Durham, N.C. — Nancy Lelle-Michel works at Duke as a certified diabetes educator.
Once in a while, her female clients are overwhelmed by the impact of the disease and say to her, “You don’t know what it’s like to have diabetes,” she said.
That’s when Lelle-Michel pulls out “the diabetes card.” She’s a type 1 diabetic and a working mother. She’s been on an insulin pump for 18 years.
“It becomes part of your everyday life,” she said.
Dr. Diana McNeil, a Duke endocrinologist, has a similar approach with her patients.
“I often say to patients, ‘You need to know as much about your diabetes as I do,’” she said.
McNeil says pregnancy magnifies the effects of diabetes for women. She says doctors used to advise women with diabetes to avoid pregnancy – but that has changed.
“We are at a different point in our management of women with diabetes, so that we now do encourage women under excellent diabetes control to have children, if they wish,” she said.
Diabetes is just one of many health concerns with elements unique to women. That's why Kathy Kastan, director of the Women's Health and Advocacy Initiative, organized a regional women's health conference this week that will include entertainment, information and free health screenings.
“It's just very important that women take care of themselves, and we're so good at not doing that,” she said. The conference “is an opportunity to change behavior.”
The conference, called Stronger Together: A Women’s Health Community Event, will be Thursday through Saturday at the Durham Convention Center. Women who aren’t health care professionals should attend Saturday, when a variety of health screenings will be offered for free.
There is a $25 registration fee, which includes breakfast, lunch and an art show.