Today we’re excited to introduce a friend who lives with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and is behind a crafty clothing line boasting “dope designs” for people with diabetes.
Meet D-peep Shaw Strothers, who you may know from Instagram as @TypeONEderful. His catalogue of pop culture-inspired diabetes wear features phrases like, “My Pancreas Is Not Awesome,” “T1D Story (by Damaged Pancreas),” and “The Loop Is Strong With This One.”
Strothers was diagnosed as a child in the mid-90s and has recently become a designer at CGM company Dexcom in San Diego.
Here is Strothers’ story in his own words about creating TypeONEderful gear, his career at Dexcom, and his timely point of view on what our diabetes community needs to do to better embrace diversity and inclusion.
My diabetes story began in the fall of 1994. I’d just moved with my family to Atlanta that summer and was preparing my Halloween costume for trick-or-treating in a new neighborhood. I got the scoop from my friends at school about the best routes to take, and which houses gave out the best candy. As the big day approached I got more excited, and unfortunately, sicker.
Earlier in the month I had a cold and couldn’t quite get over it. I was tired and often went right to bed after school. As the end of the month approached, I developed an insatiable thirst. My dad noticed my symptoms and took me to the ER after a fingerstick test resulted in a blood sugar so elevated that it registered only as “high.” Thanks to my dad’s thoughtful action, I narrowly avoided a Halloween candy-induced diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
As far as I know, I’m the first person with T1D in my family. I met others with T1D at summer camp, but never saw any of them again after that summer. There was no Diabetes Online Community (DOC) via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram in the mid-90s. So I had no dia-buddies in middle school, high school, or college.
Looking back, it would’ve been nice to have the network of support and friends that I enjoy now. But I also think it made me independent. If something wasn’t working, I figured it out. This skill, along with a love of technology, served me well as diabetes tech advanced.
I grew up on syringes and pens and got my first insulin pump halfway through college. I studied design in school, and my senior design project was a slim, form-factor insulin pump that used cartridges instead of reservoirs.
Years later, Tandem released a pump that looked very similar, but worked differently. That senior design project was my first opportunity to design a medical device, special because it was one that I could potentially use. It was fascinating to think that I could create products to help people like me around the world. It would be more than 10 years before I got another chance.
I got my first CGM in 2006, one that worked directly with my pump. It was life changing for managing my blood sugar: My A1C went down considerably. Not only were my numbers good, I felt good. Hands down, CGM has had the most dramatic effect on my overall health and well-being. And I wanted more. After several years of passive CGM use, I began looking for ways to use the data more effectively. The first step was making the data easier to see.
I knew I was onto something when I found the CGM in the Cloud online community. The key benefit to CGM over traditional glucose meters is actually knowing what’s going on throughout the day at a glance. I could see my data on my pump, but it was inconvenient to pull it off my hip over and over.
Moving to the cloud put my numbers on a website I can access from anywhere. Next, I linked it to my Pebble smart watch. Then I could share the data with loved ones. Eventually I found my way to the #WeAreNotWaiting community that created DIY Loop. I’ve now been “Looping” for nearly 3 years and it’s been the best diabetes experience with the least effort in the past 25+ years. I look forward to this and similar hybrid, closed-loop systems becoming more widely and commercially available around the world.
I was 12 years old when I was diagnosed with T1D, but I didn’t find the DOC until 2014 or so. That’s 20 years of isolation. Having lived with T1D all by myself for so long, I don’t think I realized how beneficial a community could be in some regards. There are many fantastic people who are happy to help, share advice, and experiences, and that’s comforting.
At the same time, it was several more years before I found other Black people in the DOC. I didn’t see them at ADA or JDRF events, social gatherings, or conferences. There was no one that looked like me that I could relate to, and that was frustrating.
Sadly, the situation hasn’t changed much in the last 25 years. Black and Brown faces are rarely seen in conjunction with type 1 organizations. When Black and Brown people with T1D are highlighted and they share their stories, the ugly side of the DOC shows up and tries to reject or invalidate the experiences of these fellow individuals with T1D rather than support them.
It’s clear the prejudice we’ve seen throughout American society since before the country’s founding not only affects policing, courts, education, and government, but also impacts all aspects of life including medical care, diabetes organizations, and even our own DOC.
I really hope people can come together and prove that this is our DOC, not just your DOC.
When I first found the DOC, it was mostly tips for management and sharing experiences. While helpful, there was a lot of complaining and commiserating about the different challenges we face. My desire for encouragement and positivity led me to create TypeONEderful.
More than just a company, TypeONEderful represents a state of mind that has helped me thrive. I’ve never experienced diabetes burnout, complications, or limitations, and have had very few scary episodes of low blood sugar.
TypeONEderful also gives me an outlet to combine my desire to encourage Type 1’s like me with my design skills and creativity. Every time you wear a TypeONEderful design, you represent our tribe, spread awareness about the condition, and share the lighter side of a challenging condition.
TypeONEderful has led to some of my best experiences with T1D. I’ve met thousands of people with T1D and bonded with and befriended many of them through my designs. I’ve learned so much about people around the world and how they manage their diabetes.
A great example of the benefit of representing the T1D tribe happened in 2018. I wore a TypeONEderful shirt to a design conference in San Jose.
The shirt was definitely a conversation piece. I met people with T1D in their family, which would never have happened without my T-shirt icebreaker. It was great talking to them and hearing their stories. An instant bond was formed through our shared experiences with diabetes.
One woman I spoke with happened to be a designer at Dexcom. We had several great conversations throughout the conference about design and diabetes. A few months later, because of the connection, I was invited to visit their headquarters in San Diego. (Spoiler: I moved across the country and accepted a job helping to lead the Dexcom design team. Thanks to wearing a TypeONEderful shirt, and my years of design training and hacking diabetes, I now enjoy an even larger opportunity to help people with diabetes around the world.)
We obviously didn’t choose to have T1D. But we all choose how we react to situations in life. Choosing to find the wonderful in every day with T1D has served me tremendously. Your mileage may vary, but it’s well worth the effort.
I never expected to be able to work in an industry that so directly impacts my own life, but Dexcom has given me that chance. Working at Dexcom is fantastic. It has increased my focus on my own health and well-being as I develop solutions to help others do the same.
I love knowing that my work impacts and sometimes saves the lives of people with diabetes around the world. People with diabetes themselves or who have loved ones with diabetes work in nearly every department of the company. So, our focus is clear and our mission is personal. It’s incredibly exciting to work on the forefront of diabetes technology and helping to craft that future.
At Dexcom, my team and I are responsible for the design of all of the apps, applicators, sensors, and transmitters for current and future products. We also support a number of internal design projects for departments across the company. One of the most exciting parts is imagining new ways to help people use CGM data to manage their diabetes. This includes working with other diabetes technology companies and their various products (pumps, pens, etc.). I look forward to seeing all the people who will benefit from the integrations that our CGM supports.
Another area for innovation involves helping people with diabetes beyond T1D. Medical professionals are beginning to realize there may be as many as 10 different types of diabetes and that T1D and type 2 diabetes don’t fully and accurately describe the variations. I look forward to creating ways to help everyone with diabetes live better, healthier lives with the information that CGM provides, regardless of the diabetes variation.
I continue to design shirts, tanks, hoodies, and other apparel since joining Dexcom. There are more than 40 unique designs available on the site today, and I have dozens more in various stages of development. Over the years I’ve found that I do my best work when I have multiple creative outlets. Dexcom work is one type of creative tasks, and TypeONEderful design work is completely different.
Every once in a while the two paths cross: I created a special Dexcom Edition of my Sugar Wars shirt designs for Dexcom’s JDRF One Walk team in 2019. As a huge Star Wars fan, this is one of my favorite collections so far, and I have a hard time picking a favorite from among the nine movie-themed shirts, but I probably wear my “The Glucose Strikes Back” shirt or hoodie the most.
I’m optimistic about creating equity in medical outcomes for people of all backgrounds with diabetes. I’m optimistic about creating inclusiveness in the DOC. I’m optimistic about a cure, and I continue to be optimistic about life with diabetes until that cure is found. I strive to learn new things about this disease from the community of professionals and people with diabetes I meet in-person and online.
I hope that through my design work and presence in the DOC I can help others live a less stressful life and thrive with diabetes: a TypeONEderful life.
Interested in winning a free TypeONEderful shirt of your choice? Thanks to Shaw Strothers for making this possible. Here’s how to enter:
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “DM-TypeONEderful.” You can also ping us on Twitter or our Facebook page using the same codeword. (For shipping purposes, we must limit the giveaway to those with mailing addresses within the United States.)
- You have a full week — until Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, at 5 p.m. PST — to enter.
- The winners will be chosen using Random.org.
- Winners will be announced on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, via social media, so please be sure to keep tabs on your email, Facebook, and Twitter messages, as that’s how we will contact our winner. (If the winner doesn’t respond within a week, we will select an alternate.)
This contest is now closed. Congrats to D-Mom Kim Lormier in FL, who was selected by Random.org as winner of this giveaway.