Guest post: Help my cousin Allison cure type 1 diabetes (and get a link in my sidebar)

Cousin Allison and family

I don’t normally allow guest posts on my blog. Ok, that’s the nice way of putting it. I’ve been known to send less-than-friendly emails to people who’ve queried me two times or more about guest posts although it’s clearly stated on my contact page that I don’t accept them and even if I did, your post about cures for baldness probably wouldn’t appeal to my audience. However there is always a time for an exception, so today I wanted to hand my blog over to my cousin Allison who is raising money to find a cure for type 1 diabetes (not baldness).

Allison developed type 1 diabetes during her senior year of college and has been coping with it for almost a decade now. Although I don’t have diabetes, I’ve had a chronic headache of unknown origin for over six years now, so I do relate to what it’s like to be struck with an incurable illness that loves to make your life miserable. Fortunately my headache can’t kill me (I hope), whereas if Allison doesn’t manage her diabetes properly she could become very sick or die.

I’ve basically given up on finding a cure for my headache but I feel like diabetes is a disease that has a good chance of being cured someday, so if I can help speed up that process in some way I’m happy to help. Allison is participating in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Walk in Louisville, Kentucky on August 23 which takes place at Churchill Downs, the racetrack that’s home to the Kentucky Derby. You can donate to Team Allison here, as well as learn more about the walk and her personal story.

As an added bonus, if you donate to the cause and forward your email receipt to me at I will add a link to your blog or personal web site to my blog’s sidebar through September 23, 2014 which is one month after the walk happens. I won’t post any spam-y links for quick weight-loss sites or baldness cures or the like. Just personal blogs/websites please. I can’t issue refunds for any donations, so if in doubt, contact me with the link first.

Ok, Allison, take it away!

There are three things that make up my life: type 1 diabetes, family and work. Type 1 diabetes is listed first because it influences nearly every decision I make all day long, every day.

The Physical Toll…

My body cannot produce its own insulin (plus a couple of other hormones). Because of this, I have to use artificial insulin to manually regulate the quantity of sugar that is present in my bloodstream. I have to ensure that there is not too much sugar present (that leads to nerve damage, eye damage, kidney damage, loss of limbs, gastroparesis, comas, etc), but I also have to make sure that there isn’t too little sugar present (that leads to confusion, seizures and death). My margin of error in controlling all of this is equivalent to two teaspoons of sugar. In other words, two teaspoons of sugar without taking insulin is enough to throw my blood sugar level out of the acceptable range.

It’s More than Counting Carbohydrates…

Daily life with type 1 diabetes is a struggle. The easy part is counting carbohydrates and using my insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio to figure out my mealtime insulin dose. The hard part is accounting for every other daily factor that influences my body’s blood sugar level. Aerobic exercise, estrogen, and analytical thinking (your brain uses 60% of your daily carbohydrates for fuel) drive my blood sugar low. Cold weather, emotional stress, progesterone, caffeine, anaerobic exercise, sedentariness, and high-fat meals are just some of the unquantifiable factors that drive my blood sugar through the roof. I have to plan every part of my day well ahead of time to try to match my insulin doses to my life…counting carbohydrates is not enough.

The Scary Moments…

Type 1 diabetes comes with countless terrifying moments. A lot of times I’m playing “Beat the Clock” just praying that I can consume enough carbohydrates to raise my blood sugar before I go lights out during a low. My lowest recorded blood sugar was 23 mg/dL which is 25% of what it should be. This occurred during my third trimester with my son Eric and I hadn’t done anything “wrong” to cause it. It just happened. It took place in the middle of the night when I was asleep. I woke up feeling like I was trapped in a dark hole and I was drenched in sweat. I drank two juice boxes (these are always on my nightstand – every night blood sugar lows are a possibility), then I tested my blood sugar and it registered at 23 mg/dL, and then I drank another juice box. Eric must have been feeling the hypoglycemia because it felt like his little body was going to kick out of my stomach by the time he started to get the sugar, too. I’m extremely fortunate that (1) I didn’t start seizing, because a lot of people start seizing in the 30’s range, and (2) that I woke up at all. Dead-in-Bed Syndrome is the name given to the scenario in which a type 1 diabetic went to bed in good health and is found dead the next morning. It is impossible to determine their blood sugar level at the time of death post-mortem, but it is generally understood that a long-lasting, untreated low blood sugar will cause the brain to shut down and then the person dies because of it. These tragic cases happen every year and I am so grateful that I haven’t become part of that statistic yet.


I don’t plan on fundraising every year for JDRF but I am excited to try to do my part this year. The research that JDRF has funded to date has directly impacted and improved my daily and long-term care. But this is a disease that impacts every moment of my day and every part of my life. I want to help advance the cause so that one day this ax stops hanging over my head as well as my family’s head. Eric knows how to talk to me about testing my blood sugar and treating lows. I wish he didn’t know that much already.

JDRF is the largest nongovernmental funder of T1D research and the only global organization with a strategic research plan to fight T1D. This science is complex and costly, and every dollar JDRF is able to direct toward research comes from donors like you.

You can donate to Team Allison here. Forward your email receipt to if you also want a link in the JenFul sidebar through September 23, 2014. See full terms above.

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  1. says

    My paternal grandmother, and her brother, were Type 1. My Dad, a few of his cousins, and my husband and his mother are Type 2. I know how scary, unpredictable and long term threatening diabetes can be. I don’t have a well run blog so I don’t need a sidebar link, but I did donate.
    Go Team Allison!

  2. Donna Martin says

    Jennette – Thank you so, so much for this awesome help with Allison’s fundraising! Your mom just emailed me to check out your website – so now I’m sitting here crying at work and being very, very grateful for your help!! Thank you so very much – and I wish I could help with your headaches!

    Donna (Allison’s mom)

  3. JenFul says

    @Donna Martin – Aw, I’m happy to help! It wasn’t until I read Allison’s post that I realized how scary diabetes really can be. I didn’t know her blood sugar had dropped so low that one time. It made me kind of glad I have a chronic headache instead, which is definitely a rarity for me.

  4. Allison says

    @KathleenC – I’m so sorry about all of your family connections to the big D. Thank you for helping the cause!!

  5. Deb says

    Hey Jennette (and Allison),

    My son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 7 1/2, so I know whereof you speak. (He’s 30 now.) With so much attention given to Type 2 right now, I’m not sure the general public really appreciates what it’s like to wear an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor, stuck into your body, all the time. I will be glad to donate to your Team.

    My personal blog is not that exciting, but I do have a site for my parent education business. Could I post that? If not, I’ll go with my personal one.

    Let me know. You are generous to share your space with your cousin. Go Allison!

  6. Allison says

    @Deb – Thank you! I have all the respect in the world for parents of young (and grown-up) diabetics. Your support is greatly appreciated!!

  7. says

    My niece Stacey is in her late 30s and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was very young. She uses an insulin pump. I’ve seen how serious this disease is for her and it’s frightening. As with cancer, we need a cure for this now. My niece is very involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, so I donate to JDRF in her honor. How awesome that you are helping your cousin.

  8. JenFul says

    @Debby – Thanks for the donation! It would be great to find a cure for your niece and my cousin.

  9. Mom says

    Great post!!!

    I work as an alterations manager for a major bridal chain. In the past couple of months I have helped 2 brides hide their insulin pumps in their form fitting bridal gowns. They have shared their stories as I pinned their alterations and I have shared Allison’s story with them. There are so many wonderful people effected by this challenging condition and they successfully live very full lives. Hopefully this will become a challenge that others will never have to face.

    Go, Team Allison!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Maggie says

    Jen, I couldn’t find a more appropriate place to post this on your blog, and couldn’t find a real contact on, so apologize if it’s not appropriate here.

    I don’t have a chronic headache like yours, but do have other chronic pain and have followed your headache journey closely. I wanted to let you know I just signed up for an online course about chronic pain that I foudn on Coursera that looks like a good whole-body approach. Can’t vouch, since I’ve never taken other classes from Coursera, but if you’re interested you can find it at:

    …Maggie <–not affiliated with Coursera in any way

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