Stacey Simms is an award-winning broadcaster and speaker. She is the host of the new podcast, Diabetes Connections, and has blogged since 2007 about her family’s experience with type 1 diabetes.
Stacey’s son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes one month before he turned two. Stacey has served two terms on the Board of Directors of the Charlotte Chapter of JDRF and donates all profits from her award-winning cookbook, I Can’t Cook, But I Know Someone Who Can, to the foundation. She is part of the Animas Heroes program.
Stacey was most recently the Healthy Living reporter for Time Warner Cable News Charlotte. For more than a decade, She hosted Charlotte’s Morning’s News on WBT-AM, the city’s top-rated morning radio news show. Stacey’s been named to the Charlotte Business Journal’s Forty under 40 and as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Mecklenburg County by the Mecklenburg Times.
In one word, describe your mood today.
In one word, describe how diabetes makes you feel.
Three words that describe your personality.
Confident, optimistic, smart
What are you most proud of?
I’m going to cheat and break this one down:
Personally, my children. My son is 10, my daughter is 13. At this age, they’re starting to learn who they are and how to navigate through life.
Professionally, it was hosting the top-rated morning radio news show in Charlotte, NC for a decade. Between that and my previous job as a morning TV anchor (in Syracuse, NY) I woke up at 3 a.m. for 13 years!
In terms of community, it’s the local Facebook group that I started. I brought a group of diabetes families together in my town (there were four of us) and as word got out, more people wanted to connect. There was no structure for something like this, so I created one. Two years later, we are about to hit 200 members who meet up, share information and support each other. It’s been a great local resource – I wish I’d had something like this when my son was diagnosed.
Who would you like to invite to breakfast?
No one. Not breakfast. Don’t talk to me before coffee.
Who would you like to interview?
Having spent my entire professional career interviewing news makers, there isn’t anyone I wouldn’t like to talk to. Starting Diabetes Connections (my new podcast) is really just a way to have conversations with people who fascinate me.
On my list? John Costik, the first person I saw who’d rigged up a remote monitoring system for his son’s CGM, also Dana Lewis and Scott Leibrand who created the DIYPS (Do It Yourself Pancreas System). The #wearenotwaiting movement is changing the world of diabetes management, I’m fascinated by it. I’d also like to speak with Ed Damiano, who leads one of the Bionic Pancreas projects. I’ll be reaching out to these folks for the podcast and hope to speak to them all this year.
I do wish I could interview the parents of the first children who received insulin. Imagine what they’d have to say! Wouldn’t you love to talk with Sir Frederick Banting? What was he thinking as he experimented on himself, taking one of the first human injections of insulin? What was it like to watch the people with type 1 diabetes recover when using insulin?
I could go on and on.
Which diabetes chore do you hate the most?
Insets have always been the most difficult part of our care, even more so than the Dexcom insertions, which don’t seem to hurt as much. The process has improved greatly since Benny was a toddler, but every few site changes it’ll hurt or he’ll just get nervous. I hate hurting him, even if it’s just for a second. However, I find dealing with insurance companies to be even more painful. We’ve changed companies four times in the last four years. Navigating the different plans is difficult and time consuming. Deductible, pharmacy benefit, durable medical goods, etc. I’m grateful for good health insurance, and for the means to pay for what we need, but this system is needlessly complex, and not just for people with diabetes.
Can you say anything good about diabetes?
Diabetes is an inseparable part of two people I love. My son has type 1 and my husband has type 2. The condition itself, of course, is nothing to love and I’m not one of those people who feels this is a blessing or was given to us “for a reason.” Diabetes can disappear tomorrow, thank you very much. But I do love how it’s brought out strength and empathy in both of my children and I’m grateful for the incredible caregivers and friends I’ve made along the way.
Who inspires you?
I’m so lucky. When Benny was diagnosed, I was hosting Charlotte’s Morning News on the radio, and I shared the diagnosis. Several people, adults with type 1, wrote and emailed to share their stories. A police officer, an executive, just regular people who were living well with type 1 diabetes. They all had the same message: don’t hold Benny back. They thanked their parents for making their lives as “normal” as possible and never making them feel that diabetes would limit them (or that it could or should be used as an excuse). That helped me make independence and confidence priorities for my child, even as I wanted to put him in bubble wrap and never leave his side. I think about those kind messages all the time, even now, more than eight years later. It was a real gift.
What are you afraid of?
The long-term diabetes complications are always there in the back of my mind. I’m comforted by the many studies that indicate this generation of children with type 1 will likely be the healthiest one yet. But, in general, the idea that my daughter is less than three years from her driver’s license scares me more than my son’s T1D!
What does ‘happy’ mean to you?
Hearing my kids laugh together. A good night’s sleep. A weekend away with my husband. A birdie on a par 3.
Last book you read?
I’m currently reading Forever by Pete Hamill (not Judy Blume). Before that, Losing Mum & Pup by Christopher Buckley and Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klein. Probably Storm of Swords for the third time. I am obsessed with the A Song of Ice and Fire books (on which the Game of Thrones show is based).
Singing in the Rain. Years ago, my sister and I taped it on the VCR(!) during a PBS pledge drive. We watched it over and over again.
What do you want to accomplish in the next year?
I’m about to launch my podcast, Diabetes Connections. I’d like to see it grow into a weekly talk show of interest to the diabetes community. Looking forward to a lot of fun conversations.
Words you live by?
Say yes and figure it out later!
Beach or ski vacation?
Beach. Skiing is fun but the beach is relaxing. My blood pressure goes down as soon as I have toes in the sand.
Has diabetes changed the way you parent?
I wasn’t a parent for very long for before diabetes; my daughter was five and my son wasn’t yet two when he was diagnosed. It drastically changed our parenting for about a month but then we went back to our normal. My husband thinks I baby the kids too much and I think he can be too tough on them. The main difference in how we treat our children is that my son definitely gets more attention. He’s always required more because of diabetes. I don’t apologize for that and I’ve had many conversations with my daughter over the years. It’s just reality for us. I do make sure she and I have a lot of time together, often alone. This summer, my children are each going away for a week, separately. I’m looking forward to having some one on one time with each of them.
Do you think there will be a cure within 10 years?
Nope. I was a medical reporter for close to 20 years. I’ve covered all sorts of diabetes “cure is almost here” stories (Remember the Glucowatch, back in the late 90’s? That was one of my first diabetes-centered news report.) When my son was diagnosed, I was very skeptical. For years, we raised money for JDRF, we told him, for “better treatments.” We didn’t talk about a cure when he was a toddler; I didn’t want to give him false hope. More recently, I’ve told him about smart insulin and the artificial pancreas projects in development. Of course, I hope there’s a cure and I do believe it will come someday. In the meantime, I hope diabetes management will be largely automated with an artificial pancreas or encapsulation when Benny’s an adult. Less mental time and energy devoted to diabetes would lift a huge burden on people with diabetes. It would make their parents pretty happy, too!