Bunny Kasper, who we have featured in T1D Exchange’s Patient Panelist Spotlight, talks candidly about aging with type 1 diabetes.
By Shahd Husein/GluShahd
Bunny Kasper didn’t know she had type 1 diabetes until she was in her late fifties. Her battle with diabetes began much earlier, however, at the age of 25.
While pregnant with her first son, Kasper began to have high blood glucose levels. The doctors told her that she had gestational diabetes and that her child was adding “sugar to her bloodstream.” When her son was born, the idea of diabetes faded as a concern for her doctors.
Years later, she again became a mother again to twins. Afterwards, Kasper experienced many telltale symptoms of diabetes, such as neuropathy and unquenchable thirst, but doctors still refused to test her blood glucose for years.
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Then one time when she was ill, a physician assistant suggested she be tested for type 2 diabetes. The diagnosis was wrong, and two years of treatment didn’t work. Her doctor finally referred her to the Yale Diabetes Center, and its associate director, Geralyn Spollett.
“I’m doing everything I can humanly do,” she said to Spollett. “Why aren’t I getting better?
“Because you’re a type 1,” Spollett said.
Kasper is not alone. Studies show the incidence of type 1 diabetes in adults is increasing, and 84 percent of individuals living with type 1 right now are adults. The adult population of people with type 1 is living longer than ever before, thanks to better technology and disease management.
That’s not enough, Kasper said. Adults with type 1 diabetes deserve to live better, as well, she said.
Since her proper diagnosis, Kasper has channeled her efforts into advocacy work. She frequently participates in fundraising activities and also holds in-person adult support groups for seniors living with type 1 diabetes. It’s important work to her to help support people who may be overlooked by youth-oriented type 1 diabetes advocacy efforts.
“We are isolated,” Kasper says. “Ask anyone who is aging with type 1 and they will tell you their biggest fear: ‘Who will take care of me?’”
Kasper represents a new frontier: seniors with type 1 who are showing new trends and complications. Studies by T1D Exchange, for example, show that hypoglycemic unawareness—when individuals with type 1 are not able to sense that their blood sugar is dangerously low—increases amongst seniors. So do other complications such as blindness and kidney disease. The greying of the population of those with type 1 diabetes will eventually force the medical community to adapt to meet their needs.
Kasper’s outreach efforts led her to T1D Exchange. She recently participated in the organization’s annual meeting and its Diabetes Innovation Challenge, sharing her perspective with industry leaders and key stakeholders in the community.
“I felt like something that I had shared was going to make a difference,” she says.
When asked about the future, Kasper, now 75, says she doesn’t expect a cure in her lifetime, but she hopes that advancements in diabetes research and technology will help her two grandchildren, who are also living with type 1 diabetes.
“I don’t want my grandchildren to live the same life that I’ve had to live,” she said, her voice thick with emotion. “I want them to live the same life that everyone else has an opportunity to live.”
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