Making Lemonade from Lemons: Meet Kate Beaulieu of Sugardrop Sweetwear

Jun 23, 2020, 04:21 AM

By Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE 

The expression, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” encourages optimism and positivity in the face of life’s challenges. For sure, the diagnosis of diabetes can be a life challenge. For our Tandem Blog series, Making Lemonade from Lemons, we profile people with diabetes who’ve squeezed lemons from the diagnosis of diabetes and made lemonade - they exemplify this expression. These individuals make living with diabetes just a bit easier for everyone and show the world just how well they can live. This profile features Kate Beaulieu, a 15-year-old who is already making a difference. Kate has lived with diabetes for 3 years. She resides with her family in Ottawa, Canada. Soon after her diagnosis Kate founded Sugardrop Sweetwear, a line of diabetes awareness clothing and jewelry. 

Q1. Hope: Please share a few details surrounding your diagnosis and why you’re so committed to making people aware of the early signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes? 
Kate: In early 2017 I was sick for a long time, but it was flu season, and a lot of my friends were also sick. They got better, but I did not. I had no energy, missed weeks of school and competitive dance classes. Despite several visits to my doctor, her diagnosis remained the flu. Soon I began experiencing the symptoms of diabetes – unquenchable thirst, frequent urination and fatigue. Eventually I had blurry vision and began vomiting. My parents were worried and insisted on blood and urine tests. The results revealed type 1 diabetes. We missed the signs and symptoms of diabetes because we didn’t know them. This experience raised our awareness. Now I want to people to know the early signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes because the diagnosis is often missed. When it’s missed people can get sicker than they need to be and, at worse, it can be fatal. I don't want anyone else to go through what I and my family did.

Q2. Fast forward. Tell us how you fit diabetes into your life today?
I embraced managing my diabetes right away. Within three weeks of my diagnosis my endocrinologist prescribed a Dexcom CGM. The added glucose data helped my parents and I manage my diabetes better at home, in school, or during dance competitions. Access to CGM data also helped me regain my independence and get back to sleepovers with friends. In June of 2019, I started using a t:slim X2 insulin pump instead of multiple daily injections. The pump gave me even more freedom. Lastly, just after my diagnosis I began using social media to connect with others with diabetes around my age. Getting to know them made a big difference in my outlook on life. 

Q3. When, why and how did you become inspired to start Sugardrop Sweetwear, the diabetes awareness clothing line you founded?
Early on, as I was getting used to checking my blood glucose, my mom would remind me to draw a drop of blood. She used the words, “Kate, it’s time to get a Sugardrop.” I told her I thought it was a cool name for a company that could raise diabetes awareness. She agreed. Soon after that conversation we made a few prototype t-shirts for my upcoming 12th birthday party. My friends loved them. A few months later, when I was raising money for our first JDRF walk, my mom and I made Sugardrop t-shirts to sell at our garage sale. I knew we were onto something when we sold out fast. From this point Sugardrop Sweetwear began to grow. We created our tag line, “One Sugardrop could save a life. Your life.” The brand’s goal is to make everyone aware of the signs and symptoms of diabetes and that it only takes one drop of blood to get your glucose measured. Sugardrop products are for everyone. The more people who wear them, the more diabetes awareness will spread.

Q4. How has Sugardrop Sweetwear grown since you started it? How do you want it to grow?
We began with t-shirts and a heat press machine on the island in our kitchen. As the brand grew, we partnered with a company that helped us find a vendor to put the imprint on products and help develop the website. We started out with t-shirts, hoodies and hats. We’ve added more products including jewelry and bathbombs that I make at home. Once the Sugardrop Sweetwear website was launched, I got some media attention including interviews on local TV and diabetes-focused magazines. The support was truly incredible! Over time, my social media following has grown, and we now ship our products all over the world. So far, we’ve donated a portion of our profits to JDRF Canada and Diabetes Canada. We’re continuing to look for ways to give back to the diabetes community. Looking ahead, I want to continue to raise awareness and would love to get my clothing and jewelry into retail stores one day. However, for now I have my hands full with orders for products, school and dance.

Q5. How has Sugardrop Sweetwear opened the door for you to meet other kids and adults with diabetes?
Through social media, local diabetes events and conferences I’ve connected with so many kids and adults. When people ask about my clothing or buy something, we usually share diagnosis stories or they tell me about someone they love with diabetes. It helps me to talk to people who understand what I’m dealing with especially when I am having a bad day. Some of my best friends are kids that I’ve met at diabetes camp and conferences. We connect at least every week.

Q6. How do you suggest people discover opportunities to engage locally, nationally or internationally to connect, participate in and serve the diabetes community?
Get involved! The biggest reason I embraced my diabetes is because I got involved very early. Sugardrop Sweetwear came to be because I was raising money for my first walk. This led to my becoming a JDRF Canada ambassador and attending local events annually. These connections led to speaking invitations at JDRF Canada and Diabetes Canada conferences and to volunteer at events. Since my diagnosis my mom and I have attended the Children with Diabetes (CWD) Friends for Life (FFL) Conferences in Orlando and Niagara Falls where we’ve learned what's new in type 1 diabetes and get management tips. Most importantly, it gives me and my mom opportunities to connect with others like us. I encourage people to look near and far for diabetes events to attend (in person or virtually) and ways to connect. For example, Beyond Type 1 and Connected in Motion have regular online events and meetups. Beyond Type 1 also has a cool app to help you connect with people with type 1 diabetes all over the world.

Q7. As you get older what do you envision yourself doing in the diabetes community to continue to support awareness and other efforts?
I want to continue to grow my brand along with my social media following and use these vehicles to inspire and connect with as many people that I can. I will continue to be involved locally with JDRF Canada and attend events. Also, I’ve set a goal of working as a volunteer for the kids program at CWD FFL annual conferences. Diabetes is now part of who I am so I will always want to be actively involved in spreading awareness.

Q8. Please share your words of wisdom to other PWD your age who are inspired to make lemonade from lemons?
So far diabetes has not stopped me from doing anything I want. I live my life with more purpose now than before my diagnosis. I want others to know the diabetes community is filled with many opportunities to help and inspire others. 

 

If you’re a person who believes you’ve made lemonade from your diabetes diagnosis, or if you know someone who has, let us know at community@tandemdiabetes.com for a chance to be featured.

Author Bio: Hope Warshaw, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She has spent her career involved in diabetes care and education and has authored several books published by American Diabetes Association (ADA), including Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy. She was President of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) in 2016. She actively and passionately promotes the value of peer support to people with diabetes, caregivers and healthcare providers. 

Hope Warshaw was compensated by Tandem Diabetes Care for her contribution on this topic. However, she created the content and it is based on her personal knowledge, experiences, and observations.

From time to time, we may pass along: suggestions, tips, or information about other Tandem Insulin Pump user experiences or approaches to the management of diabetes. However, please note individual symptoms, situations, circumstances and results may vary. Please consult your physician or qualified healthcare provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment. Please read this Important Safety Information before using a Tandem Diabetes Care product: tandemdiabetes.com/safetyinfo.