A Q&A with 20-year diabetes patient and awareness advocate, Terry Burke

Despite the ongoing search for a cure, in the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled. That’s 34 million people in the US alone, making diabetes the 7th leading cause of death in this country (International Diabetes Federation). But it’s not all bad news. We can reverse the trend — particularly for type 2 diabetes which makes up 90% of all cases in the world — if people were more aware of the warning signs and risk factors so they could adopt a healthier lifestyle and, if necessary, seek treatment. Recently, our editorial team had the privilege of talking to Wider Circle strategic advisor Terry Burke. Having lived with type 1.5 diabetes for over 20 years, and raising two sons with early-onset type 1, Terry has a lot of wisdom to share and is living proof that you don’t have to let diabetes be the boss of you to lead a perfectly healthy, joyful life.

Terry, as someone with diabetes type 1.5 — or latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) — aside from learning how to live with an insulin pump attached to your body 24 hours a day, what are some of the biggest hurdles you had to overcome in order to co-exist with this disease?

Well for me, and millions of others like me, I think there is an emotional and social element to diabetes that others in our community may not even realize exists. We feel a bit discriminated against because we are labeled a “diabetic”. It’s not a diabetic, it’s a person with diabetes. We are a whole person who happens to have this affiliation. Regardless of whether you have type 1, 1.5 or 2, you not only have to come to terms with it, accept it and realize this is your partner for a lifetime, you have to feel comfortable telling others you have it and try to debunk misconceptions. Like diabetes is your fault because you eat too many sweets or don’t exercise enough. There are so many other factors at play. You can be born with the inability to produce enough insulin, the hormone necessary to carry glucose to your cells for food. Or the body can develop insulin resistance over time. Yes, diet and exercise play a large role in preventing and controlling diabetes, but there’s more to keeping your blood glucose levels in check. Emotions, metabolism and even adrenaline can cause levels to rise — and if they stay high that’s where serious complications can occur. 

The information included in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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