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Diabetes patient helps others thrive

January 25, 2022 | UCI Health
Jazmine Simon and her family helped create a UCI Health diabetes support group to help other patients like herself.

Her diabetes firmly under control, Jazmine Simon and her family founded the UCI Health Diabetes Support Group to help others manage their disease. Photo courtesy of SeaCliff Beauty

Nearly five years ago when Jazmine Simon was 15, a sudden onset of excessive thirst, weight loss and shortness of breath sent her to the doctor for help. She was stunned by the diagnosis: type 1 diabetes, sometimes called juvenile diabetes.

To survive, the teenager would need to take insulin daily and closely monitor her blood sugar levels.

Determined not to let the disease keep her from accomplishing whatever she sought in life, Simon has aggressively managed her condition.

And since 2019, she and her family have contributed funds to UCI Health to help find a cure for type 1 diabetes and create a free support group to help others who are coping with diabetes. UCI Health also offers a diabetes overview workshop ›

“I’m very fortunate because I have a supportive family,” says Simon, whose family owns SeaCliff Beauty, a cosmetics and skin-care packaging company for major brands such as Murad.

A deadly disease

Diabetes is a chronic condition estimated to affect more than 34 million Americans. But one in five people don’t know they have it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of U.S. deaths 2019, according to the most recently available statistics.

Diabetes affects how the body turns food into energy. Normally the body breaks food down into glucose and sends it into the blood. Insulin helps move that glucose into the body’s cells for energy and storage.

The problem arises when the pancreas isn’t able to make insulin, as is the case with type 1 diabetes, the least common form of diabetes that makes up 5% to 10% of all diagnosed cases. In type 2 diabetes, the body is unable to use insulin properly or produce enough of it.

Without insulin, the body’s cells are starved of essential fuel, leading to dehydration and destruction of body tissue. Long-term complications of diabetes can include heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and even lower-limb amputation.

A life-changing diagnosis

Diabetes can be managed to prevent those complications from occurring by replacing or managing insulin levels. But it requires a life-changing shift in eating and exercising, as well as careful monitoring of insulin.

“The doctors basically scared me into taking this very seriously by explaining the long-term complications of the disease if it’s not managed well,” Simon says. “As soon as I was diagnosed, I said, ‘I’m going to take care of this!’ ”

She approaches it as a time-management challenge, which requires faithfully monitoring her intake of carbohydrates and her blood sugar levels multiple times a day and injecting insulin after each meal. She also exercises five times a week, which helps keep her blood sugar levels stable and contributes to her overall well-being.

Family members also have her back, including 18-year-old brother, Jacob, who checks on her blood sugar levels routinely through an app on his phone.

Simon is so dedicated to staying on top of her condition that the nurse at her doctor’s office recently dubbed her their top patient.

“From day one, I thought, ‘I’m never going to let this hold me back from doing anything.’ Honestly, I’m doing more now than before I was diagnosed.”

Giving back

While on break from studying business in college, the 20-year-old San Clemente resident works in the family business. She also has developed her own line of tinted moisturizers, highlighters, lip products, a primer serum and mascaras under the name Jazmine Beauty.

A portion of Jazmine Beauty sales goes to UCI Health for research into a cure for type 1 diabetes and the support group, which Simon views as a way to help others with the disease.

“I’ve heard a lot of people with diabetes say they don’t see people who suffer with the long-term effects, like limbs dying or kidneys failing, so they don’t feel like it’s going to happen to them,” she says. “I hope I can help change their minds. The long-term consequences are not worth it.”

The free UCI Health support group, which Simon helps run, meets virtually every other month to share tips on how to successfully manage the disease and cope with the myriad challenges that can arise.

It is open to anyone with diabetes and their loved ones and participants receive a complimentary diabetes test kit case donated by Jazmine Beauty.