An Introduction to My Life With Diabetes, and What’s In It for You

Hello, and welcome to my world! The world of a person with diabetes who is also a dietitian and who isn’t perfect by any means! I am excited to take you on a journey with me through the confusing web of food options and fads by going through the grocery store aisles and menu decisions that will help simplify your diabetes management and overall health. I am very passionate about so many things regarding diabetes care and management, especially as it pertains to correcting the misinformation that is out there.

First, a little background on me and why you will get humor, advice, and reality out of my entries. As a T1D (person with Type 1 diabetes[1]) for over 25 years, I can tell you that not only am I Type A when it comes to structure, control, and organization, but that I drive everyone around me nuts because I am so rigid. What do they expect? Nine years old, childhood pretty much swept out from under my feet…you get the drill, you’ve been there too. Even if it hit you as an adult, everything about your day-to-day life is altered in some way. Luckily, I can say that diabetes has shaped my career and my mindset in so many positive ways (well, after the rebellious teenage years). Am I saying it is all sunshine? Nope. I allow myself my moments to cry, complain, and vent…and then I get back to living.

I knew I wanted to go into the health field, and since I was already obsessed with food and everything that went into my body, I thought nutrition and dietetics would be ideal. Having diabetes and being a Registered Dietitian allowed me to not only help others, but to keep my own health on track even when it was difficult.

Initially, right out of college, I worked as the Health Services Manager for the Barton Center for Diabetes Education in Oxford, Massachusetts. This was a wonderful opportunity to go back to the place that felt like a second home and a safe haven from my childhood. Everyone at the camps Barton runs just gets you. It’s the most amazing thing you can give a child with diabetes, a little bit of normalcy and the ability to relate to peers. To this day, we have a fantastic support system within our camp community. Camp isn’t for everyone with diabetes, but for me it helped guide my personal health goals and career path.

I then went on to combine my outgoing personality with my passion for health by working in the pharmaceutical and device industry for over a decade. I worked for an insulin company as a field sales representative, an insulin pump[2] and CGMS (continuous glucose monitoring system) company as a diabetes clinical consultant and territory sales manager, and for a food company as a pediatric nutrition representative. While all of this has been an amazing learning experience, I have always felt I needed to continue to raise the bar for the information that was being dished out to those living with or being diagnosed with any type of diabetes.

I started my blog, Serving Up Diabetes[3], about four years ago. It was a fantastic way for me to represent this chronic disease and share my thoughts and educated information on how to handle certain life situations and breakthroughs in diabetes. I have been able to speak to hundreds of people at various events on topics such as insulin pumps and CGMS, pregnancy and diabetes, nutrition and diabetes, and most rewardingly, twice on my own personal experience as the JDRF Fund-a-Cure speaker.

As I entered my early thirties, I knew that it was time to tackle the next challenge in my life and to defy the warnings that I would have a very difficult pregnancy. Taking into account my severe Type-A issues (which do in fact come in handy but are also a hindrance), I set out on a six-month journey to perfect my HbA1c[4], diet, and exercise, and to prepare my body to be as tip-top as it could be. I had a successful and uneventful pregnancy story, for the most part. I was able to get my HbA1c down to 5.9% before conceiving and was able to conceive easily. I had limited issues during my pregnancy, aside from normal pregnancy side effects such as heartburn and sciatica. I made it to exactly 40 weeks before my 10.1 pound hairy little monkey was taken out via C-section. I always like to add, my husband is 6’4, and my HbA1c stayed in the 5s throughout my entire pregnancy. Big baby? Yes, but she also may get a sports scholarship one day and I will not have diabetes to thank for that, but instead great genetics.

The darkest, most difficult time in my life with diabetes and living as a control freak came right after I had my C-section, and it lasted almost two full years. After struggling immensely with breastfeeding, but being determined and stubborn about continuing with it, I persisted for exactly six months. My baby was colicky, my blood sugars were completely erratic as my management was now placed on the backburner, and my husband was traveling every week and I had little support at home. It was awful. I hope to share my fall into and rise out of postpartum depression with you, the reader, at some point in a future entry. I feel this is an extremely important topic that does not get nearly enough attention. While it is common for women in general, many don’t know that if you have diabetes you are at a higher risk.

Well, I survived all of it. Diabetes has broken me down and built me back up. It’s not just a disease, it’s a mindset, and you can use it to your advantage or you can let it take advantage of you. After finally getting through those first couple of years, I am happy to say that me, my husband, and my (no longer colicky) sassy little three year old (going on 25) are all doing wonderful. As for my diabetes? It is still a work in progress, and on most days I feel like I’m starting all over again for the first time. Getting back on a CGM after having complete diabetes burnout during my pregnancy was the first step, and now knowing I am not just taking care of my health for myself but also so that I can watch my daughter grow up is all the motivation I need.

I am excited to write these blog entries with the sole purpose of giving you easily applicable tips and advice on how to work within your budget, your diabetes regimen, and food preferences to be able to enjoy life and the social aspect of eating and cooking. Here’s to a wonderful meal! Mangiamo!

What is a normal blood sugar level for someone with diabetes? Bookmark[5] and tune in tomorrow to find out from nurse David Spero!

  1. Type 1 diabetes:
  2. insulin pump:
  3. Serving Up Diabetes:
  4. HbA1c:

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Regina Shirley: Whether you have Type 1, Type 2, Type-somewhere-in-between, or a loved one with diabetes, Regina Shirley hopes that you can relate to her and that she can help you take this condition in stride. She will let you in on some of her challenges as a mom with Type 1 diabetes to an active toddler and a wife to a husband who is a foodie. She has been a Registered Dietitian for over a decade and has lived with Type 1 for over 25 years (complication free!). She has always participated in JDRF events and is on their National Speakers Bureau, and she also serves on the Outreach Committee of the Boston JDRF Chapter and speaks annually at their Type 1 Nation Summit. Shirley was the Fund-a-Cure Speaker for the New Hampshire JDRF Granite Gala in both 2009 and 2013 and has also contributed to the DECA (Diabetes Education & Camping Association) national nutrition guidelines manual for diabetes camps. Her alma mater, Framingham State University, invites her back each fall to guest lecture on the topic of diabetes, technology, and nutrition. She is the creator of a widely viewed blog called Serving Up Diabetes and works as a nutrition consultant for both individuals with or without diabetes and the restaurant industry.

Disclaimer of Medical Advice: Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information, which comes from qualified medical writers, does not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified health care professionals to meet your individual needs.