30 Stories of Diabetes Education: Colleen Farrell

Colleen Farrell


I was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic at 5 years old in August 1992. This year marked 21 years as a diabetic, and still going strong. Constant urination and extreme thirst were my symptoms. My parents knew something was wrong when we were on our way to a neighbor’s party. I had just gone to the bathroom before we left, and about 2 minutes later I had to go again and almost didn’t make it down the street. I missed over 100 days of school after the diagnosis.
My grandma had been a type 1 diabetic since she was in her 30s, and when my parents told her she said her heart was broken because she knew what kind of life I would have to live each day. My grandma passed away when I was in 3rd grade, but still to this day she is my inspiration for living a healthy and full life as a type 1 diabetic.
I started on a strict diet, poking my finger 10-15 times a day, and taking insulin shots. I was on shots until my freshman year of high school when I got a pump. The first time my doctor put the pump on me (in my stomach), I nearly passed out. I was terrified, but the pump has been the best thing for my diabetes. I feel so much better. It’s my mini portable pancreas.
I went to the American Diabetes Association’s Camp Can Do from 5-9 years old. After I graduated high school, I went back to volunteer as a camp counselor and eventually a camp teacher. This year marked my 9th year of volunteering. I love going to camp because it’s so refreshing to meet other people who are going through the same experiences I am, and also because it brings me great joy to be a role model for these young children. I was once those kids, so I understand firsthand what they are going through. Every year, I learn something new at camp from the campers and counselors. It has been a very positive experience for me.
I am now a 6th grade teacher and I enjoy teaching my students about diabetes as well. There are a couple of students in my school who are diabetics, and I am often their advocate, helping hand, and listening ear. I am grateful to be an inspiration and role model to them. I know how hard it was being the only diabetic in my school, so I hope to keep motivating them to do well.
The past 21 years have been a battle, but I’m a fighter. I would not be here today without the love, support, and energy of my mom, dad, sisters, boyfriend, and friends. I can never thank them enough. It hasn’t always been easy, but I hope that I can spread awareness and be an inspiration to others who are also fighting the good fight.