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Diane Drapos

Type 1 Diabetes Success Story


Diane was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in 1992 shortly after graduating from Assumption College in Worcester.  She didn't have any symptoms, but the excessive blood sugar was discovered during a routine physical exam.  It was treated with diet and exercise for the first six months.  Once she started to experience symptoms, insulin injections became necessary.

She was educated by her doctor about insulin pumps but had no desire to use one until she became pregnant at 29 years old with her first child.  “It wasn’t just about me anymore at that point,” she said.  Diane managed to maintain excellent blood sugar control during that pregnancy, as well as her second one 13 months later.  As the years went on, controlling her blood sugars became a little more of a challenge.

Diane is a Business Development Manager for Johnson Controls, Inc.  Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, she traveled throughout the country for presentations and meetings. She was constantly fearful of “going low” which intensified as time went on and caused her to overcompensate.  Even when she would “do everything right” to manage her blood sugars, they were always inconsistent.  “Everything I do I give it 110%," she said proudly.  "When I would do the right thing for my diabetes and still not get good results, it was defeating and made me feel like I wanted to give up.” 

During the summer of 2019, Diane suddenly became very ill and lost 35 lbs during a short period of time.  Her primary care physician, in coordination with other specialists, ran many tests to figure out the cause.  After two hospitalizations, she was eventually diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called sarcoidosis, in addition to her T1D.  It was during that time that she was introduced to the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence (DCOE) and Dr. David Harlan.  “I had felt for a long time, prior to meeting Dr. Harlan, that I wanted to find a new endocrinologist, but kept putting it off.” 

“He’s been my savior,” said Diane with a huge smile.  “I can’t say enough good things about that man!”  During a very difficult and fearful time, she found him to be calm and reassuring.  She appreciates never feeling rushed during her appointments and she’s thankful for how quickly Dr. Harlan responds to myChart messages or phone calls if needed, between appointments.  “He makes me feel like I’m his only patient," she said.  "He takes my feelings and lifestyle into consideration and includes me in decisions about my care plan, instead of simply telling me what to do.”

One of the first changes they made to her care was switching to the Tandem/Dexcom hybrid closed loop insulin pump & continuous glucose monitor (CGM) combination.  “He took baby steps with me and didn’t overwhelm me.”  She started with the Basal IQ technology and has since downloaded the Control IQ update that automatically adjusts insulin levels based on CGM readings.

Over the past year and a half, Diane’s A1c has dropped considerably and her blood sugar control is the best it's been in more than 20 years.  The result of her first A1c test of 2021 was down to 6.3%.

"As if T1D isn’t difficult enough to juggle with a busy professional career, Diane also had to deal with other issues that complicate her diabetes management," said Dr. Harlan.  "Through it all, she has adapted with inspiring focus, indomitable spirit, and resilience."

“Type 1 diabetes is a mind-boggling disease,” said Diane. “You’re ultimately responsible for your own decisions.  Yes, the technology is wonderful, but you still have to take ownership.”

She pointed out that people with type 1 diabetes may look fine to others, but they’re not.  “It’s something you can’t escape. You live with it every day,” she added.  “It’s a daily struggle.  The greatest gift to me would be a one-day vacation from diabetes!”

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