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'My worst nightmare': Local man challenges diabetes stigma during National Diabetes Awareness Month

Local man challenges diabetes stigma during National Diabetes Awareness Month
Posted at 5:21 AM, Nov 17, 2023

LEAWOOD, Kan — As November marks National Diabetes Awareness Month, a local man who faced the unexpected challenge of Type 1 diabetes at the age of fourteen, is navigating the complexities of the chronic disease.

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Tyler Gilmore now 25, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2013. The sudden revelation turned his life upside down, requiring immediate adjustments to his daily routine, diet and overall lifestyle. The initial shock and uncertainty were daunting for both Tyler and his family.

"It was really kind of like my worst nightmare," said Gilmore. "Because I always used to see kids who had diabetes have insulin pumps, and that always scared me, just because I hate IVs and stuff. I thought it would be like that.”

Tyler was a healthy and athletic middle school student at the time he was diagnosed. When he started noticing some changes to his daily routine, becoming more lethargic, fatigued and the need to urinate frequently, he knew something wasn't right.

"I think when I actually went to the doctor. I think my parents saw it. I was sleeping all the time. I was urinating like 16 times a day or so, which I think would make anyone think something isn't correct," said Gilmore.

After being rushed to Children's Mercy Hospital, Tyler found out the daunting news that his symptoms were being caused by Type 1 diabetes, a chronic illness affecting over 1.5 million Americans each year. Kris Gilmore, Tyler's mom said she fell in disbelief that her healthy son was diagnosed with such disease.

"That day was overly devastating and confusing because it was something I had never dealt with before," said Kris Gilmore. "He had gone from being unbelievably athletic, wanting to be with his friends, and then all of a sudden it just switched."

Even with so many questions, hope was not lost for the Gilmore family. Staff at the hospital recommended Kris reach out to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), a local non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with Type 1 diabetes.

"I felt immediately like I did have an avenue to ask questions with," said Gilmore.

JDRF not only provided essential resources and information but also connected Tyler and his family with a network of others facing similar struggles.

"It is unbelievably wonderful to know that there is somewhere to turn and even as I get talking to people who are first diagnosed I always say you feel overwhelmed," said Kris Gilmore.

As November marks National Diabetes Awareness Month, Tyler and JDRF continue their mission to shed light on Type 1 diabetes and offer a helping hand to those diagnosed with the disease.

“Awareness is one of the ways we reach the community," said Joshua Vieth, director of research for JDRF International. "We want people to know about what we're doing and what we're funding research-wise to let them know about all of the amazing therapies that we're testing in the clinic. We want to get the word out that people should get screened, that it's important that you talk to your family physician.”

Tyler's journey from initial shock has now become a beacon of hope for others fighting this disease. His message and story shares the importance that diabetes doesn't discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any time of their life.

"I don't feel as alone. I don't feel as worried as I used to be, but I will say that even with a technology, we, again, still have a long way to go," said Gilmore.

You can find more information about JDRF and their initiative on their website.