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Type 1 diabetes often misunderstood
Brad and Candace Herrman started the Naturally Sweet - Type 1 Diabetes Support Group in Barton County. Brad and the two oldest Herrman children have type 1 diabetes. Pictured with their parents are children Olivia and, from left: Noah, Caleb, Isaac and baby Micah.

As with any disease, there are a lot of misconceptions and outdated notions about type 1 diabetes. When it affected Candace Herrman’s husband Brad and then their daughter Olivia, the family needed accurate, up-to-do information. Finding few resources close to home, Candace started a Barton County support group, Naturally Sweet, for type 1 diabetics and those that love them.

Even though they no longer have regularly scheduled meetings, the Naturally Sweet Type 1 Diabetes Support Group is still listed here because Herrman wants to be available to anyone with questions.

The purpose for starting this group was to get and share information, Herrman said. “I realized there was nothing locally.”

Olivia was diagnosed at age 4 and when she started school she said, “there’s no one like me.”

Realizing that the schools couldn’t tell her about other families with type 1 diabetes due to privacy issues, Candace sent letters to the schools and asked them to pass her name on to those families. It worked. “I had people reach out to me,” she said.  

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, as opposed to type 2 diabetes, which is metabolic, and characterized by a progressive, chronic low-grade inflammation. People with type 1 diabetes are insulin-dependent, while there are multiple ways to manage type 2 diabetes.

The Herrmans’ second-oldest child, Noah, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as well when he was 5 years old. Their younger children have not been diagnosed.

Type 1 has been called juvenile diabetes or brittle diabetes, but people of all ages can develop it. About half of the new patients are juveniles and half are older, Candace said. Her husband was 26 years old when he developed it.

If you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t make insulin or makes very little insulin. According to WebMD, brittle diabetes is the name doctors give diabetes that is especially hard to control, but Herrman said it’s not a term she hears much anymore.

“People think of type 1 as the bad type, because you have to take shots,” Candace said. There are insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors that may replace multiple daily injections (MDIs).

Type 1 diabetes is more manageable today than in the past and progress continues in research and treatment. Candace watches the news and is frustrated that Medtronic’s auto-adjusting insulin pump, now available in more than 60 countries around the world and recently approved in Canada, is still awaiting U.S. approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Also, a vial of insulin used to cost $107 but the price shot up to $450 after the Affordable Care Act passed and remains at $450.

Candace Herrman said that while type 1 diabetes is not common, she still maintains the support group listing for anyone who needs it. “If your child is diagnosed it’s fairly concerning,” she said. It can be downright frightening. Her message to those with type 1 diabetes is, “you’re not alone.”

For more information call Candace Herrman at 620-617-6700.