• Lisa Seitles

Perspective: Type 1 Diabetes


Lisa Seitles of Hammonton has written a monthly column—“Perspective: Type 1 Diabetes”—for The Hammonton Gazette since July 2021. (Courtesy Photo)

I have written a monthly column—“Perspective: Type 1 Diabetes”—for The Hammonton Gazette since July 2021. You might ask why I do. The real question for me is: “How could I not?” My first article poured straight from my heart five months after my son Casey was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I submitted it to The Gazette unsolicited. It means a lot to me that Editor-in-Chief Gina Rullo accepted that article for publication, plus nine more to date.


Before Casey was diagnosed, I thought I knew a lot about Type 1 diabetes. A close family friend had been living with it for decades, and my mother had been writing and speaking for 10 years about the relentless demands of diabetes self-management. After Casey’s diagnosis, I realized I actually knew almost nothing about its demands. I suddenly had to find my way through a foreign world, with unfamiliar but critical medications and testing equipment, dosing charts, arithmetic calculations, monitoring devices, alarms, specialized healthcare providers and recurring problems with insurance coverage. Worse, this new world was scary because your child might die if you’re not careful. It can wear you down with anxiety, fatigue, ambiguity and uncertainty from trying, but often failing, to keep blood glucose within the normal range. During our first few months, I mourned a life of taken-for-granted freedoms that my son had lost, including the ability to eat freely without a second thought. There was no turning back after the diagnosis; no option to step away for a day of rest.


If I felt this way, I knew that other families would also be reeling from a diagnosis of Type 1. Many people are introduced to this new reality in a frightening way—their child in the emergency room with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)—as we were, fearing that Casey might die. It shakes them to the core. They emerge from the hospital into a chaos of new demands, now frightened by the responsibility of guarding a life all day, every day. Maybe I could help others thrown unexpectedly into this new reality by describing our family’s experience. I realized that most people know little about the disease and some misunderstand it, as I had. And I felt strongly that all parents need to know how to spot the onset of Type 1 better than I did. No one should lose their child to undiagnosed Type 1, as we almost did. Armed with knowledge I didn’t have before, I felt compelled to act.


The Hammonton Gazette gave our story greater validity and interest value simply by publishing my monthly articles. Online links to the articles gave them the opportunity to travel far and wide across other platforms. I didn’t know who would read my articles, let alone if they would have a meaningful impact. I had already joined diabetes support pages with members throughout the United States and other countries, so I posted my articles on those forums. I hoped to make a difference for at least one person, one family.


The Type 1 community’s response to my articles was far beyond anything I had imagined. People were so grateful. They thanked me for writing, said they felt understood, told me they learned something valuable, asked for advice, shared my articles so that others would understand their Type 1 experiences and fears and told me my articles changed their perspective on living with this difficult disease. My mom thought my articles illustrated so poignantly what she was about to publish in an international journal, that she cited my first four. With that, links to my articles entered the scientific literature.


Sharing our story led to other rewards, both private and public. I had two contacts at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), formed when Casey did a virtual walk for Type 1 at our preschool and I was forwarding them my early Gazette articles. They shared my first article on their Facebook page, along with our walk photos and a podcast that Sam and I did about diabetes. JDRF also awarded Casey a Rookie of the Year award for his walk and our efforts to spread awareness by sharing his story. The Gazette shared our walk photos and later one of Casey proudly holding his JDRF medal.


As awareness of Casey’s diagnosis spread in our community, we were soon working with the Hammonton Lions Club to plan an amazing family fun event, the First Annual Spring Fest, to raise money for JDRF. The Gazette interviewed me for this upcoming event, which helped spread the word. Dozens of local businesses and artists contributed considerable time and resources making it a success. It drew hundreds of people and raised $7,300 for JDRF. We were so grateful.


To our complete surprise and joyful tears, the Hammonton Lions Club would later award my husband Sam and me its Heart of a Lion Award for our volunteer efforts in this cause. In the meanwhile, Casey’s jiu jitsu coaches had followed up our joint fundraiser with one of their own, raising another $820 for JDRF. And recognizing our family’s efforts to date, JDRF gave us the honor of serving as its 2022 Family Team Champion for One Walk South Jersey next October. We made a video with Casey to promote the walk, where we will be walking with thousands of people who know what it would mean to cure Type 1. And, most recently, my articles led to me being interviewed on the biggest Type 1 diabetes podcast in the world, the Juicebox Podcast. The podcast host’s own mission to spread awareness had also begun by writing about his family’s journey with Type 1 diabetes.


I have seen how the written word, when disseminated widely, can exponentially magnify support for a worthy cause. My efforts to help others with Type 1 were welcomed far beyond Hammonton, but have come back full circle. I am touched by how quickly community support for Type 1 coalesced in our town. Writing for The Gazette has also allowed Casey and his parents to proudly represent and support others living with Type 1. Those rewarding experiences have helped us cope with this disease. In helping others to lessen their diabetes distress, our community has helped us lessen ours.


It all started when I sent a heartfelt unsolicited article to Gina Rullo at The Hammonton Gazette. Writing for The Gazette has changed Casey’s life, my husband Sam’s, my own and I hope a few others too. For that, I can never thank The Hammonton Gazette enough. Happy 25th anniversary!


Lisa Seitles

Hammonton


Lisa Seitles and her husband Sam are the owners of READ Preschool and Camp Tuscaloosa. They have four children and are active members of the community.