 diabetes.” The following year Scott joined Leigh on the walk and has every year since.
Being aware of her mother’s care has helped Leigh acclimate to being involved in her husband’s care. “It took me a little while to navigate what his signs were, how he managed his care and what he was comfortable with, but I definitely think I was prepared to help him,” she said.
Though both live with type 1 diabetes, Leigh’s mother and husband approach their diabetes management differently. “My mother had a rigidity about her care; I believe that’s how she’s maintained such phenomenal control of her blood sugar for well over 40 years,” Leigh said. “She always eats the same thing for breakfast and lunch unless she’s out at a restaurant, while my husband is a little more flexible. My mother uses a pump now; Scott has no interest in using a pump. My mother treats her low blood sugar with jellybeans; Scott most often will drink juice. They are obviously very different people.”
Aside from their diabetes management differences, Leigh says her husband and mother share a very special connection. “Not only do they both live with diabetes,” she said, “they also have the same doctor now and they bounce things off each other. They also use the same continuous glucose monitor; Scott gave her a tutorial and can troubleshoot for her on the spot, in person or on the phone. It’s really a nice connection that they share.”
Leigh’s three children are also very aware of their family history of diabetes. “They sort of think that everybody wears a pump or takes insulin,” she said. “It seems like more of their relatives are diabetic than are not. It’s a fascinating world that they live in.”
Leigh acknowledges that the role of diabetes supporter can be tricky, but believes it comes down to allowing people to feel in control of their own care. “Make sure they know that you’re not trying to take over their daily life with diabetes but just be there to make it easier for them,” she suggests. “Try to do what you can to not make it this big thing that gets in their way. It’s really important to try to make life as normal as possible.”
Instead of allowing herself to feel like she’s caught in the middle, Leigh has dedicated herself to supporting both her mother and husband with their diabetes management, as well as countless others with her JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes fundraising. My thanks to her for sharing her story.
All the best,
Disclosure: Leigh Farber 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.