Broken Pancreas Club educates people on diabetes, celebrates Diabetes Awareness Month

Rachel Greenland, Reporter

Getting up every morning by 9 a.m., pricking a finger 10 times a day and delivering shots of insulin is a reality that senior political science major Abby Pepper knows all too well.

Pepper has Type 1 diabetes and is the president of App State’s College Diabetes Network: Broken Pancreas Club. She and Wheeler Davis, a sophomore cellular and molecular biology major, started the club this semester, and they have hosted multiple events this month to celebrate Diabetes Awareness Month.

“It’s awesome to have the support from others,” Pepper said. “I don’t feel this would happen as much if we didn’t have a month dedicated to it.”

Nathan Hackenberg, sophomore theatre design and technology major with Type 1 diabetes, described CDN as an “amazing support system.”

Hackenberg and Pepper shared stories of the club members supporting each other through sharing insulin veils, becoming a community and comforting those who have lost friends to diabetes. A member of the club lost her childhood best friend to Type 1 diabetes last week, so in remembrance of her, CDN painted “Aden Olivia Piller, forever 26 years old” on a blue-stained Free Expression Tunnel along with over 20 more names of lives lost to Type 1 diabetes under the age of 30.

In summer 2017, Pepper and 19 other cyclists biked across the country as a part of Bike Beyond-Beyond Type 1 to bring awareness to the disease. Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas does not make insulin or makes very little, which enables blood sugar to be used for energy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Without insulin, people with Type 1 diabetes cannot convert the sugar in their blood to energy, which can lead to reactions as serious as seizures, comas and death, Pepper said.

“Type 1 affects young and old people,” Pepper said. “Anybody can be diagnosed. It does not have anything to do with diet or exercise.”

People with Type 2 diabetes produce insulin, but their bodies are insulin resistant, which can lead to serious damage of the body. But, many people who are not directly affected by diabetes are unaware of the severity of the disease. Pepper recognizes this and makes it a goal of CDN to educate both non-diabetics and diabetics on the disease and topics surrounding it. She said many deaths that occur due to a lack of knowledge and an increase in depression.

“So many people don’t realize that you are three times more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression with diabetes than without,” Pepper said.

The App State diabetic community and the online diabetic community continually encourage each other and act as a support system, Pepper said. CDN is becoming this support system for future college students by holding events to educate and create community with the 17 high schoolers in the High Country with Type 1 diabetes. They meet to discuss concerns and ways of navigating college life as a diabetic.

“I’m happy there is a club for it,” Noah Bradley, junior public relations major and a friend of people with diabetes, said. “I didn’t know much about it until meeting Abby and now I understand how big of a struggle that is and how different it makes people feel, so it’s good that there is a sense of community there.”

Pepper encouraged those who are not directly affected by diabetes to not make assumptions and to ask questions if they are curious because she said she and other diabetics would be happy to share.

CDN’s next meeting is Nov. 29 at 7:15 p.m. in Room 100 of the Plemmons Student Union, and they meet every other Thursday night.

Story by Rachel Greenland