Breaking Through Diabetes: An Interview With Tori Bender

By Randi Zuckerberg

September 19, 2017 5 min read

I had Tori Bender on my radio show, "Dot Complicated," to help raise awareness about diabetes. Bender is battling the disease herself and works to help others in the same position.

That's why I support this woman's work.

Tori Bender works as communications and outreach coordinator at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center — a world-renowned center for diabetes research and care. Bender is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is the proud mom of 6-year-old twins.

1) When did you realize you wanted to become an expert on Type 1 diabetes?

Soon after I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 8 years old, I realized I had the power to choose whether to wallow in self-pity or embrace a new normal. I chose the latter. My "expertise" is the result of 29 years spent learning, experimenting and trying my best to live a normal life with T1D, an autoimmune disease that destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.

My life with T1D requires frequent blood sugar checks, an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor, crazy amounts of carb counting and discipline. Today I am able to share my knowledge and help support others as the communications and outreach coordinator at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center.

2) How can patients tell the difference between a good doctor and when it's time to get a second opinion?

Do you feel in control of your diabetes? Are you aware of the latest tools and technology on the market? Are you receiving the multidisciplinary support you need to achieve your diabetes management goals? If you have diabetes, it is time to get a second opinion if you've answered "no" to any of those questions. A good doctor enables you to take control of your diabetes and provides the medical, technical and emotional solutions to thrive.

3) What is the most important advice people can follow to avoid diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, no matter what. Scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers play a role in the onset of T1D, yet those factors and triggers are unknown. The good news is that clinical trials are being conducted at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center and other centers around the country to look at ways to prevent, delay and reverse the progression of the disease.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and occurs when the body becomes insulin-resistant. It is commonly associated with obesity. Like T1D, T2D is genetic, and in most cases, it cannot be avoided for the long term. Some people with Type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose with diet and exercise, but many require insulin.

4) How has your own diabetes helped you be a better mother?

Type 1 diabetes has taught me how to be an advocate. It's a skill I put to use from the moment my twins were born five weeks early. Years spent navigating our health care system for my needs prepared me to take charge when the well-being of my children came into play.

My children are very aware of my Type 1 diabetes. We talk openly and honestly about all the "stuff" on my body and the gadgets in my bag. By involving them in the process, my children are learning firsthand that modern medicine is pretty fantastic. I am proud to be able to teach them that lesson.

When I was young, I watched my mother take action. She made sure my care team was in place, my prescriptions were filled, that I could go to camp and just be a normal kid. She inspires me to be a mother on a mission for my children.

5) What is the most inspiring part of being an outreach coordinator?

My proximity to the science! At the Berrie Center, I work amongst geniuses who are dedicated to treating diabetes and finding a cure. Berrie Center scientists are already curing diabetes in mice by using the skin cells from patients with diabetes at the Berrie Center and turning them into insulin-producing beta cells.

Through patient programs, events, our newsletter and social media, I have the ability to communicate all that goes on at the Berrie Center and strengthen our community. I've been on this journey for a long time. Nothing would be more inspiring than witnessing a cure for diabetes.

Randi Zuckerberg is the founder of Zuckerberg Media, a best-selling author and the host of a weekly business show on SiriusXM, "Dot Complicated." To find out more about Randi Zuckerberg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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