Lillian Kemp will be a ninth grader at Salem High School this year. Like most teenagers, she likes hanging out with friends and playing sports. Unlike most teenagers, the 15-year-old has Type 1 diabetes.
“In March of 2014, I started to notice some changes in her. She started losing weight at a rapid rate,” Mimi Kemp, Lillian’s mother, said. “A few days before she was diagnosed, I noticed that she had these purplish circles under her eyes and that her lips were cracked in both corners.”
There are many differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. With type 1, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that release HYPERLINK “http://www.webmd.com/hw-popup/insulin” \t “_blank” insulin which eventually eliminates insulin production from the body. With type 2, the body isn’t able to use insulin the right way and that is called insulin resistance. Research suggests that about 90 out of 100 people with diabetes have type 2.
Lillian now wears an Artificial pancreas closed loop system and was the first pediatric user in Salem. The Medtronic closed loop artificial pancreas is only possible because of people supporting research and giving to charities like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), according to Lillian’s family.
Lillian says she experienced a lot of ups and downs after initially being diagnosed. “It was as if I was on a rollercoaster. I was pricking my finger over 10 times a day and was giving myself shots every time I ate,” she said. “I did that for a couple of months until I was able to get on a pump and the Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) which began reading my blood sugar regularly.”
Lillian and her mother are actively involved in the Blue Ridge Chapter of JDRF, the leading global organization funding Type 1 diabetes research. Mimi Kemp is on the JDRF board while Lillian serves as an ambassador. Type 1 diabetes isn’t that uncommon amongst Americans. According to HYPERLINK “http://jdrf.org/” \t “_blank” jdrf.org, an estimated 40,000 new patients are diagnosed each year.
Systems of type 1 diabetes include: excessive urination, nausea or vomiting, blurred visions, sleepiness or weight loss.
“In September, we have the JDRF Walk in Downtown Roanoke and in March we have the Denim and Diamonds Gala,” Mimi said. “Those interested in helping can go straight to JDRF Roanoke Walk page and donate to Lillian’s Lifesavers to Lillian Kemp.”
Once Mimi started sharing her daughter’s story through social media she quickly realized that other area children are going through similar situations. “There is a family in Roanoke County that has four kids and three of them have Type 1,” she said. “They are also on the closed loop system.”
Experiencing up close the impact that Type 1 diabetes can have on a family motivated Mike and Mimi Kemp to raise awareness about diabetes. “Type 1 is a diagnosis that nobody wants to receive. It takes a great deal of time and work,” Mimi said. “It can be one of the biggest challenges but also can be one of the biggest opportunities.”
Mike added: “It’s an opportunity to tell others what to look for. It’s an opportunity to help save lives. It’s an opportunity to raise money for a cure. It’s an opportunity to put an end to this diabetes that once was a death sentence. I look forward to the day when Lillian can say ‘I use to be a Type 1 diabetic.’”
Lillian has big goals after high school: attend either the University of Virginia like her older sister or University of South Carolina, become an actress and travel the world.
Her advice for other teenagers with Type 1 diabetes? Surround themselves with positive people and don’t get discouraged. “I know it can be really tough sometimes and you get really tired of the constant pricks, shots and worries. You got to keep your head up and be positive though because the cure for this annoying, frustrating diabetes is right behind us,” she said.