Live. Work. Play: Tamei’s Diabetes Story

By American Diabetes Association

Working for the American Diabetes Association® means making a difference for millions of people and working toward a future free of diabetes and all its burdens.

We all have a story to share. Some of us live with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes or prediabetes. Others have loved ones with the disease o
r have lost someone to the fight.

The following are personal stories from the Association’s staff about why we are so committed to the mission to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

Tamei Elliott
Associate Coordinator, Treasury Services
Home Office (Alexandria, Va.)

Before writing this post, I thought about all of the undesirable experiences I’ve had with my type 1 diabetes. I then remembered that I want to encourage and inspire those who already know what it’s like to have a low blood sugar, followed by a high blood sugar.

You know, when you’re low and you overeat because your main goal is to raise it up—but then you feel terrible for overcompensating because you know the negative results of high blood sugar. And then you feel sick, nauseous and tired from the swings in blood sugar, from the two events happening back to back.

Anyway, life with diabetes is a process and every day is not going to be perfect. That is one lesson I am still learning.

Diagnosed at age 16, I decided that the only way to tackle this beast was to educate myself as much as possible on the disease. Nutrition plays a very important role in diabetes education and that is the sole reason why I pursued my bachelor’s degree in nutritional science. As I grew with the disease, my understanding of it grew too. I didn’t want to stop there, so I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in biotechnology. After all, the development of insulin was one of the earliest uses of biotechnology in pharmaceutical manufacturing and it’s the reason why I am alive today.

In my free time I host seminars about healthy eating on a budget and nutrition classes that concentrate on diabetes education. I like to focus on youth from rural areas because they truly are the future and often have the most to learn about diabetes. I’ve taught many classes where I’ve heard, “You’re a diabetic? You’re not fat, though.” And then there is the infamous, “My grandma said you get diabetes from eating too much sugar.” I believe that if they have a better understanding of nutrition and how it connects directly to managing diabetes and preventing type 2, it could potentially save their lives or the lives of their loved ones. And nutrition is just one important aspect of diabetes; there are also the complications to think about.

Diabetes and depression go hand-in-hand, and I personally battle with it on a daily basis. There needs to be more awareness, information and resources on how to cope with the two—each alone is difficult enough to deal with. One way I do is through music. DJing has become my creative outlet. For me it is a form of healing. If you experience the same distress from diabetes or another chronic illness, I encourage you to try and find something similar, whether it’s through art, dancing, singing or whatever you may enjoy.

Working at the American Diabetes Association has been life changing. I’ve been part of the treasury department for two years and have never worked with such a great and passionate team. They work for the mission, for me and for millions like me all around the country. I am so proud to know them and the many others who work for the Association. The people here are inspiring and when I’m feeling down, I am constantly reminded why I should keep going.

I want to share my story not to boast about my accomplishments, but to show others like me that it’s possible to pursue your dreams. Know that you are not alone and that you have the strength inside you to push through. You just have to believe in yourself. We have an entire Association that believes in all people with diabetes and works daily so that we can live a better life with diabetes.

Everything is possible. You just have to put forth the hard work to get there—and don’t forget to smile and check your blood glucose levels in the meantime.

To learn more about nationwide employment opportunities and life at the Association, please visit


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