We like to joke about diabetes "changing with the weather," so it made us grin to find a woman whose job involves both.
Today, we're happy to welcome Kelly Reardon, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during her first year of college, who has gone on to achieve her dream of becoming a TV meteorologist and journalist for a local station in her hometown in western Massachusetts. Today, she's sharing her story...
A Word from T1D Meteorologist Kelly Reardon
I’m an on-air meteorologist and weather reporter for 22News in Springfield, Massachusetts -- lucky enough to get a job in the city where I was born and where my family is! I’m also a type 1 diabetic. I’m 24 now, and since I was diagnosed six years ago, I’ve only gotten stronger every day.
I was 18 years old when I was diagnosed. It was during my first few months at college -- across the country from my family. I was hungry all the time, thirsty and exhausted (as many of us know)… but I chalked it all up to college freshman stress. When I started dropping pounds, I went to the school nurse and was diagnosed on the spot with a blood sugar check. It was pretty shocking, especially as an 18-year-old, since I had to completely change my life. My priorities went from my studies and my social life -- like the usual college student -- to this new issue of balancing my blood sugar and learning how to count carbs.
Throughout college I never let diabetes get me down. I took insulin and checked my blood sugar in class even when I knew there were eyes on me, but my professors and classmates were incredibly supportive and helped me through everything, even running to get me a candy bar if I got low blood sugar in class.
Meteorology was always the perfect choice for me since it was a perfect blend of math and science, which I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid, while also getting to be on TV, which is an absolute blast. I first thought I wanted to be an engineer, given how much I love math and science. But after a summer internship, I realized it wasn't for me -- I wanted something more applied, hands-on, and exciting. And since at my university, Florida Institute of Technology, meteorology was in the college of engineering, I thought it was a good compromise. Then, interning with the National Weather Service for two years in college, it solidified my choice and I fell in love with weather and forecasting.
It’s funny, diabetes and weather have one major similarity: how unpredictable they can both be!
I can eat the same meal every day and take the same amount of insulin, and my blood sugar can end up totally different. The weather can seemingly be a clear-cut forecast until you get an unanticipated, pop-up shower. Diabetes helped me learn to roll with the punches of the weather world.
On air, I have no problem showing off my FreeStyle Libre Flash glucose monitor. Many viewers have been extremely supportive of me wearing it visibly on air. They truly do understand how it significantly increases my quality of life. I was on the Omnipod insulin pump for four years after being diagnosed, but I decided to take a little pump break two years ago and I haven’t gone back since. I kind of like the freedom, but I know six-times-daily injections aren’t for everyone.
I know I’m not the only one on air with diabetes. I’ve gotten a few messages from fellow journalists and meteorologists after posting a photo on my social media accounts while wearing my CGM on the air during one of my forecast segments. I think it’s important to show it to increase awareness of diabetes, and sort of break the preconception of what a diabetic is supposed to look like -- I think we’ve all heard that statement before: “But you don’t look diabetic.”
The meteorologists I talked to with diabetes all basically focused on what to do if you go low before going on the air, we all talked about our favorite snacks to have ready to go (many people go for sour-patch kids!) In extreme cases, they've had their on-air time shifted a little bit in the newscast until the low symptoms went away.
Every time it’s visible on air, I get questions from viewers and I do my best to explain what it means to be a type 1, and how it’s an autoimmune disease. That’s probably what I’m most passionate about with diabetes, is educating people on the seriousness of this disease, and explaining how this is not curable.
I've gotten low blood sugar multiple times when out in the field, mostly when the weather is hot and I'm sweating a lot. I've told my interviewees in those cases, and they were very understanding, letting me take a break and eat something, and sit down until I felt better. Then I'll continue on once my blood sugar rebounded. But with my continuous glucose monitor I started using in the last few months, that's been happening less since I'll do a quick scan with my iPhone about 10-15 minutes before my interview so I can see where I'm trending.
If I have an urgent low where my blood sugar is dropping extremely fast, I keep a big bottle of glucose tablets at my desk. If my blood sugar is dropping more slowly, and it's not as urgent, I'll just have a snack I packed for the day -- usually grapes or something along those lines.
I’ve only been at my new position at 22News for about a year now, and while it was a whirlwind learning how to be a broadcast meteorologist, it was a smooth transition as my colleagues have helped me through my diabetic ups and downs. If anyone out there is pursuing an on-air job, or any job, and thinks they can’t do it because of their CGM, pump, or the set-backs of being a diabetic, I urge them to keep on going and never let it get in the way of chasing your dreams. If I can do it, you can too.
Thank you for sharing, Kelly! We love seeing people in our D-Community achieving their dreams, while making diabetes visible to raise awareness.