Beth McCrary (right) and daughter Hannah.
Beth McCrary is the kind of person whose enthusiasm and passion is infectious, and when she e-mailed me last summer and asked me to speak at a conference for women with Type 1 diabetes, I immediately said yes. I knew nothing about the conference, but I knew if Beth was behind it, then I had to participate.
“Women of Type 1” is a conference for women whose lives are touched by Type 1 diabetes (T1D): adult women with Type 1, teens with Type 1, moms or grandmothers of kids with Type 1, and women who are spouses and partners of people with Type 1 diabetes. Anne Sutton, whose son has Type 1, created the conference in early 2016 for the JDRF Greater Carolinas Chapter, and Beth McCrary, the Development Coordinator for the JDRF Palmetto Chapter in Columbia, South Carolina, is organizing the JDRF Palmetto Chapter conference in October. I recently interviewed her to learn a bit more about how diabetes affects her and how she got involved with the conference.
AM: How did you get involved in the diabetes world?
BM: My daughter Hannah was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on August 21, 2008, at the age of 7. Prior to that, Type 1 diabetes was not on my radar and I had no idea what a serious and complicated disease it is. In February of 2009, my nephew’s wife Charlotte was diagnosed with T1D, and then in May of 2011, my nephew Matt was diagnosed. Because of these three very important family members, I became involved in the diabetes world through volunteering with JDRF Palmetto Chapter.
AM: Has your relationship with your daughter changed since she was diagnosed? If so, how?
BM: My relationship with my daughter has definitely changed since her diagnosis. We’ve become extremely close. We are a team in every sense of the word. I work hard to teach her life skills and how to continue to treat and manage Type 1 diabetes as she grows older. She is my hero. She deals with the daily and sometimes hourly challenges of living with a chronic disease with the absolute best combination of grit and grace that I’ve ever witnessed. T1D is a huge part of her life, but it truly does not define her or hold her back from pursuing her dreams. It may slow her down, but it does not knock her down.
AM: You recently switched careers and are now the development coordinator of the Columbia, South Carolina, JDRF chapter. What issues do you want to focus on in this role?
BM: I recently transitioned from long-time parent-volunteer and board member to JDRF staff. It’s a blessing to come to work every day and get to focus on JDRF’s mission of creating a world without Type 1 diabetes. I get to offer HOPE to newly diagnosed families and to veteran families as well. My focus will be on developing relationships with these families and helping them connect to the T1D community. JDRF has given my family so much. I will keep paying that forward until we have a cure.
AM: Tell us what your hopes are for the Women of Type 1 Conference.
BM: My hope is for the attendees to leave energized and empowered to live life well with Type 1 diabetes. Living with Type 1 or caring for someone living with Type 1 can be exhausting and isolating. I want everyone to know we have a T1D community that is there for them.
AM: What advice can you share with parents of kids who are newly diagnosed with Type 1?
BM: My absolute best advice for parents of a newly diagnosed child is to get connected to the T1D community in your area. Most often this is going to be through JDRF. JDRF Palmetto Chapter met my family at the door of Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital on August 21, 2008 and gave us a Bag of Hope. That blue backpack with Rufus, the Bear With Diabetes, connected us to our greatest source of hope — the research that is possible through JDRF and Special Diabetes Program funding. We were also able to connect with other families who share our same journey of living with Type 1 diabetes. They have become our Type 1 family. We wouldn’t be where we are today without their love and support.
I look forward to participating in this conference next month and will speak about the power of positive role models. If you are in South Carolina, join us! For information on tickets, go here.
Starting insulin treatment at the first sign of Type 2 diabetes might help prevent or delay the condition. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.