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When you can’t take a day off from diabetes

By Scott Ross |  Published September 15 2017

Scott Ross is an attorney and founding member of Novo Nordisk’s resource group for employees living with diabetes.  Here Scott opens up about the everyday challenges of managing diabetes at work. He shares how his healthy lifestyle, strong resolve, and diabetes-friendly workplace have helped him rise above those challenges, and expresses his wish for all people with diabetes to have access to similar support and resources.

I’m often asked what it’s like to manage my type 1 diabetes at work. My answer is that I manage my diabetes at work the same way I manage it in the rest of my life. People are sometimes surprised when I tell them how many challenges I face daily due to my diabetes. But over the years, I’ve learned to keep the challenges of living with diabetes in the background rather than letting it take over my life. The way I see it, I have no other choice.

Diabetes is with me every hour of every day. There are no days off! It’s always one more thing I have to think about in addition to performing whatever other task is at hand. It can be especially challenging in high-pressure situations – like when I took the bar exam many years ago, I had to worry about not only the exam questions, but also what I should do if I were to experience a rapid change in my blood sugar. Or when I used to be a litigator and would argue motions in court, my blood sugar was always in the back of my mind along with my legal arguments. However, over time, I learned to adapt so these constant nuisances rarely turned into major issues.

Since I always need to be on top of my blood sugar situation, a drawer in my office looks like a cross between a snack bar and a pharmacy stocked with juice, snacks, test strips and insulin. If I have a series of back-to-back meetings, I know I need to manage my blood sugar so I am not disrupted by hypoglycemia, which can cause me to feel lightheaded and lose my train of thought. Food options and timing of meals at meetings and events can also be unpredictable, so I’m always prepared to adjust for the unexpected.

Traveling for work also can also be a real nuisance - whether it’s getting through airport security while wearing an insulin pump, or making sure I have enough food with me in case of a long delay. Not to mention the absurdity of tossing a bottle of juice just before the security line only to walk straight over to the gift shop for a new one to bring with me on the plane in case I have a hypoglycemic episode.

Of course I’ve also had to develop a strong resolve to maintain the healthy diet I need living with type 1 diabetes. My team is festive, and my coworkers often bring bagels, pastries, donuts, and other treats into the office for birthdays and other celebrations. I’ve simply learned to police myself in the face of these high-carb temptations!

To be sure, good fortune has also helped me persevere. From the time I was diagnosed at 9 years old and continuing to this very day, I’ve been lucky to have access to quality care, diabetes education, and a strong support system of family and friends. And let’s face it, working for a diabetes company helps. Not every workplace has sharps disposal containers in the restrooms and glucose tablets in the vending machines, and not everyone is fortunate enough to have coworkers who understand diabetes and its struggles so well.

But even with a workplace like mine, there are some days when it’s not so easy. And many other people with diabetes are not as fortunate as me to have access to quality care, education, a strong support system, or a diabetes-friendly workplace. So while I’m proud that diabetes doesn’t hold me back, my hope is that more companies ensure their employees with diabetes feel empowered to say the same.

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