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Diabetes | Web Update

Senior starts club for students with Type 1 diabetes

Published: September 19, 2013, 12:01 am ET
News Assistant

Students with Type 1 diabetes have a new resource on campus through the club recently started by senior Mary Waller. The group held its first meeting Monday Sept. 10 and is expected to continue meeting once a month, Waller said.

“It’s mostly a social support network to deal with the unique and overwhelming challenges that face a college student with Type 1 diabetes,” Waller said. “Managing blood sugars is tough around academics, relationships and college life in general.

“Including one girl who’s abroad this semester, there are nine of us that I know of,” she said. “I’m sure there are a few more Type 1 diabetics at UR out there who didn’t catch my ads or weren’t interested. I hope to plan fun activities for the group, for members to get to know each other and enjoy spending time with people who understand exactly what they’re dealing with, all the challenges and downsides of Type 1 diabetes.

“I also hope to plan more health-conducive events too, like meeting with the campus nutritionist for tips on healthy eating on campus, or taking an exercise class together at the gym.”

Waller has met with Karen Hensley, the campus nutritionist, and was given access to the special diet refrigerator in the Heilman Dining Center. Waller said that she had been given a measuring cup so she could determine the exact portion sizes of her meals, but that it went mostly unused. The spoons the dining hall uses for serving food hold about half a cup, she said.

“I do hate that the dessert thing is right there in the front, but they have a lot of healthy options,” Waller joked.

Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder that attacks specific cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, Waller said.

“People with Type 1 diabetes don’t make insulin, so they have to replace it with synthetic insulin via injections or a device called an insulin pump,” Waller said. Type 1 diabetics have to test their blood glucose four times a day, she said. Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes share a name but have a number of differences, which Waller pointed out.

She said: “Type 1 diabetes is not caused by being overweight, by eating too much sugar or any of the other common misconceptions. Other than genetic reasons, scientists are still researching its causes and suspect certain strains of viruses trigger autoimmune responses.”

This was not the only misconception Waller wanted to debunk. She said that people often thought diabetics could not eat candy. “As long as you know exactly how much you’re consuming, then you’re fine,” she said.

Waller wanted to create a support group on campus because “it’s like it’s invisible. . . I’m wearing my insulin pump, but it’s not like you can see it,” she said. “There are definitely some days that it’s a burden. It’s not like I’m sick, but I am.”

Contact staff writer Brennan Lutz at brennan.lutz@richmond.edu

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