“There is a tiny adult living inside every child with type 1 diabetes.” This is a mantra that Regina Rochefort-Shirley has lived by her entire life. After being diagnosed at age 9, over 22 years ago, Regina only remembers life with diabetes and how fast it forced her to grow up. With a very supportive family always helping her along the way, she quickly realized that she would either need to sink or swim when it came to taking charge of this seemingly invisible disease. People who do not fully understand type 1 diabetes (T1D) have looked at her over the years and made the usual comments: “But you look good, so you must be in great control,” or, “You just have to watch what you eat, it’s that simple, right?”
It became Regina’s personal life-long quest to correct the misinformation that people have become all too familiar with when it comes to understanding diabetes as a disease. While Regina’s teenage years were not perfect, she knew that she wanted to use her knowledge of diabetes and health to make a difference in those around her. After graduating with her degree in Nutrition and Biology she became a Registered Dietitian and worked for the Barton Center for Diabetes, her home away from home, to really engulf herself in a cause that was so near and dear to her heart. Since then, Regina has held influential positions with an insulin company and a pump company, in an effort to educate both physicians and patients about the proper management of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and what it means to work hard in order to be as healthy and in as good of control as you can be. She strives to give a voice to the many patients who are afraid to push forward with their medical care, or even insurance issues, and give them ammunition to take charge of their own diabetes.
Over the years, Regina has taken her advocacy for diabetes to as many outlets as she has been able to. She has written diabetes and nutrition articles for various fitness newsletters and the Massachusetts Dietetic Association; she has volunteered to speak about diabetes at many different events, including being invited back to her alma mater, Framingham State College, each year to guest lecture on “Diabetes and Technology.” In 2010 Regina was invited to be the keynote Fund A Cure speaker at JDRF’s Granite Gala in New Hampshire (view her speech at www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCbhpU73FNY). She enjoys volunteering and speaking on behalf of JDRF whenever she can, and has also joined the New England Chapter’s Outreach Committee to share her perspectives as a dietitian and an adult with T1D.
More recently, Regina has embarked on an exciting social media project to hopefully connect her personal experience with her expertise in the fields of diabetes and nutrition to ultimately impact as many people as possible. She truly believes that there can never be enough support available for those struggling on a day to day basis with this disease. She created www.ServingUpDiabetes.com, an informative and often emotionally driven blog about the technical side of managing food and insulin, while also offering personal anecdotes about such things as managing pregnancy with diabetes, which tugs at the heartstrings of her readers. Regina is not afraid to wear her pancreas on her sleeve and also admit when she has bad days, or feels like giving up. What is most important to her is that the honest efforts of all of those fighting the fight everyday with diabetes are at least put in the spotlight when appropriate, to show those around us how incredibly important it is that we keep fighting for a cure, even if we make this disease look easy. As for that little adult in that 9-year-old body, she is proud of what she has accomplished and even more proud of what she is about to accomplish as a soon-to-be new mom who has defied the statistics of living with T1D.