Nearly her whole life, Quince Orchard biology teacher Sarah Schlenker has fought to make sure she wasn’t viewed as different.
When Schlenker was 8-years-old she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, she said, a disease in which the body doesn’t produce insulin and prevents sugar from being broken down in the blood stream.
“It’s pretty much all I’ve ever known,” Schlenker said. “I’ve been very outspoken my whole life. I’ve just explained [diabetes] and educated people.”
In the spring of 2010 Schlenker took the fight to QO, forming the school’s Diabetes Awareness Club along with some of her students who also suffer from Type 1 Diabetes.
The club’s three primary officers are all diabetic, Schlenker said. It’s other 10 members, while not diabetic, have a close relative or know someone who is affected by the disease.
Sam Fryzek, a QO junior and Diabetes Awareness Club officer, was diagnosed when he was 13, he said.
“I was living in California at the time so I went to the children’s hospital there,” Fryzek said. “My symptoms [were] urination, I was really thirsty, and I was diagnosed at a pretty low blood sugar, 150-160.”
Normal blood sugar levels should be between 80 and 120 milligrams per deciliter, Schlenker said.
One of the most common misconceptions about Type 1 Diabetes is that those who suffer from the disease can’t eat sugar, the biology teacher said. Type 1 diabetics can eat sugar; they just need to regulate it with an insulin pump.
“We could eat an entire cake if we want to,” Schlenker said. “It’s not good for us, like anyone else, but we just do insulin. We don’t have to stay away from anything.”
The group held a bake sale earlier this year to raise money and awareness, selling the exact treats people believe they cannot eat. Schlenker even went so far as to write on a sign at the sale that Type 1s can eat sugar, she said.
Along with the bake sale, the group has sold t-shirts and hosted Battle for the Cure fundraisers at QO football home games. Fryzek and the school band also held a competition to see which band sections could raise the most money for the club, he said.
In total, Schlenker estimates they’ve raised more than $3,400 and plan to donate the money to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. They plan to walk in the June 9 JDRF Walk at RFK Stadium as the culminating event for the year, Schlenker said.
Prior to the walk, the club will host a Zumbathon at QO on April 28. Hosted by a former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader, the club hopes to raise money and awareness through a two-hour dance marathon.
“We’re just going to charge $15 at the door,” Schlenker said. “I’m so excited.”