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Living with LADA

Charli Guerin on life with LADA

Laura Kolodjeski of Sanofi US DiabetesLaura Kolodjeski

The third Monday in October marks the beginning of LADA Awareness Week. It’s an opportunity for members of the diabetes community to share stories and resources to try to increase understanding about latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). Last year, we shared a roundup of posts featuring people who live with LADA, which is classified as adult onset type 1 diabetes, blending qualities from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Today I’d like to introduce you to Charli Guerin, who has found support in the diabetes online community while living with LADA.

Charli Guerin
Charli Guerin

Charli is a server in a local restaurant, and enjoys writing in her down time. “I just fell in love with grant writing this year, so I would like to write grants for non-profits to try to get them some funding to help them out with projects,” she said. “I also write slam poetry and short stories. I actually have four published poems.”

Learning about LADA

Initially diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in her late 20s in August 2010, Charli tried to manage her blood sugar with diet, exercise and medications. “But my blood sugar level was still 300 to 500 on a daily basis,” she remembered. “I dropped about 90 pounds. I was exercising all the time, so I thought that’s why I was dropping the weight.”

After moving and changing doctors, Charli eventually had new bloodwork done in July 2011, which revealed both an A1C of 16 and the presence of autoantibodies.

“My doctor told me that they were calling it 1.5, and I thought that was something that he just referred to it as,” she said. “It sounded like a joke. When I told my mom what it was, she laughed and thought that I was making it up.”

To learn more about LADA, Charli leaned on her healthcare team. “I had a great team of support,” she said. “I’m still with the same endocrinologist, and he is amazing. His nurses are wonderful. Then I also had a nutritionist that was excellent and knew quite a bit.”

LADA Challenges

For Charli, dealing with LADA means two main challenges: the financial impact and emotional stress. Before the Affordable Care Act, Charli struggled to get insurance coverage, but now she still often hits her deductible by April. She is also often frustrated by not being able to predict or control her blood sugar level.

Despite the challenges, Charli offers encouragement to those newly diagnosed with LADA. “I would tell them to take deep breaths, and that they can do it, even though facing it may be scary,” she said. “I used to be terrified of needles. I couldn’t handle them. It’s still scary for me – I still have to count to three before I change a site or prick my finger even, but I’m doing it. If I can do it, they can do it.”

Finding Diabetes Support

Soon after her LADA diagnosis, Charli was introduced to the diabetes online community (DOC), which in turn provided her with more information about LADA. “When I was diagnosed with type 2, I thought that it was just something that I was going to have to live with alone and struggle with and figure out,” she said. “After I found the DOC, just getting to know people with LADA was really, really helpful. There are people that I’ve never met face to face and yet I talk to on an almost daily basis. For me, it’s a support system that never goes away, and it’s always at the access of my fingertips.”

Charli points to several members of the DOC who have been helpful in supporting her journey with LADA, like Colleen Skinner, Barbara Campbell and Cherise Shockley, as well as those who live with other types of diabetes, such as Courtney McGuffin, Sara Nicastro and Kim Vlasnik. Several bloggers have inspired Charli as well, including Sarah Kaye of Sugabetic.Me, Jess Collins of Me and D and Kelly Kunik of Diabetesaliciousness©.

Kansas City, where Charli lives, serves as a hub for DOC meet-ups. “There’s eight of us that try to get together every other month or so for dinner or brunch,” she said. “And people come in and out of Kansas City, so we do get to meet others occasionally. I’ve met some wonderful, wonderful people.”

Type of diabetes doesn’t matter much to Charli, when it comes to diabetes support. “I really don’t pay attention to the types as much. I feel like I’ve connected with people with type 1, LADA and type 2,” she said. “Probably more type 1 and LADA than type 2, but definitely there are some great type 2’s in the community that I love being able to talk to and get to know. It’s very frustrating for me when people separate the types or if they want type 1 to be called a different name. Everybody’s diabetes is different, but it’s all one thing to me, and we should all be working towards the same thing.”

Raising LADA Awareness

For LADA Awareness Week, Charli is working on a slam poem, which she plans to share via social media. “I also post a lot of facts and information online. I’m not generally knocking people’s doors down with flyers or anything, just sharing a few facts.”

I found it heartening to hear about the support Charli has found in the DOC, and the regular meet-ups in Kansas City. I know I have greatly enjoyed the meet-ups I have attended – it’s always nice to connect and put faces with Twitter® handles! Many thanks to Charli for sharing her thoughts and experiences.

All the best,

Laura K.


Disclosure: Charli Guerin 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.

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