News Anchor Wakes Up to Diabetes
ABC News 10 Sacramento anchor Keba Arnold deals with diabetes
The day Keba Arnold started her first news reporting job and the day she got her type 1 diabetes diagnosis have one defining characteristic: They forced her to sink or swim. In both cases, she rose to the occasion.
Unlike many news anchors in the business, Arnold says she was a “late bloomer.” Although she majored in communications at the University of Georgia, she took a few years off after college to figure out her life. During this time she moved home to Los Angeles, where she worked as a substitute teacher and went on acting auditions. She even had a small role in the soap opera The Young and the Restless. When she turned 25, she had a panicked moment of realization and thought, “Oh my gosh, I need a career.”
In a frenzy, she sent out 50 demo tapes, and was hired as a news reporter at a TV station in Waco, Texas, in 2003. “It was truly one of those sink or float situations,” says Arnold, “and I guess I floated.”
While Arnold had learned about broadcast news and television in college, she didn’t have the same hands-on experience as journalism students whose professors explained the ins and outs of full-scale news shows. “I was a little bit different,” she says, “but I loved it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
After cutting her teeth in broadcast news in Waco for several years, Arnold did a brief stint as a Sacramento-based reporter before she was hired to work at a Boston TV station, where she stayed for three years. In 2010, she moved back to her home state of California to join ABC News 10 in Sacramento as a coanchor for News 10 Good Morning and News 10 at 9, two local morning news shows.
Dealing With a Misdiagnosis
For several months in 2013, Arnold experienced signs of diabetes that she wrote off as part of her hectic schedule. “I was very tired, extremely fatigued, but I have crazy hours,” she says. “I thought, ‘I’m tired because I get up at 1:40 in the morning and get to work at 3 a.m. [because] we have a show at 5.’ ”
She was also very dehydrated and was getting up two to three times per night to go to the bathroom. “I was taking gallon jugs of water upstairs so I wouldn’t have to go back downstairs to get water,” she says. She figured she was urinating a lot because she was drinking so much water. She also had chronic yeast infections, which she wrote off as something that just happens to certain people. “I kind of ignored the symptoms, because you can live with that,” she says.
Then she had a blood test, part of an incentivized screening program through her health insurance. “In June of last year, those results came back high enough to be classified as diabetic,” she says.
Her doctor’s first diagnosis: type 2 diabetes. She was put on metformin, and for a few months her numbers improved. But she and her family suspected the diagnosis was wrong, particularly because Arnold’s older brother has had type 1 diabetes for 26 years.
By November, the metformin had stopped being effective, and Arnold noticed her numbers worsening—something she planned to mention during her next doctor’s appointment. A woman in the online diabetes community, whom Arnold met on Facebook, encouraged her to get a GAD65 antibody test to see if, in fact, she had type 1 diabetes. “Talk about self-advocating,” she says, “I was the one who told my doctor I [wanted] this particular test.”
When the results came back on June 25, 2014, the test was positive for autoimmune diabetes, or type 1.
Working Through the Emotions
Her lowest point came that same day when she went to the pharmacy to pick up her insulin for the first time. “I was in the car just crying after I left my doctor’s office,” she says. “I have hours-old makeup on, I have mascara smeared down my face, and I get in line and my [credit] card is declined.” Her bank had put a hold on her card because it seemed unusual that she would be spending $300 at CVS.
“So now I have to call the bank,” she says. “I’m barely holding it together, and the woman behind the counter recognizes me from the news and wants to start chitchatting about the show!” Arnold can laugh about it now, but at the time she was horrified. “I think that was my worst, most emotional day,” she says.
Two weeks later, an incident occurred that forced her to take a three-week medical leave to figure out how to deal with her diagnosis and administer her insulin correctly.
“I was in the middle of a show, and I asked my coanchor, ‘Hey, can you see that?’ ” she says. The prompter, which Arnold relies on to read the news during her segment, was unfocused. “My blood sugar was so high I had blurry vision.”
The experience scared her into a light-bulb moment: She had to take control of her diabetes management in order to feel comfortable doing her job. Arnold has shows at 5 a.m., 9 a.m., and some days at 11 a.m., and she has to be “on” while working.
“I have to be in tip-top shape, and I wasn’t,” she says. “I was worn out. I was getting blurry vision. I was exhausted, and I knew I had to do something.”
Taking Medical Leave
Arnold is on two different types of insulin—long-acting Lantus, which she takes twice a day, and rapid-acting NovoLog, which she takes at every meal—and during her medical leave, she learned how to correctly administer a dose. She says the biggest challenge is going through the process at every meal: testing her blood glucose and figuring out how much insulin she needs in order to cover the carbohydrate in her meal. “That was my problem, at first,” she says. “I wasn’t giving the correct amounts, and I would go extremely low, and then I’d be too high. Those swings are very hard on your body.”
Despite her fears, Arnold shared her struggle with the diagnosis—and the raw emotion that came with it—in a series of videos she posted on Facebook. The support she got from the diabetes community surprised her. “The outpouring of support from this type 1 community [here in Sacramento] is amazing,” she says. “So I would say that has helped too.”
She says the more she shared, the more she felt empowered to share, particularly because she has a platform as a news anchor. “This is just one small way I can use my voice to spread awareness,” she says. “I might as well use it to let people know we need to find a cure.”
Accepting a New Normal
It took some time for Arnold to realize diabetes happened through no fault of her own. This, she finally understood, was just something she had to deal with from here on out. After she came to terms with the diagnosis, her diabetes care started to improve. “I started talking to my brother a lot,” she says. “Like, ‘Oh, I’m about to have a turkey sandwich and chips, how much insulin should I give?’ ”
Since then, she says it’s gotten easier to figure out how much insulin she needs to cover most foods. She carries her supplies in a little pouch that goes with her everywhere, and she stashes extras in places she frequents. She has glucose tablets in the pouch, on her dresser, and at work in case of emergencies, and her coworkers know when she needs to take a couple. But glucose tablets are more of a necessity than her food of choice when it comes to treating hypoglycemia.
“I love Ritz crackers,” she says. Of course, it’s tougher to fit such glucose-boosting favorites into an eating plan when hypoglycemia isn’t an issue. Portion control is difficult, and sometimes she says she will eat 15 to 20 at a time without realizing it. “That’s my snack food, but they boost you so high,” Arnold says. “So that’s been a tough one.”
Arnold says that when she looks back on her sobbing self in the pharmacy parking lot, she now feels strong, like she can get through anything. She says it’s empowering to know she can take care of her diabetes and still be successful. You can still work and live your normal life, she says—it’s just a new normal. “Look at what I’m doing,” Arnold says. “I’m doing a two-hour show and then going into the bathroom to inject insulin. You know you can manage it.”