How Type 1 Diabetes Is Just a Passenger on the Drive to Live Healthy & Serve Others

Imagine you are a college kid, living a normal, active, healthy life and you are suddenly struck with the news your life will change forever.  This is what happened to Marcie Siegal.  Marcie was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 20.  Suddenly she found herself faced with the realization she would need to depend on multiple daily injections of insulin to simply survive.


At this point, she was faced with a choice – her response to her new life.  Do I let this diagnosis define me or do I live in spite of it?  Marcie not only chose to live in spite of it, she uses it to drive her to inspire others.  She shows us you can still look and feel amazing regardless of the card we’re dealt.


LESLIE:  Hi there, I’m Leslie Harrington, and I have the opportunity today to sit with a dear friend of mine, Marcie Siegal.  We’re going to talk today a little bit about what it’s like to deal with the challenge of Type 1 Diabetes. I have a list of questions here, and it’s a little informal. We’re really trying to have fun with this. Marcie, can you just start off by telling me about when you were diagnosed, and what type of life changes that you had to make as a result?


MARCIE:  Absolutely. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was 20. Which most people that are diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, it’s in their adolescence, younger years. I was in a traumatic car accident, and within several months I started showing signs and symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes. It doesn’t run in my family, so we didn’t really realize that my weight loss, my vision started going, and then I got really lethargic. That’s finally when my parents took me to the hospital. When I was checked in, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, and my glucose level was 588.


LESLIE:  Oh my gosh, scary.


MARCIE:  Yeah very scary.


LESLIE:  It’s funny, because I remember the time, I’ve known Marcie for that long, and I don’t remember that specific … I remember the accident, and shortly thereafter how it went down. You had such a whole life prior to that, in terms of how your lifestyle was, and you’ve always been very athletic. That was one of my questions. You worked very hard to maintain your strength and your physical condition. What is it that motivates you? Is it a different motivation that you had prior than now?


MARCIE:  I think diabetes definitely has motivated me mentally and physically to take care of myself, and just to really stay on top of it, because I do notice a difference when I’m physically active and when I’m taking care of myself on a regular basis. My physical activity has become really a ritual for me, it’s my lifestyle. It keeps my sugars lower. I’m allowed to maybe eat a little more different things, a variety of things, than I normally wouldn’t be able to do if I was sedentary. Plus, I love the physical activity that I get. Mentally and physically keeps me balanced, it keeps me centered. It also just brings awareness in to my life.
I feel that if I didn’t have that connection, I would be probably not feeling as well.


LESLIE:  Yeah, yeah, for sure. How do you overcome … There’s got to be moments when you have that, you may not, even though it’s routine, and I’m like you, it’s a non-negotiable of your day. It’s like brushing your teeth, you wake up, you go do. When you have those moments when you might struggle, what are some of the things that get you through that time?


MARCIE:  Just consistency is something … Surrounding myself with friends that motivate me, knowing that they’re going to be at my Pilates class, hold me accountable. If I don’t show up, I get a call, “where are you?” I love taking from instructors that inspire me. Just surrounding myself with people that actually I admire and respect, and I see the results in their lifestyles. It drives me.


LESLIE:  Sometimes I wake up in the morning, and if I’m having a flareup, or I feel off, my mind goes right to the alternative. The alternative is usually much worse than what I’m feeling in that moment, in terms of the domino effect of what might happen if I don’t get up and get things rolling in my body.


MARCIE:  Correct.


LESLIE:  I know what you mean. When you were first diagnosed, what type of limits did the doctors express that you might experience throughout your life because of having Type 1?


MARCIE:  Gosh, I went from being an adult, a young adult, in college, basically being able to eat and do whatever I want, to now they said, “Okay, you’re gonna have to take multiple shots on a daily basis.” Just what I experienced in the very beginning of that, I was really not balanced. My sugars would go from one extreme to the other, which just … when you go low, you’re shaky, and lose your center of concentration. I just had a hard time with that. You just really don’t feel well. It was a total lifestyle change, having to count all the carbs that I was intaking in my body, and exercise. You’re right. I’ve always exercised, I’ve always been an athlete, participated in sport activities.


Now adding insulin into my body, when I would start working out, I would go from one extreme to the other. It was scary for me, in the beginning. Just monitoring it was something that I had to learn to do. Use my glucometer, and tests. Then my doctor put me on five shots a day. That was a challenge in itself, and stressful. Exactly.


LESLIE:  How do you feel that having this experience, and living it, has been able to allow you to help others? I know you do a lot of supportive charity work with JDRF, and some of the diabetes associations.


MARCIE:  I think it’s really interesting to me that people don’t realize that I even have Type 1 Diabetes, because I’ll do 175 mile bike ride for diabetes, or for MS. Diabetes has really driven me. I think it’s made me a stronger person, actually. I enjoy being able to reach out in to the community and let people know that they don’t have to let diabetes debilitate them. Or in any other area, just any situation, I feel that it’s so important to live your life to the fullest, and to take control of your situation.


That’s how I feel that I’ve done, and that’s how I want to represent diabetes out in the community. You can live a full, normal life, an active life, and be able to be a service of others, and just be true to yourself and authentic.


LESLIE:  It sounds like you never really let it necessarily define you?




LESLIE:  Yeah, from the beginning. That’s one of the things that I noticed, is that when the doctors tell you this is something you’re going to live with, it’s a chronic circumstance, and you get to a point where you start to feel that you’re supposed to identify with this so much that it becomes who you are. That’s, I think, one of the unfortunate circumstances. Even around Type 2 Diabetes, because people then suddenly have to envelope themselves in their diet, and their carbs, and how much to eat, how much not to eat, and then suddenly it’s restriction, and they feel like … It’s very hard to transition in to that lifestyle.


MARCIE:  Yeah. Diabetes is definitely complicating. But you don’t have to let it be complicating if you get control of the situation, and you don’t let it define who you are. You just have to be accountable for what foods that you’re going to intake, the daily activity that you’re going to put into your body. Just be the best that you can be.


LESLIE:  Yeah, you focus on what you have, versus what you don’t have.
MARCIE:  Exactly.


LESLIE:  I’m witness to that with you, all the time, when we’re in class and we do what we do. It’s very inspiring.


MARCIE:  You inspire me as well.


LESLIE:  Okay, well Marcie, I really appreciate you taking the time to come out and sit with me. I’m very passionate about this with the pre diabetes and trying to get the message out there. You’re just such a unique example of how somebody took something that they were faced with, challenged with. It hit them later in life, so you do know what it’s like to have the before and after. It’s not something that you’ve always dealt with. I think a lot of people will be able to relate to this. Thank you very much.
MARCIE:  Thank you, Leslie. I appreciate everything you’re doing for diabetes. You’re an inspiration.


LESLIE:  Great. We’re going to start crying, so thank you.

*Marcie is a wife, daughter, sister, mother of two, a passionate yoga instructor, and a pharmaceutical representative.  She participates in multiple charity rides throughout the year to raise money for diabetes awareness and MS.  

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