Fighting Diabetes One Day at a Time

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Fighting Diabetes One Day at a Time

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When you see her  beaming smile on the volleyball court, out on the softball field, or even as she walks down the halls, you wouldn’t expect that Paige Watson is one of the 1.25 million Americans living with Type 1 Diabetes. 

In June of 2006, at just 14 months old, Paige’s world was forever changed when she was diagnosed with Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes, which is a degenerative, autoimmune disease that prevents the pancreas from producing insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels. Having this disease has definitely made Paige’s life harder, but she hasn’t let it stop her from doing anything. Over the years, she has learned to not think of it as a disability, but a capability. “Because I was diagnosed at such a young age, I haven’t really known my life to be different,” said Watson. “The only thing that makes me different from everyone else is that I wear a pump to monitor my blood sugar, but in my eyes, different is good, and that’s what makes me unique.” 

A person who has any form of Diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2, has to prick her finger about six to eight times per day in order to obtain a drop of blood to test her sugar levels. This was one of the hardest and most aggravating parts for Paige. As a child, she always had to have her pump and meter with her. Since her diagnosis, Paige has pricked her finger nearly 30,000 times. With recent technological advances, Paige wears a continuous glucose monitor that automatically checks her blood sugar through an app on her phone.

On top of having Diabetes at a young age, in February of 2008, Paige was diagnosed with Celiac disease which prevents her from eating any form of gluten. Just to put it into perspective, she and her parents already had to monitor her sugar intake, but now they needed to eliminate all gluten from her diet. Her mother, Robin Watson said, “Having a daughter at such a young age get diagnosed was very difficult and scary, but over the years, we’ve been educated and have learned how to manage it to the best of our ability. We realize that it is a life threatening disease, however it is manageable and Paige doesn’t let it stop her.”

Because she has been living with this disease for the majority of her life, Paige now fully understands and accepts it. She even teaches other children and young adults about Type 1 Diabetes and how to effectively manage life with it. “I’ve gotten to talk to younger kids multiple times to help them understand what diabetes is and to help shine a light on this disease because it isn’t something that is easily understood,” said Watson. Throughout the years, she has gone to preschools and elementary schools, spoken at events, and been a Youth Ambassador at the Rainbow Gala, the major fundraiser that JDRF hosts every year in the spring. 

Although Paige speaks out about Diabetes, she believes that more action must be taken toward finding a cure. Paige, her family, and her friends have participated in the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes for 13 consecutive years where they formed a team and raised money for the foundation under the team name, Paige’s Pals. In addition to the JDRF walk, the group raised awareness by making Rainbow Loom bracelets to sell at the Banana Split Festival in Latrobe. Paige’s Pals compiled a cookbook titled Cooking for a Cure, where the proceeds went to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes is something that hasn’t been cured yet. People like Paige learn to live with it and make the most of every day; they don’t let this disease define them. Paige reminds herself everyday to embrace who she is. She said, “Diabetes doesn’t have to be what defines you, but you should realize that it’s something that is a part of your everyday life, so it’s better to embrace it than to ignore it. Our differences are what make us unique.”

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