Family Fights Teen’s Diabetes Together

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Fifteen-year-old Essence Carson’s entire lifestyle changed after one blood test last year.

“Her sugar level was way off the charts, so our pediatrician sent us to Children’s, where we met our lifesaver,” says Regina Frank, Essence’s mom.

That lifesaver, Ximena Lopez, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist, diagnosed Essence with Type 2 diabetes after a battery of tests. The diagnosis means that Essence is at risk for heart and blood vessel disease, nerve and eyedamage, and kidney and liver issues without proper care.

Mom and Kids Adopt New Lifestyle

Essence Carson and Mom, Regina

Essence Carson with her mom, Regina

Regina immediately educated Essence and her two siblings about the condition and how their lives would be changing — but she put it in a positive light and made it fun. “It’s a family project,” Regina says. “We go to Zumba workout classes and walk together.”

Grocery shopping changed, too. “I buy sugarfree cookie dough instead of ready-to-eat cookies,” says Regina. “That way, the unhealthy food isn’t right at our fingertips. I mean, who wants to sit and wait for cookies to bake?”

Regina didn’t do all this cold turkey “because the kids would sneak in unhealthy food if they felt deprived,” she says. Instead, she slowly incorporated healthy foods into their diets — gluten-free foods, brown rice and honey as a sweetener, for example.

Given the diligent steps taken by Essence and her family, the teen’s diabetes remains under control, and she has learned to manage it with a support system by her side. “We all do it together to keep Essence strong,” says Regina.

Regina’s Best Advice on Helping a Child With Diabetes

  1. Educate everyone in the house. “I bought books at each of my kids’ age levels about the condition,and we sat down together as a family to talk about it—so Essence’s brother and sister can look out for her and encourage her to stay on the right track.”
  2. Make diet and exercise a family affair.
  3. Moderation is key.
  4. Go slow. “Wean your family off of the unhealthy lifestyle day by day. Eventually the healthy tendencies become a habit.”
  5. Her top tip? “No soda in the house.”

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