One of the things I find heartening about the diabetes online community (DOC) is their unfailing support of one another. From Susan Ito’s cheering on Denise Elliott after her duathlon, to uplifting remarks shared during #DSMA chats, the DOC consistently provides encouragement to others living with diabetes. I also often see that support within families impacted by diabetes. Sysy Morales and her sister Ana, who both live with type 1 diabetes, come to mind. Blogger Rachel Scott has found a foundation of diabetes support within her family as well, and it’s led her to offer support to others.
When Rachel was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 8 in 1999, she was already familiar with its impact. “It wasn’t a new thing for our family because my mother has lived with diabetes since she was 8 years old as well,” Rachel said. “She was very helpful. She taught me how to do the injections and sort of pep talked me through, telling me it was going to be okay. She was a positive role model in helping me cope with this new disease and throughout the rest of my life, too. Growing up and being a teenager was hard but she had been through it already so it was very good to have her there with me.”
A year after Rachel was diagnosed, the family learned her younger sister also lives with type 1 diabetes. “I think my sister’s diagnosis helped me become more independent because my parents had to put a little more focus on her since she was a lot younger than I was,” Rachel said. “I learned how to draw up the insulin by myself and give my own injections. Her diagnosis also made me want to develop and cope better so she could have somebody to be there for her, and someone to look up to, as I looked up to my mother.”
For Rachel, three people living with diabetes in the same home has fostered a built-in diabetes support group. “If we are all sitting down to eat dinner, we always ask, ‘Have you checked your blood sugar? Who is giving insulin? Where are we all at?’” she said. “If anyone is running low or high blood sugar, it is good to have somebody there to help you through that and take care of you. They understand how it feels to go through the whole rigmarole of having a low blood sugar and all that frustration. So I try to be there for them and listen to their problems and anything they’re concerned about. I try to give them the best feedback I possibly can to help.”
Outside of her family, Rachel has found meaningful support at Camp Granada, a diabetes camp she has attended since the year she was diagnosed. “It’s a really great place,” she said. “A lot of the people there are probably the closest friends I’ll ever have, even though I don’t see them but once a year. It’s a really good outlet to connect with and learn from other people with diabetes. It’s like another support system, with friends your age, going through the same things at the same time as you. I would definitely encourage anybody who is able to attend a diabetes camp to try it out. It’s a great experience.”
After many years as a camper, Rachel now serves as a counselor. “One of the most rewarding things is the opportunity to influence and inspire the younger generation of diabetics. I try to lead by example. This past year I had a camper who was recently diagnosed and she didn’t think she would ever be able to get through this diagnosis. We talked it out and I think I might have helped her see her life isn’t ending because she has diabetes; it’s really just another part of her life that’s beginning. It was really rewarding to see her light up after that and start to have fun at camp. Hopefully she could bring that thought home and keep going.”
Wanting to share diabetes support and experiences led Rachel to start her diabetes blog, humaBLOG, in 2010. “I really love to tell stories,” she said, “and since diabetes has been such a huge part of my life, I thought that’d be something I could tell stories about. I thought it would be interesting to start writing a blog so the people that I don’t see daily, or even people I won’t meet, can still be connected to me and learn through my experiences. I find it most rewarding when people say that they’ve either watched my videos or read a blog post and they totally understand what I’m saying or it really helped them out. I actually redesigned my whole website last year so I can be more involved in the DOC.”
Now in her final semester of college as a graphic design and marketing student, Rachel advises seeking out diabetes support from school administration. “It can help to get some student support as soon as you start college,” she said. “I contacted the student services department at my university and told them what I needed and what situations might come up, related to my diabetes. They had me get a doctor’s note and then they fabricated an e-mail and sent that to my professors. They have it on file now that I have diabetes and can retake a test if I need to. It was actually really easy and painless to set up.”
Finding diabetes support can make all the difference, according to Rachel. “It’s important to establish a good support system,” she said. “I find a lot of inspiration for sticking with my diabetes management online within the DOC. It’s very good for me. Also, your support system doesn’t have to live with diabetes. It can just be somebody who is there for you. They might not understand what it feels like, but they can be supportive if they’re willing to listen to you and help you when you need somebody.”
I am so touched by Rachel’s desire to serve as a role model and to help support her sister and kids at camp. Such altruism is commendable, and seems to really shine in her interactions with campers and on her blog. My thanks to Rachel for sharing her story.
All the best,
Disclosure: Rachel Scott 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.