Linda Levin Overcomes Obstacles
In honor of Diabetes Forecast magazine’s 70th anniversary, we’re profiling people whose lives have been touched by diabetes—and who have touched the diabetes community.
Linda Levin remembers very little of her life before diabetes—she was only 2 when she was diagnosed in 1956—but she does remember how diabetes made her feel isolated and alone. “When my brother turned 11, I couldn’t go to his birthday party because they were going to a malt shop and my blood sugar was high,” she says. “I remember jumping rope so I could get it down.”
As Levin grew older, she had trouble shaking off the limits that others—including misguided doctors—imposed on her because of her diabetes. But in spite of the naysayers who surrounded her, she was determined to live a full life. Levin was able to travel the world, studying for six weeks in Oxford and cruising down the rivers of Eastern Europe, among other adventures. And she’s made friends with others who have diabetes along the way. Lounging poolside on a trip to Mexico, for instance, “a man was sitting next to me, and when his CGM [continuous glucose monitor] started beeping, we began to talk,” she says. “He was so excited to share his blood sugar charts with me!”
Despite her first doctor’s attempt to dissuade her from having children, Levin persevered and found a health care team that supported her during her pregnancy. “My husband would call my [endocrinologist] at 2 or 3 in the morning if there was a problem,” she says. “My ob-gyn worked with him, and they watched me really carefully.” Levin also benefited from home blood glucose monitoring, a recent innovation at the time. “You had instant feedback in terms of what your blood sugar was and how to regulate it,” she says.
Levin’s interest in diabetes moved beyond the personal when she began training to become a marriage counselor and learned the extent to which psychological issues can affect people with diabetes. “When you’re depressed, you don’t want to manage your diabetes, so it gets out of control. It’s a vicious cycle.” As Levin began to learn more about the psychological burden of diabetes, she decided to do more to help other people with diabetes cope. Initially, she ran a support group for people with type 1 in San Francisco, and later she started her own counseling practice to help people with diabetes-related mental health problems.
While Levin has faced challenges because of her diabetes, she has learned some valuable lessons from it. “Since I have lived with type 1 almost my entire life, I understood the emotional highs and lows of living with diabetes and felt it was my calling to help other people with diabetes,” she says. Beyond that, living with diabetes has given her the strength to persevere. “It’s taught me that I can overcome struggles and challenges in my life,” she says. “It’s taught me to keep fighting.”