Teamwork x3 for T1D: A Story of Three Portland Sisters

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Feeling alone is a common reaction to being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), but not for the Ballew girls of Portland, OR.

Mara Stine and Troy Ballew have three daughters: Ayla, June, and Tessa. In 2013, their middle daughter June was diagnosed with T1D at age 3. They turned to her “Nana,” who lives in Great Falls, MT, and was rich with wisdom when it came to managing type 1 diabetes – she herself was diagnosed with the disease in the 1960s when she was 13 years old.  Mara and Troy thought they knew about the disease, having seen Troy’s mom manage it her whole life. However, once a child of their own was diagnosed, they faced a steep learning curve.

The story doesn’t end there. Shortly before Christmas of 2016, Mara noticed that her youngest daughter, 4-year-old Tessa, was moody and had a bedtime accident.  On December 25, it was clear something wasn’t right. Tessa was insatiably thirsty and making frequent trips to the bathroom. As Tessa dozed off, dreaming of her wonderful Christmas, Mara tested her blood sugar levels – the meter just said “HI.” Tessa was officially diagnosed with type 1 diabetes the next morning.

Mara and Troy’s oldest daughter, Ayla, was the only sister without T1D. She was a fierce protector and ambassador for her little sisters – especially when people questioned them about their insulin pumps or Dexcom sensors. “Do you know what type 1 diabetes is?” Ayla asked.  “Here, I can tell you about it.”

This August, the family learned that 12-year-old Ayla also has the disease. Now, these girls who have always been tight, are closer than ever.  Their bond is truly something special – unconditional, inspirational, and supportive. At 8, 10, and 12 the girls understand that they must think about a lot of things most people don’t, like 24/7 monitoring of blood-sugar levels, traveling with supplies and equipment, and counting carbs at every meal.  The sisters agree that type 1 diabetes is hard – but it’s easier when others know and can help. They are watchful and careful together … and fun and playful, too! The girls live full and beautiful lives with T1D, thanks in part to the progress JDRF supporters push forward.

Thanks to your generous support, every dollar we raise helps fuel critical T1D research. For Ayla, June, and Tessa – and the millions of others living with T1D – we fight to make it easier to live with T1D, and finally bring to our loved ones the cures they so need and hope for. The engine driving this mission momentum is the talent, inspiration and passion of the T1D community.

Please consider a gift to JDRF to Light the Way to a Cure. A 100% tax deductible gift from you today will help drive forward JDRF’s critical research projects to cure, prevent, and treat T1D.



Photo provided by Linnea Portrait Studio