BELLVILLE — Jodie Snavely can light up a room with her lively personality and beaming smile.
Because the Bellville resident’s zest for life is so apparent, it would be easy to assume that her life is all rainbows and unicorns. But daily she deals with the struggles of living with type 1 diabetes — a condition that, if not properly managed, can cause serious health complications.
Snavely, 52, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 18.
Prior to her diagnosis she experienced such symptoms as excessive thirst and urination, mood swings and hair loss, she said.
But it was a ruptured ovarian cyst that led her to discovering she had type 1 diabetes. Her blood test results confirmed the diagnosis.
“Mentally, I had no idea what I was in for. No idea,” she recalled. “I had no idea what diabetes was. I didn’t know what was going to happen in my life.”
Her doctor encouraged her to maintain a healthy diet, exercise, and to regularly check her blood sugar.
“Then I went off to college and was like, ‘I’m not checking my blood sugar,’” she said. She saw it as a hassle.
After she graduated, however, checking her blood sugar was no longer “optional” in her mind.
“My doctor told me to either straighten up or you’re going to die from this, so it was that that made me step back and understand what can happen from diabetes if you don’t check your sugar,” she said.
From then on she took it upon herself to check her blood sugar not just once, but 10 times daily.
“They recommend anywhere from 1-3 times daily to see where you’re at, but I took it so seriously when that doctor said, ‘You need to shape up.’ I was like, ‘I don’t want to die from diabetes, I want to live to be a very healthy person, and so I’m now going to do everything I possibly can to keep healthy,’” she said.
Keeping track of her blood sugar levels helps give her peace of mind, she said.
“I feel better knowing what my blood sugars are and keeping that in perfect control,” she said. “Is it always in control? No, because diabetes sometimes has a mind of its own. Emotions can take over, stress can take over, if I don’t have time to eat, if I get sick… Life gets in the way and you just have to do the best you can do to keep healthy.”
One of the ways she keeps healthy is with regular physical activity. Her go-to exercise is running, which she started doing at 30 years old.
Running outside in the winter can be a great form of exercise -- just make sure you take necessary precautions before lacing up your running shoes.
She typically runs 4-9 miles two or three times a week in the winter and five times a week in the spring, summer and fall. She also enjoys taking part in races and has completed eight half-marathons, three Tough Mudders, numerous 5K and 10K races, and one 24-hour relay race.
She set a personal record at her most recent half marathon in October with a time of two hours and eight minutes.
“I’m very competitive, so I was super excited that I got a PR,” she said.
Snavely takes extra care when training and preparing for races.
“I have to consider how diabetes will affect me for two hours while I’m running, so I have to think about where my blood sugars are at, what to eat before the race, how to fuel throughout the race and what to do afterwards,” she said.
The extra effort may seem like a burden to some, but Snavely said it’s just a normal part of her routine.
“I accept it and go with the flow,” she said.
She also says a prayer during her races that God would watch over her.
On top of exercise, Snavely prioritizes a healthy diet. She sticks to foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, fish and poultry, and doesn’t eat out much.
She also keeps in regular contact with her endocrinologist, Dr. Cynthia Dorsey of OhioHealth.
“I’m so thankful for her and her staff that keep me healthy,” Snavely said. “I see her every four months religiously.”
In the 34 years that Snavely has been diagnosed with diabetes, she hasn't suffered any complications from the disease, she said.
For over 20 years she’s worn an insulin pump, which is meant to mimic the functions of a pancreas.
“I call it my pancreas on the outside of my body,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a little machine that has a tube that goes into my body and I move that around every four days and it delivers insulin like your pancreas would,” she explained.
She also has glucose tablets handy in case her blood sugar were to drop.
When it comes to managing diabetes, she said, “You have to take it by the horns and take control of it. Is it easy? No, it’s not easy. It’s a 24/7 disease that I have to manage.”
But she’s thankful for the support she’s received along the way from family, friends and her physicians.
Keeping a positive frame of mind is all she knows.
“I had two choices when I was diagnosed: I could become depressed and say, ‘Forget it, I’m not going to deal with diabetes,' or I was going to take it by the horns and do the best I could do,” she said.
She credits her parents for helping her look on the bright side and to push past obstacles standing in her way.
She hopes to be like her grandmother who lived to be 99.
“She was not diabetic, but I want to be like my grandma and live a long, healthy life,” she said.
“Diabetes is not going to take me down.”