Linda Koehler

The Big Diabetes Lie

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Linda Koehler of Tucson, Arizona, developed type 1 at age eleven. She is now fifty-five. Unlike many people who keep their diabetes private, she has not been afraid to let people know about hers. She has worked as a first-grade teacher for many years, and she always makes sure her students know she has diabetes.

"If I have low blood sugar and do something like forget their names for a little while, they understand why,"23 she explains. And should her diabetes make it necessary for her to have help from another adult, her students know to call someone.

After her diagnosis Koehler remained active and fit, riding her bike and playing lots of tennis. But she did curtail some activities such as going to restaurants or to friends' birthday parties because she could not have a piece of cake. She was afraid of her diabetes getting in the way of what she wanted to do, although she later learned it did not have to. She says she was fortunate because "my mother was always harping after me to eat the right things. She was always diligent about educating me. She guided me to know what to do and what not to do."24 However, she could not fully accept that she had diabetes when she was young because she did not want to be different from other kids. Sometimes, she just did not want to give herself insulin shots or eat right all the time. Because of this, Koehler was frequently hospitalized when her blood sugar became too high.

Children with diabetes sometimes find that the demands of managing their disease can make it difficult to fit in with their peers.

Koehler is married and has three daughters, aged 27, 20, and 11. But when she was an adolescent, she recalls, "my childhood doctor advised me in a friendly 'heart-to-heart' chat that it would not be a good idea for me to have children and pass on this horrible disease to humanity. Emotionally, this discussion hit me hard. As a result, my goal in life was to make my life as normal as I could."25

She is healthy, too, with none of the typical complications of diabetes, and she plans to live a very long time. She still eats well, and although she does not exercise as much as she would like, she is very active. She has not let diabetes prevent her from having a full life, always believing she can handle a new opportunity when it comes along.

When Koehler was diagnosed in the mid-1960s, and for years afterward, living with diabetes was more complicated than it is now. For instance, in those days before disposable syringes, taking insulin meant boiling glass syringes to sterilize them and fitting them with long needles for the shots. When she was pregnant with her third daughter in the late 1990s, she had

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