In just a few days, Jaclyn (Hunter) Cope will be a high school senior looking forward to all the festivities senior year brings. It’s a good place to be for any teen, much less someone who has been dealing with Type 1 diabetes for 10 years and now helps others cope with the condition.
“There’s a lot of mentoring,” she says. “I was diagnosed right before I turned seven. I had been in gymnastics. Even though I was exercising and I was eating, I was constantly losing weight. I was thirsty constantly, had fruity breath, constantly going to the bathroom and I had fatigue.”
Her father took her to a pediatrician and they sent her to the hospital.
“I was in ICU for three days and two nights,” she says. “I don’t remember a lot of the very beginning of it. I remember bits and pieces. Those are still very scary bits and pieces.”
These days, she keeps her diabetes under control. She switches back and forth between the insulin pump and shots. Because of her experiences, she mentors others who are newly diagnosed. The most recent is the daughter of a family friend.
“I told her about this international diabetes conference I go to every summer,” she says.
Cope answers questions about aspects of dealing with diabetes from questions about the insulin pump to what’s the best thing to do in the middle of the night.
The desire to give back to the diabetes community may stem from the fact that she and her family received mentoring when she was first diagnosed.
“I wasn’t very aware of it at the time, but my parents were being mentored by others,” she says. “Now that I’m older, I’m helping with the newest kids.”
Being diabetic doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy life just like everyone else.
“I do my best to make sure it doesn’t interfere with my life,” she says. “We believe we control diabetes. We do what we can to stay in control of our lives and not let it get us down.”
Staying in control takes the help of family and friends and her service dog. She doesn’t take the dog to school because there are many different odors that could affect her nose.
“We use her mainly for when I’m home in the middle of the night,” she says. “She’s great in the middle of the night so my parents don’t have to wake up. She even knows if my blood sugar starts dropping.”
If the dog detects a problem, she’s been trained to go to the closet person in the house if she can’t wake Cope up.
Her service dog, Diva, is aging so Cope, her mom and Diva are training a new dog, Sadie.
At school, she’s in Thespians, so she does a lot of after-school events, working behind the scenes backstage or taking tickets.
She participates in Diabetes Research Foundation fundraisers like the walks and the annual event at the Fresh Market in the Grove. She recently added the Tour de Cure 25-mile bike ride sponsored by the American Diabetes Association.
In 2009, Cope went to a Children’s Congress with a large group of diabetics to talk about successful diabetes programs. While there she went to a Senate hearing, met President Obama and met with senators and representatives. The lobbying was successful and the measure passed.
She has started the college search and is considering the University of Florida, the University of North Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University. She hopes to be a nurse anesthetist.
By Linda Bernfeld Rodriguez