Sara Sklaroff, former Editorial Director of Diabetes Forecast, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes the day before the 9/11 attacks. At the time she was working as the Culture Editor for US News World Report, and says “I spent the first two days of knowing I had diabetes watching TV.” Part of her job was to stay informed of the events, and this meant obsessively watching news coverage. The timing of these life-changing events, both globally and personally, set Sara on a course to raise awareness about diabetes. She is doing that now, using her voice and her journalistic talents, to offer people with diabetes a “Helping Hand.” Her recent article, On Our Own, Why We Who Struggle To Live With Diabetes Could Use A helping Hand, in Health Affairs details the challenges of living with diabetes and offers suggestions for systemic change.
The diagnosis of type 2 diabetes at 30 years old came as a surprise to this busy career woman, but Sara says looking back on the years leading up to her diagnosis, she recognizes some red flags.
“Every afternoon when I was walking home from work I’d feel shaky,” she says. “I’d stop at a bakery and carbo load and then I’d go home and fall asleep for a couple hours. It was a terrible cycle.” A change in doctors lead to the diagnosis and she was started on Avandia. She now manages her blood sugars with insulin, metformin, exercise and healthy eating.
A ‘series of fortunate events’ lead Sara to a week at Canyon Ranch for a diabetes program, where she says she learned how much she didn’t know about the complexities of diabetes.
“I worked with Dr. Alan Moses who became my guru,” she says. “I’ve learned so much from him about the science, history and management of diabetes, and it started me thinking about people who don’t have these resources. Even the people at Canyon Ranch who had access to education and support were struggling. That’s the thing I love about cultural journalism; it allows me to get into worlds that are inaccessible and communicate what I learn to a wider audience.”
This was a turning point for Sara who realized that she wanted to communicate the scientific information about diabetes to the general public. Then, fate interrupted, and she got a call from Diabetes Forecast.
Sara worked as the Editorial Director from 2006-2011 and stepped down last summer to spend more time with her young daughter. “The decision was wrenching,” she says. Her work at the magazine was rewarding and she felt that she’d accomplished her goals of transforming DF into a “Lifestyle Magazine,” but it was hard to leave. (So hard to leave in fact that she has stayed on as Editor at Large.)
(A side note here, I remember the old Diabetes Forecast, before Sara came on board and I was never a fan. The magazine didn’t speak to me as a young woman with diabetes, it felt dated and depressing, and I was not a subscriber until she took over the helm!)
“I wanted to cover diabetes like Yoga Journal covers the ‘culture’ of the yoga lifestyle, and focus on the culture of being a diabetes person—issues, science, tips on storing meds—all the different aspects of living with diabetes.”
Sara succeeded in turning DF into a compelling lifestyle magazine, writing some especially inspiring columns on living with diabetes that speak to me as a woman with type 1. She still writes columns for the magazine, and one of my favorites is: A Question of Health. In it she asks whether she is “sick” because she has diabetes. Sara writes: day to day, it’s important to me—given how often I have to think about my disease—to consider myself healthy. And I am happy when I feel healthiest, swimming around in the pool with my daughter, jogging laps in the park, taking walks with my husband.
Sara continues to write from home and we are lucky for it. Her ideas about ‘fixing the image problem’ for diabetes will help people change the way they think about diabetes. This is a smart woman with diabetes.