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Taylor Connor

Type 1 Diabetes

Date Posted: Wednesday, March 02, 2022

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Taylor Connor’s journey with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) has been a long and difficult road.  Her A1c reached 15% in 2011 when she was 20 years old and remained elevated until 2016.  That’s when she made a personal commitment to her health and she started 2022 with an all-time low A1c of 6.4%. 

Taylor’s inspiring story proves it’s never too late to take control of diabetes.  Using an insulin pump for the first time and adopting a healthy eating lifestyle has changed her life in many ways.  In addition to improved health, it also resulted in her attending nursing school and today she’s a UMass Memorial Health Nurse and plans to become a Diabetes Educator.   

She was diagnosed during the summer of 1996 at the age of five.  Her mother had just moved Taylor and her sister from Oregon to Phoenix, AZ.  Her father was no longer in their lives. 

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She remembers drinking lots of water, occasionally having bathroom accidents and frequently getting sick to her stomach.  “At my physical for school, my Mom told the doctor she thought I was having difficulty adjusting to the Arizona weather,” said Taylor.  “Blood work at Phoenix Children’s Hospital determined I had T1D.”

She remembers receiving daily insulin shots from her mother and getting rewarded with a small piece of chocolate.  “It’s funny, because today I hate chocolate,” she said.  “Things went well for a couple of years until my Mom got remarried.  We moved back to Oregon and she began using drugs with my stepfather.  My diabetes got neglected and she would sell my insulin syringes for drugs.”

When Taylor was eight years old, she and her sister were placed into foster care.  Taylor ended up with a family who made her manage her own diabetes and inject her own insulin for the first time.

Her birth father obtained custody of the girls and they moved from Oregon to Massachusetts in February 2001.  “I was now ten years old and finally receiving more consistent diabetes care,” she said.  

She was a patient at Joslin in Boston until the age of 17.  “I remember dreading going to those appointments,” she said.  “They lectured to me that if I didn’t do a better job I’d go blind, lose a limb, or ruin my kidneys.”  

She now knows they were only trying to get through to her, but at the time Taylor felt ashamed and angry because she felt that she wasn’t doing a good enough job.

Throughout high school Taylor struggled emotionally and her diabetes “seemed so insignificant.”  She hid the fact that she had diabetes.  “I’d get embarrassed when the nurse called the classroom asking for me to go to her office.  I went to the bathroom to give myself insulin injections so nobody would see me.”

At 18 years old she dropped out of high school, cut ties with her family, and began living on her own.  She was hospitalized at UMass Memorial with Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) after not taking insulin for a couple of days.  “I stopped seeing doctors because I had no money, and my insulin prescription ran out.  I’d bounce from urgent cares and walk-in clinics to get my prescriptions and I rationed my insulin by taking the absolute minimum, to make it last as long as possible.”

Following that hospitalization, Taylor became a patient at the UMass Memorial pediatric diabetes clinic, however, she didn’t go very often.  She earned her GED (I assume) and attended Johnson & Wales University in Providence.  She graduated in three years with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality with a concentration in fundraising & philanthropy.  “During college I felt defeated and controlled by diabetes,” she said.  “My habits were so bad that the thought of getting T1D under control was very overwhelming.”

She felt embarrassed and ashamed to seek help.  “I had been doing poorly for so long that I couldn’t stand the thought of being lectured about it on top of being so hard on myself,” she admitted.  “Mentally, I wasn’t able to deal with it, so it was easier to just ignore it and stay in survival mode like I had been.”

taylor-connor-jwuIt wasn’t until after graduating and starting her first job that Taylor took diabetes seriously.  “I finally had the means and resources,” she said.  “Many people don’t understand everything that’s required to manage diabetes.  It’s much more complicated than simply taking meds and watching what you eat.  It takes time, money and emotional energy.”

After college she transitioned to the adult diabetes care team.  “I told them I was finally ready and willing to put in the work,” she said.  “It was like starting all over again, like I was newly diagnosed.”  She tested blood sugars throughout the day, took her prescribed insulin and met with her care team regularly.  Her care team adjusted her insulin and she met with a Certified Diabetes Educator who got her on an insulin pump for the first time.  “That pump was life changing,” she said.  “For once in my life, I felt I was in control of my diabetes and not the other way around!”

Her A1c dropped from 13.2% to 8.2% in the first 45 days using the pump.  After three months, it was down to 7.1%.  “That was the first time I ever tested in the 7’s,” she said.  “That’s when decided to become a nurse and help others feel empowered with their health.”

In the Fall of 2016 Taylor started Nursing School at MCPHS Worcester and graduated from their accelerated 16-month program.  She was hired right away at UMass Memorial as part of the new graduate program and currently works in Employee Health Services.

taylor-connor-umass-memorial (1).pngShe plans to become a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) and work in the diabetes clinic.  She wants to be a role model and help people manage diabetes.  “I could never tell people to make changes and put in the effort if I wasn’t doing the same,” she said.  “I wear my CGM and pump with pride. I love when people ask about my devices or diabetes because it lets me educate others about T1D."   

In February 2021 there was concern with her kidney function due to abnormal albumin/creatine levels.  After researching healthy eating plans, she decided on a vegetarian/vegan diet.  She still enjoys meat and animal products but eats them less frequently.

Her advice to people struggling with diabetes is to be honest and upfront with your care team.  “I regret not being forthcoming with my struggles and my lack of resources,” she said.  “Your diabetes care team will do their best to help with any obstacles, including finding transportation to and from appointments and obtaining affordable supplies and prescriptions.”

She used to feel that her diabetes was constantly in the way of living a happy life, but today she no longer feels that way.  “Today my diabetes is in the background and just flows with my lifestyle rather than being a constant dark cloud hovering over me!”

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