If you go
What: JDRF One Walk, 5K, or 3.1 miles
When: 3 p.m. Sunday; 1:30 p.m. check-in
Where: Coolidge Park, 150 River St.
Information: https://bit.ly/2IJX7Oy; to donate to the UTC team, scroll down the page to the listing of local teams and click on the “Donate” button next to the team’s name.
Needles turned on the waterworks for Ally Magee.
“I hated shots. I would cry every time. They had to buy me candy before I’d go get one,” she recalls.
It’s a bad phobia to have when you’re 16 years old and are told you’ll have to give yourself five shots a day. For the rest of your life.
But that’s what Magee, a 19-year-old junior in marketing at UTC, was facing. The issue? Type 1 diabetes. Her doctor made her sit there until she could give herself a shot of saline, a practice she would have to do every day but with insulin in the syringe.”
After the diagnosis on July 16, 2015 (a date that’s easy to remember, she notes somberly, because it’s the same day a terrorist killed five at the Naval Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway), she wasn’t mad or frightened or thinking, “Why is this happening to me?”
“I was in shock about it,” she says.
Truth is, though, Type 1 diabetes isn’t a death sentence; it changes things, certainly, but doesn’t bring on constant misery. Magee points out that she’s in college; she has a boyfriend (who also has Type 1 diabetes); she’s living a pretty normal life.
President of the UTC chapter of the College Diabetes Network, Magee is now helping to spearhead a group to take part in Sunday’s JDRF One Walk to raise money for diabetes research (JDRF stands for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.)
The UTC chapter of CDN wanted to raise $1,500, Magee says, but has already hit $1,800, the most of any local group participating in the walk. So far, the groups in Chattanooga have raised a total of about $113,500 with a goal of $152,500, according to the JDRF One Walk website.
Nationwide, the College Diabetes Network focuses on students who have already been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, offering information about resources on campuses and setting up support groups, both of which are available at UTC.
“I want them to know they are not alone,” says Carol Oglesby, assistant director for UTC’s Health Education and Wellness Promotion. “Not only is there an excellent support staff on campus, there are other students who understand the challenges associated with diabetes. I want them to be able to get together and talk about it—and they do. A lot.”
For many students, coming to college means living away from home for the first time and, with Type 1 diabetes, those worries are only compounded because “that means they’ll need to manage their diabetes alone when they’re on campus,” she explains.
Type 1 often hits with no prior symptoms, which is what happened to Magee. Friends couldn’t believe she had diabetes, she says.
“My friends said, ‘You’re not diabetic. You’re skinny. You only weight 100 pounds,’” she says. “Most people think diabetics are overeaters who never get any exercise.”
But Magee was a cheerleader at Soddy-Daisy High School. In fact, she found out she had diabetes after the annual physical that cheerleaders must have. It was a complete surprise because there is no history of diabetes in her family.
“I’m the first one,” she says.
After almost three years of dealing with diabetes, however, the disease is simply part of her life, she says, not necessarily the defining one. Yes, she must constantly monitor her bloods sugar levels, but an insulin pump and Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) help her do that. And yes, she must keep Skittles or juice boxes in her nightstand in case her blood sugar drops in the night. “I never sleep through the night,” she says.
But in some ways, having diabetes has had a positive effect, she says.
“I’m a stronger person. It’s made me grow up a lot, become more mature. Of course, I’m not 100 percent mature, but …”