Learning to live with diabetes

Sarah Olson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and has used it as an opportunity to educate others

From left: siblings Haley

When Pat and Mike Olson took their family on a trip to Disneyland, they thought their daughter Sarah’s exhaustion was due to the heat. Though she was constantly thirsty and complained that the water tasted strange, they didn’t think anything was wrong.

They didn’t realize Sarah was showing symptoms of an autoimmune disease.

When the symptoms came back a few months later in September 2011, along with dramatic weight loss, they took the 13-year-old Clayburn Middle School student to the hospital. After explaining her symptoms to a nurse, they were warned that Sarah might have Type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables the body to get energy from food. The onset of Type 1 diabetes is not caused by diet or lifestyle, and is often confused with Type 2 diabetes, also called adult-onset diabetes. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to liver disease, kidney failure or disease, blindness, nerve damage that can result in amputations, and even death.

Sarah was diagnosed as diabetic and spent 10 days in hospital undergoing tests and repeatedly given needles. The Olsons were given binders full of information about managing Type 1 diabetes, but it was overwhelming.

Sarah had to learn to manage her diabetes, beginning with four shot of insulin a day, plus poking her finger about 25 times daily to test her sugar levels. Sarah has since gone down to about 10 finger pokes a day and has switched to using an insulin pump –  a device that releases the necessary amount of insulin into the body 24 hours a day through a catheter placed under the skin.

Sarah has learned to manage her diabetes, but is aware of the problems that arise from not taking care of her health. She must closely monitor the carbohydrate levels of everything she eats and drinks. As a competitive cheerleader who trains three times a week, Sarah must closely monitor her blood sugar, which can fluctuate during and after exercise. Due to many misconceptions about Type 1 diabetes, people don’t always understand Sarah’s specific needs.

“So many people don’t understand diabetes and say, ‘What did you do to get that?’” said Mike.

In order to learn more about Sarah’s disease and find support, the family became involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Sarah is now a youth ambassador for the organization, giving presentations to various groups, hoping to raise awareness and funds that will help researchers find a cure.

“I want to tell people about the signs and symptoms just in case their child or a friend has been showing symptoms – they should go to a hospital.”

Mike and Pat said watching Sarah manage her disease so well and her commitment to raising awareness has been amazing.

Sarah will be raising money for JDRF research at the organization’s TELUS Walk to Cure Diabetes. The Fraser Valley walk will be held in Abbotsford on June 9, at the Abbotsford Exhibition Park.

Registration is at 11:30 a.m. and the walk will get underway at 2 p.m.

The fundraising goal for the Fraser Valley walk is $242,000 and $1.08 million across B.C.

You can learn more about diabetes at www.jdrf.ca, and donate to the walk or Team Sarah on the website. For more information about the Fraser Valley walk, contact Mark at 604-320-1937 or email mhosak@jdrf.ca.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Abbotsford school trustee running for NDP

Preet Rai acclaimed as candidate for Abbotsford West riding

Chilliwack man hoping to restore ‘59 Chevy with big lottery win

Hervey Blois, a retired veteran, says he’s ‘dumbstruck’ by $500,000 win on lottery website

Power outage impacts more than 2,600 customers in Abbotsford

Outage in Clearbrook area ‘under investigation’ on Monday afternoon

Abbotsford election candidate apologizes for 2012 comments about drug users

Former mayor Bruce Banman said drug users were criminals and should be locked up

Defence in Fraser Valley chicken abuse cases asks BC Supreme Court to drop the charges

Sofina Foods and Chilliwack company say undercover video by ‘vigilante group’ violates Charter rights

Weekend sees 267 cases, 3 deaths in B.C.; Dr. Henry says events leading to COVID spread

There are currently 1,302 active cases in B.C., while 3,372 people are under public health monitoring

B.C. VOTES 2020: Echoes of HST in B.C. debate over sales tax

Cannabis, tobacco, luxury cars still taxed in B.C. Liberal plan

TransLink CEO asks riders not to enforce mask rules after Surrey bus punch-up

A fight broke out on a bus at 96 Avenue and Scott Road involving a man who refused to wear a mask

She warned her son about toxic drugs, then he was dead

Donna Bridgman’s son died at the age of 38 in Vancouver

B.C. food and beverage producers set record sales in 2019

Farmed salmon again leads international exports

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read