Q&A with a Fellow Type 1 and Diabetes Educator

Q&A with a diabetes educator

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Jessica is a diabetes educator who has had type 1 since she was a child. We continue our diabetes Q&A posts with her encouraging interview. Take a look:

Q: Ok… my first question is probably the most important one of all. Knowing you have spent quite a bit of time in Kansas City, are you a Chiefs fan? 🙂

A: I grew up in Kansas City, so YES we are huge Chiefs fans! My family and I celebrated the Super Bowl victory by going to the parade along with 1 million other people in attendance. And, fun fact, Noah Gray (their tight end), has type 1 diabetes. I chatted with him at the JDRF Gala event and I asked how his blood sugars were during the Super Bowl. He said, “they were crazy – in the 300s because of all the adrenaline!”

Diagnosis And Hospital Stay

Q: That’s amazing! 
Ok, so about your diagnosis… can you tell me what that was like for you?

I was 13 years old (in 7th grade), and that Thanksgiving I had an unalarming viral infection. It was just a typical cold and cough. But I remember that infection because I wasn’t able to visit the Plaza lighting ceremony on Thanksgiving evening in downtown KC. In my family, it’s tradition to watch the Christmas lights turn on at the Plaza. It’s something that brings such fond memories, and I still look forward to it every year. 

After the viral infection, my symptoms of type 1 diabetes started becoming evident. I remember getting up multiple times a night to use the bathroom and drink water. At the time, I played indoor soccer and I remember doing a running “pace test.” I felt so much more sluggish than I knew I was. After practice I came home and ate a marshmallow-covered Santa that Saint Nick had put in my shoes (another family tradition). After eating it, I vomited and then nearly fell asleep on the couch before 8pm. 

On December 8, we had a snow day and were out of school. I went to babysit a family up the street. My mom said she remembered watching me walk up the street, noticing how thin I had gotten. She was thinking something wasn’t right. When I returned home, she told me that we needed to go to the doctor’s office. I cried because I, too, knew something was really wrong. I was diagnosed later that day at my pediatrician’s office and sent to the local Children’s Hospital for treatment of Diabetic Ketoacidosis. At diagnosis, my A1c was 12.2. 

The Diabetes Educator who made an Impact 

Q: There was a nurse at the hospital when you were diagnosed who really had an impact on you – both at that time and for your future career as a diabetes educator. Can you share about that?

A: I was really scared of all the uncertainty that diabetes entailed. For one, I was scared of shots and always had been. And two, I was unfamiliar with what the nurses were doing to me with all the pokes and shots and why they were doing it.

A healthy, pretty, normal-looking nurse came in, also named Jessica, and said to me: “My name is Jessica, and I have diabetes too. If you take care of yourself, you are going to be just fine!” 

This not only reassured and provided limitless amounts of comfort in the moment, but it also was my inspiration for me to be that for the next generation of young kiddos diagnosed with diabetes. 

And that interaction really did plant the seed and inspire me to become a diabetes educator (CDCES). The ripple effect from her action of taking a few minutes out of her day to reassure me, has amounted to so much goodness. I have tried to find her and thank her, but I’ve not been able to find her contact information. 

school nurse

How a Diabetes Educator Manages Diabetes

Q: How do you currently manage your diabetes?

A: I am currently “looping” with Omnipod Eros and Dexcom G7 Continuous Glucose Monitor. Looping is a “build-it-yourself” closed loop system. I was previously doing T:slim Control IQ with Dexcom G6, but I have 2 little boys (3 years old and 1.5 years old), and their toes would get stuck in the tubing so it just wasn’t working for us. My insurance does not cover the Omnipod 5 or DASH, but I like looping a lot so far and have fewer low blood sugars than without a closed loop system. 

Q: You are well versed professionally in the emotional side of diabetes and helping others cope in that space. In my blog post about avoiding diabetes burnout, knowing I wrote that without the background and education you have, what would you change or add to what I wrote? 

A: I think what you wrote encompassed diabetes burnout very well! Diabetes burnout is a broad term, and it can look different for everyone. God uniquely made each of us, so it makes sense that we uniquely display our struggles and hardship as well as our joy and accomplishments. If you find yourself struggling, others might not know or recognize it. 

As you mentioned, the best way to avoid diabetes burnout is prevention. If we can prevent it and find ways to replenish and take care of ourselves – our WHOLE selves (not just diabetes) – we will be able to more easily overcome the never-ending burdens of diabetes. 

I also really liked the connection that God is constant and never-ending, just as diabetes is (in our earthly life). God’s love is eternal and is always there and always will be. His love in unfailing through all the wearisome aspects of type 1 diabetes.  

Becoming a Diabetes Educator

Q: What inspired you to work with others as a diabetes educator? What do you do, and what do you enjoy most about that?

A: I keep coming back to her, but the nurse at my diagnosis was my initial inspiration for becoming a diabetes educator. Through her, I realized that she provided me a source of comfort that people without diabetes, could not. I have worked on the med surg floor as a staff nurse, in a pediatric endocrine/diabetes clinic, and on the hospital floor teaching newly diagnosed patients or patients who already have diabetes but were hospitalized for DKA. 

Now I am educating in a community setting and volunteering by teaching education classes, organizing adult type 1 diabetes events through JDRF, and doing an educational Instagram page (embrace_type1). 

I really enjoy connecting with people and building relationships. In my work experience, I found that after patients and families knew I had type 1, the rapport and trust was so natural. There are so many things that a book cannot teach someone about diabetes, and I found that although diabetes looks different for everyone, it can be comforting and reassuring that the person you are talking to generally understands the depth and gravity of it all since they live with it. 

In my own experience and management, I personally connect more readily with healthcare providers who have it (sorry, I am biased!). It is not only a commonality, but one that is backed by a passion combined with education to help others on a similar journey. I know it isn’t always possible to find a provider with type 1 and that there are some great ones who don’t have diabetes, too.

diabetes educator

A Diabetes Educator’s Advice for Parents

Q: You have experience and a passion for helping kids with type 1 (and their parents or caregivers). What tips or advice would you give a parent of a newly diagnosed child? 

A: Ahh I love this question! My answer is this: 

Know that your child will be able to do anything that they want to do and that other children do, and that diabetes can’t stop them. Diabetes requires some more planning around activities, but they can be whatever they aspire to be!

You are already doing an amazing job. Take breaks if needed (send them to someone who is educated and that you feel comfortable with). Breaks are important to take care of yourself and be your best self to help your child.  

When times get tough, just keep trying! I think the hardest thing to watch is when some patients and families, after years of having diabetes, would just kind of give up.  Diabetes may never be perfect, and that is okay! But being there and supporting and (most of all) showing your child love, will make a tremendous difference. 

Being a parent of a child (or children) with type 1 requires so much sacrifice, and it can be isolating and so difficult at times. Know that all the concern you have for your child is a testament of true and unconditional love. You are truly amazing! Keep up the good work!

A Diabetes Educator on Starting A Family with T1d

Q: As a mom of young kids and a diabetes educator, what would you say to a young woman with diabetes who is considering starting a family? What would be your best advice to her?

A: It is the best! The nine months prior to their arrival is an incredible journey. It can be tough at times to manage diabetes in such a tight range, but all the hard work and sacrifice that you put into keeping your baby safe and healthy helps build a bond like no other. You go through a journey together (you can involve your husband) and it only makes you a stronger family. 

The moment you meet your baby is… (wow I am tearing up and trying to find the right words for this next part because it’s almost indescribable. There – that’s the word!) INDESCRIBABLE! Feelings of love, relief, gratitude, and reunion because it’s like you and this little human have already been through so much together that you already know them and can’t wait for all the adventures ahead.  I remember feeling grateful not only to God, but also to my baby for hanging in there with me through all the highs and lows!

The Balance of Life with a Chronic Illness

Q: How do you balance being a wife and mom to little kids and work and diabetes? What is your secret? 

A: Recently, I have been trying to get better at prioritizing what is most important. When laundry isn’t folded and there are dirty dishes in the sink but my child says “mommy play with me.” That is most important! I used to be the type where I wanted everything in order, but more and more I am coming to realize that certain things in life take priority over others – my faith, my family & supportive friends, and of course my health, my passion for diabetes education, all those should be the things that occupy my time. Those things nourish my wellbeing and happiness. 

But… the laundry still needs to get done, so when I do it, I try to view it as an act of love and sacrifice and that helps. If anyone else has tips though, please share! I am still learning how to juggle it all!

The Role of Faith in Managing Diabetes

Q: Your faith has played a big role in your diabetes acceptance. What about your faith gives you that acceptance and hope? Do you have bible stories or verses you cling to during struggles? 

A: Ahh! I have so many Bible verses that I love and that have helped me cope with diabetes. 

What gives me acceptance and hope is that God unconditionally loves us and has it all figured out, even when we do not know what will happen next. Early into my diagnosis the Bible verse: “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11) helped me to trust in God. It helped me trust Him with all the uncertainty that a chronic disease can bring and worries it brought at such a young age. 

Another is a gospel passage and reflection that my Grandmother, who was so deeply rooted in faith and trust, shared with me. The story about Jesus asleep in the bouncing boat during a terrible storm:

The apostles were terrified and very frightened. They said “teacher do you not care that we are perishing?” Was Jesus so tired that he could sleep in the bouncing boat on an angry sea? Perhaps he was resting and trusting the apostles to handle the situation, they were professional fishermen who had weathered many storms in the past, but on this occasion, they did not trust their talents. They thought, Why is God allowing this to happen? Does God not care for me, and others who are in the same boat? Perhaps rather we should hear Jesus asking us: Why are you terrified, do you not have faith? Faith in our God given abilities and faith that the Lord is not asleep can lead us to peaceful calm. Lord, we trust you are with us in the storms of life.

(author unknown for reflection).

Diabetes can feel like a storm at many different times in our life. Most of the time He equips us to handle the situation, but when we can’t handle the storm, Jesus is there to calm it for us. He is not sleeping. And if we ask for His help, He will intervene and calm the storm. This gospel passage and reflection can reassure us that Jesus is always with us, and all will be well. 

Additional Bible Verses

Other Bible verses that I gravitate towards: 

“I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly” (John 10:10)

“God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

“(He) is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20)

“My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13)

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

diabetes educator

Jess lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband and two young children. Jess has had type 1 for 17 years and is a diabetes educator (CDCES) who has a passion for not only teaching the physical aspects of diabetes education, but also emotional and spiritual health of type 1 diabetes. Jess is currently volunteering in a community setting by teaching local education classes and has an Instagram page (embrace_type1) to spread awareness, health tips, and hope. During her downtime, Jess loves to be outdoors, travel, and spend time with friends and family. 


Q&A with a Fellow Type 1 and Diabetes Educator

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Kaycee - Devotions on Diabetes


Welcome to my Devotions on Diabetes website! Thanks for stopping by. I've lived with diabetes for 30+ years. And I'm here to provide you with a heaping helping of encouragement while you deal with diabetes and navigate this chronic illness with God by your side.

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Devotions on Diabetes: A 30-Day Journey to Anchor Your Soul is now available on Amazon.

Devotions on Diabetes: A 30-Day Journey to Anchor Your Soul by Kaycee Parker




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