November might be National Diabetes Month, but for Stephanie Stadtherr, diabetes is front and center every month — and every day.
“I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 10 years old,” said the 23-year-old Naperville resident. “It’s been very tough because I was a stubborn teenager and had a lot of problems accepting it.”
Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. People with diabetes either don’t make enough insulin or their bodies can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, causing sugars to build up in their blood. If not managed, diabetes can cause serious health complications, something Stadtherr experienced firsthand.
“In 2011, I had diabetic retinopathy, and at one point, lost complete vision in my left eye,” Stadtherr said. “I couldn’t work; I couldn’t go to school. My life was put on hold. I had to control my diabetes to help that get better.”
With the help of her physician and a team of professionals at Edward Hospital Diabetes Center, Stadtherr learned how to manage her diabetes.
“Unfortunately, it took losing my eyesight to wake me up and realize how important it is to take care of yourself,” she said. “They (staff at Edward) have been wonderful, reminding me of the things I need to be doing. I was always aware, but I wasn’t taking care of myself. Now I do.”
Today, she has her vision back.
“Our role is to work with the patient and their primary care physician to help them prevent or control diabetes,” said Betty Wickman, registered dietitian and one of four certified diabetes educators at Edward.
Through education, Wickman helps individuals like Stadtherr control their diabetes. The 23-year-old watches what she eats and avoids sweets and sugary drinks. And most of all, she keeps a positive attitude.
“With diabetes, we are lucky because we can regulate it,” she said. “We can control it, and there are other diseases where people aren’t so lucky. It’s possible, you just have to stick with it.”