Managing a Young Life With Diabetes, and Riding Through Challenges

Morgan Panzirer doesn’t remember much of a time before she had type 1 diabetes – she was diagnosed at 6 years old. Despite the physical and emotional toll the disease can exact – one that many of us are thoroughly familiar with – Morgan has been able to channel the struggles and the unique experiences of T1D into some truly remarkable opportunities.

Last week she became a published author for the first time as a college freshman, building on years of blogging about her experiences and adventures at Got Insulin.

Her book is titled Actually I Can: Growing up With Type 1 , A Story of Unexpected Empowerment, available on Amazon and in eBook formats. It explores her whole life experience of type 1 diabetes – from the shock of learning that her symptoms in kindergarten were more than a passing flu, to living through the major technological changes we’ve all seen come to pass to help manage the disease. The title comes from a memorable incident when she was in the hospital and was told she couldn’t have a sugary snack with her siblings, on account of her diabetes.

“Actually, I can,” is her response – one familiar to many people with type 1 diabetes who find themselves having to convince friends, family and strangers that we can manage our disease.

Finding Competition and a Cause in T1D

As a child, Morgan says she tried every sport under the sun, but found – not surprisingly – that it was difficult to tackle many of them alongside a new type 1 diagnosis. After a few years of experimenting, however, she realized that horseback riding is one type of exercise that really works for her and isn’t limited by type 1 diabetes, though it took some experimentation with basal rates and testing to get there.

 In talking with Morgan last week, it was clear that while diabetes has often posed challenges to her, it also presented and created some unique chances to advocate for diabetes and the people who live with it throughout her life.

“I got to meet Pope Francis,” she told us. “In 2014, the Vatican hosted a conference by the Stem Cell for Life Foundation, and I spoke to them about my experiences and advocacy for type 1 diabetics.” At the conference, she received the Pontifical Hero Award, given by the Catholic Church to individuals who show courage in the face of adversity and inspire the people to benefit the lives of others.

The event itself was sponsored by the Stem for Life Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to raising awareness of the treatment potential inherent in adult stem cells – one of a few paths under investigation that could lead to a permanent cure for type 1 diabetes.

Morgan also participated in several national conferences and events as part of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), including her attendance at the Children’s Congress at the age of 8 as well as presenting as one of the event’s opening speakers in 2017.

Tackling a path related to T1D

When she’s not studying or working on her writing, Morgan has also made a past-time out of competitively riding with her horse Gideon, a demanding physical workout that requires strong control of her blood sugars to compete in. She’s now a rising sophomore at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, where she hopes to follow a pre-med track.

“It can be really hard for me and for my family,” she told T1D Exchange. “But I really want to show and explain to people what it’s like to live with type 1 diabetes.”

Her goal is to pursue endocrinology as a career – the field of medicine most closely associated with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2.  In a way, it comes full circle – from diagnosis with T1D at an early age to the pursuit of a career and a life that can help treat and care for people with T1D.

Thanks to Morgan for taking the time to sit down with T1D Exchange, and be sure to check out her book this week!

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