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Diabetes Show and Tell: Kelly Kunik

Diabetesaliciousness blogger, Kelly Kunik, shared her One Spooky Halloween Diagnosis Story with us back in October, and has joined us again today to share some of her most memorable moments living with type 1 diabetes. Kelly was not alone in her diabetes diagnosis, as 4 of her 8 immediate family members were also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, as well as a handful of extended family members. This inspirational East Coast Diabetes Advocate focuses on the positive things in life, laughing every day and passionately spreading the word about living a great life with diabetes.

Q. What diabetes items do you typically carry in your bag?

A. I carry my glucose meter, test strips, and spare infusion sets. I actually toss a spare infusion set in every one of my handbags, so I always have one on hand. Same goes for triple AAA batteries. So if I switch out handbags last minute, I’m covered in the spare infusion set and battery department! I also carry glucose tabs (for sure), and other foods like Trader Joe’s fruit strips or a KIND bar, just in case my blood sugar drops. Every now and then, I’ll carry 33 Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate morsels (a total of 10 grams of carbs) in a zip lock bag for a chocolaty treat, because I can.

Q. What is your favorite awkward diabetes moment?

A. After 36 years, there are so many awkward diabetes moments it’s hard to pick just one! There was the time when I was waitressing at seafood shack in college. The place had amazing sea food, but it was literally a shack on the back bay atop pilings and complete with worn wooden floorboards. The shack actually swayed when the tides changed. One night, I went into the sole sparse, but clean restroom, to take my insulin. As I was holding my insulin filled needle up above my head to the bright light bulb (without the light fixture) and flicking out the air bubbles with my fingers, the door swung open. As if the bathroom wasn’t sketchy enough without my insulin needle out! The woman who opened the door started to scream when she saw me, accusing me of being a drug user (technically I am, my drug of choice being insulin). I screamed back, “I’m not a drug user! I’m a diabetic!” She ran. When I went to go wait my first table of the evening, guess who was sitting at the table? AWKWARD.

Q. Tell us about the most memorable time explaining your diabetes to a new friend, significant other, or colleague.

A. Coming home from the hospital after I was first diagnosed way back when, I was really worried about what my classmates would think. Being obsessed with ‘Saturday Night Live’ at the time, when I got back to school, I did a Roseanne Roseannadanna impersonation in the school yard and put a diabetes spin to it. I said something like, “Dr. Richard Fader from Fort Lee New Jersey writes: Dear Roseanne Roseannadanna, my friend has just been diagnosed with diabetes. What’s that? Can I catch it?” During my impersonation, I pointed out I had to take insulin and eat snacks in class, and that nobody could actually “catch” diabetes. Everyone laughed! My classmates didn’t think of me as “Kelly, the sick girl with diabetes”. They thought of me as “Kelly, their crazy friend who has diabetes and does a wicked Roseanne Roseannadanna impersonation.” I was able to tell them about my diabetes in a way that made me feel confident while teaching and making them laugh at the same time.

Q. How do you reward yourself for practicing good diabetes management?

A. I don’t like the terms “good” or “bad” when it comes to diabetes management. We have successes and challenges when it comes to diabetes and diabetes management, but that doesn’t mean we are good or bad. How do I celebrate turning diabetes challenges into diabetes victories? Sometimes it’s a new pair of shoes or dinner with friends. Other times it’s a glass of pricy Malbec, or a treat like a cupcake or slice of pizza. There’s a Dutch coffee house by my Endo’s office and sometimes I like to stop in there after my appointment to treat myself to a Dutch hot chocolate. Honestly, the D celebration depends on my mood, and my budget, at least when it comes to the shoes.

Q. Who is your diabetes superhero and why?

A. There’s a whole universe of diabetes superheroes in the diabetes community. Every person I meet who lives with diabetes is a superhero in my book. Living with diabetes gives you diabetes superhero status automatically. Meeting people who have lived with diabetes for many decades inspire me, just like people who are newly diagnosed and running with it! And then there are all the parents, siblings, spouses and partners of CWDS and PWDS – they’re the D superheroes in their own right!

But the D hero I always think of is my mom. She was a huge diabetes superhero for me. She was married to my father, who had type 1 diabetes, and 3 of her 6 children have type 1 diabetes. My mom did her best in the diabetes dark ages (pre technology, pre insulin pump, pre meter, and pre flexible diabetes diets) to take care of all of us with and without diabetes. She was always positive and never gave up, teaching us to lift ourselves up by our diabetes bootstraps and keep going, no matter what!

Actually, my mom and dad were both amazing D heroes. They had no support system, glucose meters, sliding scales, or flexible all inclusive diabetes diet to make their jobs easier. It’s not like today with the DOC. There were no blogs, Facebook, or Twitter. They were alone as parents raising children with diabetes, and we were alone as a family dealing with diabetes in all dimensions. I think about them every day and I miss them. I do my best to make them both proud.

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