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Sarah Rabalais: Representing Hope

Sarah was diagnosed with with Type 1 Diabetes when she was 15 months old. At the age of 17, she was selected from a pool of thousands of children to attend JDRF 2017 Children’s Congress in Washington, D.C., representing Texas.

By Sara G. Stephens

 

HFM: Tell us a little about your family.

SR: I am the youngest in my family. I live with my mom (Jennifer) and my dad (Jason), and my brother (Dylan). I have a Labradoodle named Remus, and Dylan has a beagle named Copper. They are just the cutest!

 

HFM: How long have you lived in Houston?

SR: My family moved from Nederland Texas (a small town near Beaumont) to The Woodlands when I was 2. I’ve lived here for as long as I can remember.

 

HFM: How long have you been living with diabetes?

SR: I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was 15 months old. I’m turning 18 this month, so I’ve been living with it for almost 17 years!

 

HFM: Tell us a little about how you think having diabetes affects your family.

SR: I am the only one in my family–immediate and extended–to have Type 1 Diabetes. It was quite a shock, and they had a lot to learn after I was diagnosed. I’d like to say that they have benefitted from watching me grow up with Type 1. They understand how their own bodies work better because of helping me take care of myself. My brother’s girlfriend is also Type 1, and I like to think it is easier for him to help her because he’s helped me growing up.

 

HFM: When did you first become involved with JDRF?

SR: I started attending the JDRF One Walk in Houston when I was 5 years old. After that, I started volunteering in any way that I could. I did public speaking, fundraising, and was an ambassador at the JDRF Promise Ball in Houston for the past 3 years.

 

HFM: You were recently selected from a pool of thousands of children to attend JDRF 2017 Children’s Congress in Washington, D.C., representing Texas. How did you feel when you were chosen?

SR: When I found out I would be attending the 2017 JDRF Children’s Congress, I was beyond excited. This incredible opportunity is once in a lifetime, and I was so happy to be able to experience it.

 

HFM: Why do you think you were chosen?

SR: I honestly am not sure why I was chosen out of all of the incredible applicants. I’m just glad that I was!

 

HFM: One of your responsibilities at this event was to share your personal testimony highlighting the daily struggles of living with T1D. Can you share some of that testimony with our reader?

SR: I was diagnosed with T1D when I was 15 months old. Growing up with T1D wasn’t easy. There is a lot of misunderstanding and taboo around Diabetes in the media, so other kids didn’t really understand what Type 1 Diabetes really is. But it wasn’t all bad! I was able to go to summer camps, like Texas Lions Camp, where I got to meet other Diabetic kids and make some of the closest friends of my life. As I’ve grown up, I’ve watched technology advance so much for T1D. Insulin pumps are smarter, meters are more accurate, and constant glucose monitors are available to the public. I hope that I get to see the cure in my lifetime.

 

HFM: You also were sent to reinforce the need for continued funding for research projects like the Special Diabetes Program (SDP). Tell us about this program and why it’s so important.

SR: The SDP is a program that provides funding to Diabetes research projects and also funds many human trials currently happening. Without the SDP, research and technology could not be at the level that it is currently at. At Washington, we asked Congress for a 3-year renewal at the current funding level of $150 million a year.

 

HFM: Did you have other responsibilities at the event?

SR: Most of the jobs for the delegates were more fun than work! We met with T1D role models, learned about new technology, and helped spread awareness for T1D.

 

HFM: Do you feel the event was successful?

SR: I feel that opening anyone’s eyes to the struggles of T1D is a success. Advocacy is important, and if our Congress men and women remember me, then maybe they will support our efforts to find a cure.

 

HFM: Which was your favorite site you visited in Washington?

SR: I am a huge natural history nerd, so the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History was so much fun for me. I think I may have bored my parents with all my ‘fun facts’ though!

 

HFM: Have you continued your work with JDRF since you’ve returned from the Children’s Congress?

SR: Yes, I am still working with JDRF, and plan to keep working with them as long as they’ll have me! I’m excited to see what adult advocacy will bring for me.

 

HFM: Who are your role models, and how have they influenced you?

SR: My grandfather, who I call Popo, has always been a role model for me. He has always believed in me and supported me in everything that I do. I don’t believe I would be the person I am today without him. My parents are also a huge support system for me. They went on the trip with me, and have supported me and help me with my Diabetes my whole life. I am incredibly grateful to have them in my life.

 

HFM: What are your plans after high school?

SR: I would like to major in English in college. I’ve always been passionate about stories, writing them and reading them, so something in the English department just feels right.

 

HFM: What do you like to do for fun?

SR: I spend most of my free time with my nose stuck in a book. I’ve always loves to read, and lately books have become my world.

 

HFM: Now that you’ve been presented to Congress, do you think you could ever see yourself on the other side, sitting as a member of Congress?

SR: Definitely not. After seeing how much stress and work our Congress men and women have to deal with everyday, I know I couldn’t handle that. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can!

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