Beth McCrary is the type of person whose interest and enthusiasm is contagious, and when she e-mailed me last summer season and asked me to speak at a conference for women with Type 1 diabetes, I instantly said yes. I knew nothing about the conference, but I knew if Beth was behind it, then I needed to take part.
“Women of Type 1” Conference
“Women of Type 1” is a conference for women whose lives are touched by Type 1 diabetes (T1D): adult women with Type 1, teenagers with Type 1, mommies or grandmothers of kids with Type 1, and women who are partners and partners of individuals with Type 1 diabetes. Anne Sutton, whose boy has Type 1, created the conference in early 2016 for the JDRF Greater Carolinas Chapter, and Beth McCrary, the Development Coordinator for the JDRF Palmetto Chapter in Columbia, South Carolina, is arranging the JDRF Palmetto Chapter conference in October. I recently interviewed her to find out a bit more about how diabetes impacts her and how she got involved with the conference.
Interview with a Woman of Type 1 Diabetes
AM: How did you get involved in the diabetes world?
BM: My daughter Hannah was identified with Type 1 diabetes on August 21, 2008, at the age of 7. Prior to that, Type 1 diabetes was not on my radar and I had no concept what a severe and complicated disease it is. In February of 2009, my nephew’s partner Charlotte was diagnosed with T1D, and then in May of 2011, my nephew Matt was identified. Due to the fact that of these 3 extremely important member of the family, I became associated with the diabetes world through volunteering with JDRF Palmetto Chapter.
AM: Has your relationship with your child changed since she was diagnosed? If so, how?
BM: My relationship with my child has definitely changed because her diagnosis. We’ve become incredibly close. We are a group in every sense of the word. I strive to teach her life abilities and how to continue to treat and manage Type 1 diabetes as she gets older. She is my hero. She deals with the day-to-day and often per hour challenges of living with a chronic disease with the absolute best combination of grit and grace that I’ve ever experienced. T1D is a big part of her life, but it genuinely does not define her or hold her back from pursuing her dreams. It may slow her down, but it does not knock her down.
AM: You just recently changed careers and are now the development planner of the Columbia, South Carolina, JDRF chapter. What problems do you wish to focus on in this function?
BM: I recently transitioned from veteran parent-volunteer and board member to JDRF staff. It’s a blessing to come to work every day and get to focus on JDRF’s mission of creating a world without Type 1 diabetes. I get to provide HOPE to newly diagnosed families and to seasoned families as well. My focus will be on establishing relationships with these households and assisting them link to the T1D neighborhood. JDRF has offered my household a lot. I will keep paying that forward up until we have a cure.
AM: Tell us what your hopes are for the Women of Type 1 Conference.
BM: My hope is for the attendees to leave energized and empowered to live life well with Type 1 diabetes. Coping with Type 1 or caring for somebody living with Type 1 can be exhausting and isolating. I want everybody to understand we have a T1D neighborhood that is there for them.
AM: What advice can you show parents of kids who are newly identified with Type 1?
BM: My absolute best guidance for parents of a freshly diagnosed child is to obtain connected to the T1D community in your area. Usually this is going to be through JDRF. JDRF Palmetto Chapter fulfilled my household at the door of Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital on August 21, 2008 and provided us a Bag of Hope. That blue knapsack with Rufus, the Bear With Diabetes, connected us to our greatest source of hope — the research that is possible through JDRF and Special Diabetes Program funding. We were likewise able to connect with other households who share our exact same journey of dealing with Type 1 diabetes. They have become our Type 1 household. We would not be where we are today without their love and assistance.