Brooklyn Blomgren keeps on dancing, from leaps in ballet to twirls for musical theater. Eleven classes a week don’t slow her down at StudioINC Dance Academy. Neither does Type 1 diabetes.
Previously called juvenile diabetes, the autoimmune disorder occurs when the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas so the body produces little or no insulin, a hormone that enables blood sugar to enter the body’s cells where it can be used for energy.
The 10-year-old often explains her condition to help others understand, and this year, she is Spokane’s JDRF Community One Walk youth ambassador. The fundraiser is scheduled as a live event at Riverfront Park at 10 a.m. Oct. 3.
“I was 2 when I was diagnosed,” Brooklyn said. “They noticed because I was drinking a lot of water. I went to the hospital. And for my brother, they knew I had diabetes, so they kept checking him.”
That’s her older brother Corbin, 13, who also has Type 1 diabetes. Brooklyn said having the condition doesn’t keep her from doing all the things she enjoys. Her many activities include doing art, crafting with Perler beads, hanging out with friends and having sleepovers. She started in dance at age 6.
“I’m taking ballet, musical theater, jazz, lyrical and another jazz and another lyrical class, also tap, and I’m taking ones on turns and leaps, production, flexibility and strength and conditioning,” Brooklyn said. “I never stop dancing. It’s a lot of fun. You get to bring your emotions out.
“My favorite dancing is lyrical. It’s kind of an emotional ballet with tricks like front walkovers, cartwheels and back-overs.”
Away from her dance schedule, the Westview Elementary student is promoting the walk each Saturday this month at Marshalls at NorthTown Mall. Brooklyn, with family and friends, will be at the walk, and they plan to raise funds as “The Blomgrenades,” with the theme to obliterate diabetes. Event donations go toward research and a cure.
Brooklyn has an insulin pump that is integrated with a continuous glucose-monitoring system, a device for tracking glucose levels at regular intervals and to alert if levels go too high or low. Both she and her brother have benefited from such newer technology that’s come a long way since early first pumps, their mother, Shelly Blomgren, said.
Eating what she wants isn’t a big hassle, Brooklyn said. Downsides include having to monitor blood sugar levels and tracking carbohydrates that she enters into her pump device. Continuously high blood sugar levels can lead to health issues, and if levels plummet, people can feel dizzy or confused or even lose consciousness.
Shelly Blomgren said Brooklyn manages her diabetes needs so well that her parents are mainly just a support.
“Before, they had a basic pump when first diagnosed, and it didn’t do anything; you pushed buttons, and it delivered insulin,” Blomgren said. “Now, you can adjust, and it’s connected to their (continuous glucose-monitoring system), so if they go high, it will give extra insulin, or if low, it will turn the insulin off or turn it down.”
When she was younger, Brooklyn’s favorite saying to people was, “I can eat everything but poison and cookies with poison,” which still makes her mom laugh.
“She has been advocating and educating for a very long time because there are a lot of misconceptions with diabetes,” her mother said. “She’s on a pump, so if she goes to birthday parties, she just inputs the carbs from eating a cupcake into her pump, and she’s good from there. The pump gives insulin when it’s needed.”
Brooklyn said the devices do help. “My pump lets me think a lot less about diabetes, and it’s connected to my continuous glucose monitor that I see on my phone.”
Added her mom, “It helps regulate her blood sugar. It’s very intuitive. For her, she types in however many carbs she’s eating, and her pump gives her insulin. Sometimes, there are other factors like she’s exercised, so maybe she doesn’t need quite as much insulin. This pump helps prevent highs and lows.”
However, Brooklyn and her mother said a cure would mean she and other kids wouldn’t have the constant mental chore of tracking around meals, along with other factors in diabetes care. Brooklyn said there also are times when she has to take a large dose of insulin and then has to wait to eat. “You might be starving,” Brooklyn said.
“It’s important to raise money so we can get a cure,” Brooklyn added. “The first thing I’d do if there was a cure is I’d not stop eating until I was full without worrying about the pump.”
When she and her mom recently talked about what it would be like to have a cure, what came up was that carefree ability to eat when hungry.
“She didn’t mention the site changes, which are needles, the finger pokes, the things that physically hurt,” Blomgren said. “It’s what takes away mentally day to day.”
“If your blood sugar is high, you have to give yourself a correction. She has to pull out her pump for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, so any time she wants to put food in her mouth that has a carb – and most food has carbs – she has to input that.”
At Westview Elementary, Brooklyn loves math, P.E., science, English and arts. She hopes to inspire other children with diabetes to go anywhere and do all their favorite activities.
“To other kids, I’d probably say that you can really do anything you want with diabetes. You can choose the places you go, and it doesn’t matter if you have diabetes. You can go around the world.”
She said anyone can show up for the upcoming walk to show support or donate. They also can get more information about Type 1 diabetes at the JDRF website. The nonprofit funds Type 1 diabetes research, provides community services and advocates for regulation toward medical research and approval of new and improved treatments.
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