MCOM 342 Profile Story

Sara Spinazzola: Diabetes will not defeat me

Diabetes as a college woman is tough, especially when your friends can eat whatever they want.

Imagine being a 20-year-old woman with diabetes. Constantly having to check your blood sugar, having to watch what you eat 24/7, and giving yourself insulin shots multiple times a day. All this is true for junior early childhood education major, Sara Elise Spinazzola.

When she was only 9-years-old, Spinazzola was diagnosed with type one diabetes the day before her first day of 4th grade. For every other child, they were worrying about what kind of Princess notebook to bring to class, but Spinazzola was worrying about how to regulate her blood sugar.

When she was diagnosed, she wasn’t sure how she would live her life. She said that she felt like she was zoning out all of the time because her blood sugar would get so low.

According to the American Diabetes Association, one in every 10 person suffers from diabetes, whether it is type one or type two. Type one is when your pancreas does not produce enough insulin and type two which is where the pancreas produces insulin, but the body can’t manage it properly.

In a recent study from the American Diabetes Association, “People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 attributed to diabetes.” This study results diagnosed diabetes patients to have medical expenditures around 2.3 times higher than the person who does not have diabetes.

With all of that information, Spinazzola had no idea about the numbers and facts with the disease.

Before someone is properly diagnosed with the disease, one will develop symptoms such as extreme thirst, blurry vision, fatigue, and extreme hunger.

“I got it when I was so young and I never really got the opportunity to process it in general,” she said. “But once I got it, I immediately started taking care of it. After I started giving myself my own shots, I was able to manage it myself.”

All throughout her childhood, her parents were able to help her take care of her because they would constantly remind her to check her blood sugar. But when she got to college, she didn’t pay attention to it as much, and began to neglect it.

“I never had anyone there saying ‘What’s your blood sugar?’ over and over again,” she said. “I would be scared to check it because if I checked it, I knew it would be over 400. I honestly think that it’s because I never wanted [diabetes] to be a defining factor in who I am, but it explains so much about me.”

According to “Dealing With Your Teenager’s Diabetes” by Joanne Moore, alcohol plays a huge factor into managing diabetes.

“Alcohol interferes with the liver’s ability to release stored sugar when blood levels drop,” Moore said. “As a result, someone who is intoxicated can have serious low blood sugar.”

Spinazzola said that throughout her freshman year, she didn’t have the best health life because she would drink almost every single life. She knew it was affecting her disease, but she didn’t want to admit it.

It wasn’t until this past summer that Spinazzola started to fully control it. After feeling sick and depressed almost every single day, she went to the doctors and they explained that she has to take care of herself in order to feel better.

After going to the doctors, she learned to count calories in what she eats. For every 10 carbs that she eats, she takes one unit of insulin.

“The little things make a huge difference in my life,” she said. “I don’t get sick and I don’t get as depressed. I’m generally happier when I treat it.”

Although she does treat her diabetes with a healthy diet and proper exercise, Spinazzola is still allowed to eat whatever she wants – for the most part. She said that one of the biggest misconceptions with type one diabetics is that they can’t eat any sugar at all.

“On my birthday of course I’m going to eat cake,” she said. “When I tell people I have diabetes, they look at me and say, ‘wait so you can’t eat any sugar?’”

After diabetes is becoming more common in today’s health, no doctor is really certain about a cure to the disease. Since technology is becoming so prominent, researchers are working on creating a pump that continuously checks your blood sugar and notifies the diabetic through a phone app.

In “New Diabetes Bluetooth Device for Glucose Meters” by Victoria Candland, Glooko, the maker of a mobile system, diabetics will now have the option to control their insulin level all with the power of a pocket cellphone.

Because of this, patients are able to share their data with doctors and also allow them to evaluate the levels of the glucose.

“The device especially helps those who are at higher risk, such as women with gestational diabetes,” Candland said. “It can also help patients better adhere to their prescribed glucose control regimen, as they and their doctor can easily review their home glucose monitoring patterns.”

With technological advances improving, any diabetic will be able to improve their health even more.

“I feel like the ball is in my court now,” she said. “I’ve always had a pessimistic outlook [on life], but now I decide how this thing goes.”

Spinazzola said that she works hard every single day to make herself feel good. She’s learned how to manage her diet well and is starting to exercise the right way.

“It’s hard to be 20 years old without diabetes, but I’m just like everyone else – I just have a broken pancreas.”