by Kae Dennert
15 out of 100,000 people have type 1 diabetes. This amount represents 1.3 million people in the United States alone. Cal Poly Humboldt students recently came together to create a safe space for people with type 1 diabetes, their friends and family, to meet and share their journeys. Diabetes Link is a newer organization that helps campuses create their own chapters to help empower and support students at their schools. November is Diabetes Awareness Month and is important for empowerment and taking time to celebrate those who struggle in their everyday lives in ways that people wouldn’t typically think about.
Type 1 diabetes is a disease that targets your pancreas. People with diabetes cannot produce their own insulin enzymes. A person with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar and inject insulin or glucagon to raise or lower their blood sugar as needed. It is a constant that a person must monitor at all times for the rest of their life.
Students Nat Allen, Zach Sherman and Niz Kears, all with Type 1, came together to create the Cal Poly Humboldt chapter and held two meetings this school year. One was a pizza party for everyone to meet and start making connections, and the second was a dessert party where everyone brainstormed ideas they had to help provide more education and knowledge on campus.
Nat Allen, one of the chapter’s founders and a sophomore biology major, has had type 1 for 13 years. She recognizes how important it is to have a community when living with diabetes. Allen strives to be what she needed when she was diagnosed: a role model.
“I wanted to help start Diabetes Link because having a community of other diabetics is very important to me,” Allen said. “I’ve been diabetic for almost 13 years and being able to talk to other diabetics has always been something that helps me. »
Allen says it’s important to talk about diabetes and not keep it a stranger. Talking about it helps destigmatize and makes others more comfortable with their diagnosis. November celebrates people who have received this diagnosis and helps raise awareness of the disease.
“Talking to other people who truly understand the disease makes me feel seen and allows me to talk about struggles that no one else would understand,” Allen said. “When I was diagnosed, my parents made sure I met lots of other diabetics to show me that diabetes wouldn’t stop me from doing anything. »
Noah King, a sophomore studio art student, has attended all the meetings and is happy to have a space on campus for himself and others. He was diagnosed with Type 1 at a young age and didn’t have many opportunities to connect with other people with diabetes.
“Growing up with diabetes, I found myself without resources or people who truly understood what was happening to me,” King said. “I found it incredibly rare to meet other type 1 diabetics, so I wanted to help start this project because of that struggle.”
King wants to do what he can to help those going through a similar experience to his and help others know they are not alone. His goal is to continue to grow the chapter and have a place with lots of support.
Zach Sherman, a sophomore environmental resources engineering student, received a late diagnosis at age 16, and he expresses how difficult it was because he felt too old to participate in groups or to the proposed camps. He is one of the founders of this chapter and is happy to be part of something bigger that supports it.
“I think one of the hardest things for me about diabetes is feeling like I’m going through it alone,” Sherman said. “I knew I could handle my diagnosis and I wanted to prove that I was capable of taking care of myself, alone, independently, just me. »
Sherman didn’t grow up with a large group of people who also had Type 1 around him. He only had one person to talk to. It was hard for him to talk to anyone else about it because he didn’t have anyone around him who was able to understand what he was going through and how he was feeling.
“I never really knew what I was missing, so when Niz contacted me about getting this club off the ground, I was excited but skeptical,” Sherman said. “But a few meetings later, I’ve already learned a lot from everyone.”
“I hope the chapter starts with our group and continues to grow organically over the years,” King said. “I want there to be a place to go for support, understanding and resilience to deal with the rigors of life and school while living with this illness.”
If anyone with type 1 would like to get involved with their club, whether or not they have diabetes themselves, check their Instagram page at @cph_diabeteslink to find out when meetings are taking place.