November is Diabetes Awareness Month and what better way to draw attention to the disease than with blue hair!
USF College of Public Health graduate student Matt Allman did just that this month when he sported bright blue locks for the month’s cause.
A 22-year-old MPH student, Allman has been living with type 1 diabetes for 12 years. He was first diagnosed at the age of 10.
“To me, having diabetes is like having a full time job that you never get paid for, except it’s every minute of every day, and you never get a break from it,” Allman said. “Having diabetes can be absolutely exhausting and bad days can cloud over everything and make you feel terrible.”
Still, Allman would not change his life journey of being diagnosed with diabetes at such a young age.
“The way I was raised taught me that even though I have more that I have to do every day just to be ’normal,’ it wasn’t a curse so much as a blessing,” Allman said. “I’ve had so many great experiences that I would not have had if I didn’t have diabetes. I’ve been able to participate in camps and conferences and I’ve met people that I never would have met otherwise. I’ve been able to get involved in the community and I believe that it has been an enriching experience.”
With regard to dying his hair a striking shade of blue, his goal is simple—“to get as many people to stop and ask me about it, so I can talk to them about diabetes and dispel some of the many myths and misconceptions that surround type 1 diabetes,” Allman said.
For starters, he takes issue with how diabetes is portrayed in the media.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about diabetes—especially type 1—that float around in the community and especially on television shows,” Allman said. “I’ve seen multiple occasions on popular television shows where characters would give insulin for a low blood sugar—which is the opposite of what should be done! When the media incorrectly portrays diabetes it is harmful to those living with the condition and breeds misconceptions.”
Allman found that public perceptions often lump all diabetics into the type 2 category.
“If I had a penny for every time someone told me I had too much sugar as a kid and that’s why I had diabetes, I’d easily have more than enough money to pay the entirety of my grad school tuition,” Allman said. “Many people don’t realize that type 1 is an autoimmune condition and that there was nothing that I could or could not have done to prevent it.”
Diabetics experience highs and lows as their blood sugar levels fluctuate. However, Allman has come to appreciate a different type of high and low not often attributed to the disease.
“Other lows would be fighting with my insurance company in trying to get my diabetes supplies and insulin covered. Living diabetes is very expensive,” Allman said.
In contrast, the highs include life lessons that most children and adults would benefit from learning.
“Diabetes has taught me to be self-sufficient, to time-manage, and to always be prepared for any potential situation that may come up. Having diabetes has taught me to appreciate the good times and to work through the bad times,” he said.
A two time Bull, Allman earned a bachelor’s degree in public health with a minor in infection control. In August, he began the MPH program with a dual concentration of epidemiology and global communicable diseases. His dream job since high school is to practice his passion with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an outbreak investigator.
When he’s not studying, Allman enjoys cooking and traveling. Plus, he’s an active member of several campus organizations, including Students with Diabetes.
“Spending time with my family and working to help others means a lot to me,” Allman said. “Having diabetes is a part of my life, but it is not my life. There is so much more to life than simply living with this disease.”
Story by Natalie Preston and Danyelle Arnow, USF College of Public Health
Tags: Department Global Health, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, diabetes, diabetes awareness, Matt Allman, National Diabetes Awareness Month, Students with Diabetes, Type 1 diabetes, undergraduate education