COLCHESTER, Vt. - Cassandra Falone is putting herself out there - on the basketball court for St. Michael's College and in her personal life - to bring awareness to Type 1 Diabetes.
The Chatham High's 1,000-point scorer will be in uniform for the St. Michael's College women's basketball team in its game against Southern Connecticut State on Saturday when SLAMT1D comes to the Ross Center for a Type 1 Diabetes Awareness Game.
SLAMT1D is a non-profit organization "committed to empowering people affected by T1D."
Falone, a junior guard for the Purple Knights, is the president of the St. Michael's Chapter of the College Diabetes Network.
"SLAMT1D does this a lot with younger kids, showing them you can have a normal life and don't have to stop playing sports," said Falone, whose daily routine includes a dozen blood sugar measurements through a subcutaneous monitor and half a dozen insulin injections.
"I didn't have anyone with diabetes to look up to, where I think it's good to give people an example that it's going to be fine. It's good to realize you're not just a diabetic, to know you can do other things. My parents did a good job of not obsessing over me being diabetic, and let me live my life and create my own identity."
Vermont-based SLAMT1D has held wiffle ball, basketball and corn hole tournaments and various other awareness events in an effort to accelerate and improve T1D education, connect the T1D community, raise funds for T1D programs and organizations, help children with T1D to attend camps and participate in sports activities and programs, and promote and support activities and sports programs for adults with T1D.
"Often those with T1D don't want the world to know they have this disease, despite the data that shows self-advocacy improves the psychological health of a patient and can very well save their lives in urgent-care circumstances, which do occur for every T1Der," Jeff Kolok, SLAMT1D CEO, said.
"So, when someone like Cass is willing to advocate for herself and others in this way, it can be game-changing and empowering for her and those who hear her message. We're all about using the games we love to play to spread awareness about Type 1 diabetes and to give those with it some fuel and ammo to be in the fight for their lives."
Kolok said the purpose of Saturday's event is to create awareness and education about Type 1 diabetes while also supporting Falone.
"What do people who are diabetic look like? You can't tell just by looking at them," Falone said. "That's part of why we're having the game, making people aware that it's a thing, and more people have it than you think.
"When I was 12 and found out I had it, my parents didn't know what it was, and I didn't know what it was. We went to the doctor and my mom said, 'I had a friend in college who had this, and you take a shot of insulin every day and you're fine,' but it's so much more complicated than that. And that's part of it: No one understands what it is. I think the awareness game will help a little bit."
According to SLAMT1D's website, T1D is a lethal, life-altering autoimmune disease that afflicts nearly two million people in the U.S. There currently is no cure and the number of annual diagnoses is on the rise. It is perhaps the only disease in which patients are required to monitor their condition constantly and make their own dosing decisions with a drug that, if improperly administered, can kill them. It is a dangerous and relentless 24/7 grind, and research shows that the vast number of people with T1D are failing to properly and safely manage their disease. With T1D, the body attacks its own insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. T1D is managed today by a rigorous regimen of monitoring glucose levels - either by pricking one's skin multiple times per day or wearing a subcutaneous continuous glucose monitor - and then administering insulin via injection or an insulin pump. While advancements in technology are working to automate this process, people with T1D and their caregivers must continue to play the role of a pancreas amid constant concerns of access and affordability of essential medication and equipment.