Langford resident Jessica Koch has been on a long journey since being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 21. But it’s been a journey that connected her with the JDRF and now she’s the Victoria manager

Type 1 diabetes diagnosis alters life’s journey

Young mother changes careers for better life balance

November is national diabetes awareness month, but for those that live with it, every month brings new awareness.

Langford resident Jessica Koch was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 21, about 14 years ago. At the time she had been focusing on a new diet and exercise regime. “When I started losing weight I assumed it was because I was exercising so much,” she recalled in a recent interview with the Gazette.

She attributed her extreme thirst to that exercise and believed her constant need to urinate was a factor of all the water she was drinking. While all are textbook symptoms of Type 1 diabetes, they can be easy to dismiss and as Koch said, “in my head, it all made sense.”

It wasn’t until her sister, whom she was living with at the time, pointed to a diabetic co-worker who had similar symptoms, that Koch started thinking something else might be wrong. “(But) they initially diagnosed me with Type 2,” she said, mostly due to her age at the time.

While it was originally referred to as juvenile diabetes, Type 1 has lost the juvenile descriptor, as it wasn’t representative of the disease or those burdened with it. However, many individuals are still in the dark about the differences between the two types and how they are treated.

In those with Type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that release insulin, eventually eliminating the body’s natural production. Without it, cells cannot absorb glucose, which is needed to produce energy, among other things. Type 1 cannot be prevented and those affected are insulin dependant.

In Type 2 diabetes, formerly referred to as adult-onset or non insulin-dependent diabetes, the body is unable to use insulin the right way and as Koch noted, it can be treated with diet, exercise and/or oral medication.

“I eventually ended up in the hospital for a proper diagnosis,” she said, after becoming painfully aware of the differences. “I had to sort it out on my own and it was okay at first.”

But she remembered hitting a wall after a couple years. “As an adult, there are some places that are better equipped than others,” she said. While many programs are geared towards children that present with the disease, she noted, sometimes there are limited supports in place for adults.

Koch moved to Victoria from Calgary when she was 25 to finish her undergraduate degree. “I had been Type 1 for three or four years,” she recalled. But she didn’t know many people who had been diagnosed in adulthood.

After corresponding with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation – now known worldwide simply as JDRF – she worked for the organization as a summer student and has worked or volunteered with them ever since.

The foundation was started by a group of parents in the U.S. more than 40 years ago and has morphed from being mostly a support system to now also focusing on raising funds to find a cure.

“The organization funds really high-level research around the world,” Koch said, adding some of that work is taking place in B.C. and Canada. “There’s no cure yet, but there’s been huge improvements in treatments.”

Koch is now manager of fundraising and development for the Foundation’s Victoria arm, a position she’s held since August. Before that she was working in downtown Victoria as a family lawyer doing litigation.

In 2015, her son was born and “it got to be really tough,” when she returned to work after maternity leave. “Just having an hour or two with him before he went to bed,” she noted, was especially hard.

When she heard about the position at JDRF coming up, she got excited about the opportunity. “I’m obviously passionate about it, being Type 1 myself,” she said, adding the position also allowed her to work from home. “It was an easy change to make for me … I’m able to spend more time with my son.”

To learn more about the JDRF or their fundraising efforts, go to jdrf.ca.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Victoria Police seize drugs, replica firearms and $50,000 in cash after searching Victoria home

A property in the 600-block of Manchester Avenue is focus of investigation

Saanich resident leads crusade against cigarettes in B.C. drugstores

Province allows drugstores to sell cigarettes and some feel policy should change, retailers disagree

VICTORIA FRINGE FEST: There’s always something new to discover on stage

33rd annual live theatre festival has numerous styles and topics to choose from

Federal government funds 60 ‘micro-loft’ rental units set to open on Fort Street

The Sawyer Block at 840 Fort St. will house affordable units and a small amount of retail space

PHOTOS: India Mela celebrates culture, dance and food

The annual downtown event brought culture and fun together

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Aug. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Groovy wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

Clean the house, prep for your next trip: Tips to nix the post-vacation blues

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

Vancouver Island senior found safe with help from six search and rescue teams

Wayne Strilesky found safe in thick brush in north Nanaimo

More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say

Recommendations aimed at women who’ve been treated for BRCA-related cancers and are now cancer-free

Couple could go to jail for taking 88 lbs. of Italian sand

Pair said they didn’t know it was illegal to take the sand, which is protected as a public good

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft: RCMP

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Most Read