Diabetes Disabled Woman Seeks Business Grant To Publish Books For Children
by Stephanie Smith
(Aberdeen, North Carolina, USA)
My name is Stephanie Smith, and I am a 29-year-old single elementary teacher. I teach second grade at a Title 1 school in Aberdeen, North Carolina.
I have always had a passion for children, and a drive to seek out tough situations in order to make a difference in the lives of others.
While attending college I knew that my strengths were forever going to lead me down the road less traveled.
I have always had a will to work with students who are under-privileged, live in a low socio-economic area, and who are fighters in life, just like me.
Ever since I was 14 years old I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, with no family members diagnosed with diabetes before.
Throughout the years my diabetes got worse and not because of a lack of effort on my part, but because of the disease in general.
I knew at this point that my diabetes was going to be with me forever and the hopes of it miraculously going away would never be.
I remember hearing my mom and dad crying because they wondered where they had gone wrong, and they blamed themselves for my disease.
When I was 25 years old I was diagnosed with an under-active thyroid, or hypothyroidism.
If I only knew at that point my life would begin to get even harder.
I started gaining weight, and after gaining weight I would eat to help suppress my depressed feelings about how I looked.
Not long after that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was the biggest blow that I had ever taken.
At that point I had received my Associate’s degree and had been promoted to a restaurant manager where I was working part-time.
I decided that this was the best thing to do because my mom had to stop working immediately because of her cancer and my family needed my help.
I worked as a restaurant manager for a little over a year and gained some real-life experiences that I have carried on since then.
It was hard to let go of the unknown. I was too old for my parents to take me back under their insurance, and too expensive for me to take out Cobra (insurance) on my own.
It was going to cost me nearly $650 a month just to say that I had insurance. This doesn't include the cost of regular doctor’s visits, supplies and healthier food.
I had to take out personal loans in order to get the kind of money I needed to survive on, literally.
Even though that was a major concern, my mom going into remission was the best feeling in the world and I thought now I can move on with my life and fulfill my dreams of being a teacher!
Six months after being back in college my mom was diagnosed again with breast cancer and they took extreme measures at this point in order to stop the cancer from spreading.
I remember coming home at Christmas time and my mom crying in the bathroom because her hair was falling out.
She cried out to me to cut her hair off because her brush was stuck and it was pulling out nothing but huge clumps of hair.
Two months after graduation I landed a job in North Carolina as a fifth grade science teacher.
I was so grateful because there were no jobs in the teaching field at this time and I didn’t know how I was going to get insurance or pay for my diabetic supplies, or even remotely pay for the large loan debt that I had acquired.
The following year I got a job as a first grade teacher in the same school district.
I struggled financially and my parents were always there to try and help even when money was really tight for them.
I was just so excited to be able to go home on spring break to see them! I missed seeing them and I wanted to spend as much time with them as I could!
I arrived home safely, but now my mom was admitted to the hospital. Her cancer had taken a turn for the worse.
It was the hardest week yet. My mom was getting worse and they admitted her into Hospice.
At this point I wished I had been the one to die because, going to Hospice meant you were going to die.
I never left my mom’s side, and I held her hand the entire night she was there. I heard her take her last breath of air at 6:43am and I never let go.
For her I guess she had made it home, home to a life without cancer and a disease-free body.
Now what to do?
I went back to North Carolina to finish teaching for the year, and I was just numb.
Never do you think that life will get harder than the experience you last thought was difficult and grueling.
My diabetes and my life were in shambles and then to add onto that the previous struggles with money and loans… I just wonder when is it going to lighten up and get easier?
I have always used my experiences to drive me forward and to make me a better person by reaching out to others who have had faltered and struggled.
Working with the children I have in my school has allowed me to give the love that my parents have always shown me, to teach and understand their lives, and to show that even when we struggle those struggles make up better and we can rise above them.
So this is where I stand today and this is my life story.
I found out that I was a Type 1 diabetic at the age of 14, with no family members diagnosed with diabetes before. I found out that I was diabetic when I ran track in the eighth grade.
I was passing out consistently at my meets, and even during a race. I had twisted my ankle at one point when I had fallen.
After months of testing, they finally found out that I was diabetic.
I have struggled over the years with my A1C levels as high as 13. I have since been on the insulin pump and have found better control especially since they found a glitch in my body system.
Prior testing to setting my pump controls we found that my body will create high and low reactions with no food intake.
This was a breakthrough in my diabetes challenge because this was one of the reasons my diabetes was so out of control.
Once I started the insulin pump, I also found out that I had a hypoactive thyroid, which was a cause from having Type 1 diabetes.
Over time my diabetes has become more controlled with an A1C level around 7.9 and my thyroid disease is managed with medication.
The reactions that I have with or without food intake that cause my blood sugars to spike and bottom out have caused me to not perform to the expectations of "normal individuals."
I am still working and I will work as long as I am physically able to but pushing myself sometimes is something that I have to be careful with.
Knowing the signs of low and high blood sugars is imperative for me to be successful in my workplace and knowing when and how much is enough to correct the issue at hand.
I have had difficulties paying my bills over the past 2 years after I received my Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education.
I work as a teacher in a Title 1 school, and I teach in a state that has frozen the pay of its employees for the past 3 years.
With the cost of living increasing and my pay on hold for the number of years I have experience for, it has made it incredibly difficult to make ends meet.
I have worked as a tutor after school in order to make ends meet and to give myself the opportunity to have the funds to pay my bills on time.
When I went back to college I had to take out personal loans in order to cover my medical insurance, doctor's visits, and diabetic supplies.
My Cobra coverage cost me almost $650 a month besides my insulin pump supplies, and doctor's visits that were over an hour away.
With that being said most of my loans could not be put on deferment because they were private loans.
I have worked full-time in a public school system for the past 2+ years. I have also worked part-time as a tutor in the school system.
I am looking for grants that will allow me to cover the personal loans that I had to take out for my disability (over $25,000 in expenses).
I just want to be able to live a life that is not discredited because of a genetic illness.
I have also worked tirelessly to write children's books that will help others through my experiences.
I am also looking for a business grant that will help me launch these books and get them published.
I have also worked on publishing a couple books that I have wrote for children. I have a multi-cultural book and a book dealing with death and grievance.
These books are special to me because they have been what I have lived through throughout my life.
I would love to be able to publish these books, but the publishing fees are very expensive.
I have looked into a couple of publishing companies (Mascot, Xlibris) who charge from $1000-$2000 to publish and launch a book.
I would sincerely appreciate anything anyone can do to help me become an author.