Managing diabetes with knowledge, friends and attitude

Carol O’Malley remembers the day more than 50 years ago she decided diabetes wouldn’t take her independence. She was 12.
Jan. 23, 2017

Learn the latest about diabetes: 2018 Fall Community Diabetes Update

WHEN: 8 a.m. – noon Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018 (doors open at 7:30 a.m.)

WHERE: UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital, Café F (basement), 1024 S. Lamay Ave. in Fort Collins

COST: $15 for one person and a guest

REGISTER:  Teresa at 970.495.8777

The day includes:

7:30 a.m. – Registration
8 a.m. – Welcome and introductions
8:15 a.m. – Denial Ain’t Just a River in Egypt—Emotional Adjustment to Diabetes—David Greene, PhD
9:15 a.m. – Break to visit vendors and enjoy refreshments
9:45 a.m. – Diabetes: What You Can’t See Can Hurt You—Matthew Asano, MD ophthalmologist
10:30 a.m. – Breakto visit vendors and the “ask the dietitian” booth.
10:50 a.m. – Ask the Experts—panel discussion, which includes Alejandro Munoz, MD, endocrinologist;  Dave Johnson, DDS, MS; Cecilia Jamieson, MS, RD, CDE
11:55 a.m. – Evaluation and door prizes

Carol O’Malley has been taking insulin for 52 years.

She was 10 years old when she first started taking insulin for her Type 1 diabetes. Though it’s been more than half century since then, O’Malley still remembers the day she decided her illness would not rob her of her independence.

“I was 12 years old, and I wanted to go to on vacation with my cousin—to Jersey Beach,” she said.

To go, she had to learn to “stick” herself on her own – something her mother had been doing for her for two years.

“I wanted to go more than anything,” she said. “That was my incentive to become independent and not let diabetes interfere to the point where it prevented me from participating in the activities I wanted to do.”

O’Malley went on to travel to Europe with friends at 15, then Greece at 18, and many travels thereafter. It was knowledge of her disease, support from her friends and a positive attitude that has helped her manage diabetes — a disease that she won’t deny is incredibly hard to live with — for 50 years.

“If you want to be independent and have fun in your life, you have to take care of it,” she stressed.

Over the years, O’Malley said, she learned as much as she could about the disease, believing that the knowledge would be beneficial if she ever got into a jam.

“The more you understand about insulin and glucose control, the better you will know how to take care of yourself. Learn biologically and physically of its effects, so you don’t immediately have to depend on a doctor,’’ she said. “And when you understand — you are going to be more willing to comply.”

O’Malley said learning about diabetes is a continuous process because technology and medicine are always changing, as is your body, the longer you live with the disease.

Some of O’Malley’s knowledge came from others: a boyfriend who managed his diabetes very well and a friend who was a nutritionist.

“We [the boyfriend and O’Malley] supported each other,” she said. “I learned a lot from him, and he helped me take care of myself. There is accountability and someone to understand your lows and maybe help you get on track again.”

O’Malley was recognized with the Journey Award for her lifelong success with managing diabetes at the 2017 Community Diabetes Update.

“There is this misconception that if you start taking insulin you go downhill fast,” said Cecilia Jamieson, clinical diabetes educator at the Center for Diabetes. “That’s one reason we’ve added the award this year. These are amazing people who have lived the journey and are doing quite well. It’s a way to recognize them and provide inspiration for others.”

The awards are just a small part of the event. The update is an opportunity for participants to learn the most recent research and information about diabetes management so they, too, can feel empowered to take control of the illness.

A keynote speaker will discuss how to prevent diabetic foot complications, and an expert panel will answer participants’ questions. In addition to the presentations, people can visit with a dietitian, network with others with diabetes and connect to community resources.

“Things change, the body changes, your insulin needs change,” O’Malley said. “The disease is real, but your attitude and how you approach it is in your head, and it’s up to you how you overcome, manage and tolerate your illness.”


UCHealth Diabetes and Medical Nutrition Therapy in northern Colorado offers many services to help children and adults learn how to manage diabetes and prevent complications. They also offer small group classes, one-on-one counseling, blood glucose testing and training, meal-planning assistance, medical nutrition therapy, insulin pump training, and 7- and 14-day continuous glucose monitoring.

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.