Eighteen-year-old Casey McNamara is a senior at Ursuline Academy, marathoner, multi-sport varsity athlete, and health advocate who doesn’t let anything stop her – not even diabetes. She was named this year’s Merritt Levitan Youth Ambassador at Joslin Diabetes Center’s 19th annual High Hopes Gala on Saturday, November 3rd. As an ambassador, Casey will take an active role in spreading diabetes awareness –something she has been doing for years.
The Brookline resident was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age four and became a patient at Joslin Diabetes Center soon after. “I remember I didn’t like shots, but I didn’t understand why,” Casey said. “It was hard in the beginning because it was all very new to my family.” Through the Joslin Diabetes Center, Casey attended The Barton Center for Diabetes Education, a camp for girls with type 1 diabetes. “It was a camp where everyone else was like me,” she said, and she went back every summer for the next 10 years.
A few years later, Casey found her place as a role model when her cousin Cameron was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes shortly before his second birthday. Casey was 12 at the time, but her positive attitude reassured her aunt and uncle. Being there for Cameron – who she credits as her biggest inspiration – showed Casey how setting a strong example can be powerful. “I never want him to feel like he’s limited or held back because of his diabetes,” she added.
This same confidence pushed Casey even further. “I want to run the Boston Marathon when I turn 18,” Casey told her father last winter, “and I want to run to fight for diabetes.” She raised nearly $24,000 for Joslin as one of the youngest runners battling the harsh, cold rain on Marathon Monday.
If she could take away her diabetes tomorrow, Casey admits she would. However, with the experiences that have come with it, she is proud to say, “Because of Joslin and because of diabetes, I love who I am. Diabetes doesn’t limit how high you can go.”
The race was difficult, but her support system never wavered. In fact, it literally stepped in to help, with several friends running portions of the race with her. Mid-race, two Ursuline friends left the sidelines to run several miles, and her childhood friend finished the last 6.2 miles by her side in jeans and rain boots. “My parents can’t take diabetes away from me, but they can run alongside me,” Casey said. “Through the support of the people in my life, I’m able to finish my races.”
Casey realizes there is work to be done to find a cure, but she knows Joslin researchers are on the job. In the meantime, she is doing all she can to support the cause. “I’ll always be an ambassador. I’ll always advocate for diabetes, and I hope people realize that if I can do it, they can do it too,” Casey said. She plans to extend her responsibilities as an ambassador to her Ursuline Senior Service project, choosing Joslin Diabetes Center as her service site.
Advocating for diabetes is not just about research but also education. “Part of being open comes with recognizing that this disease is tough, but with hard work, help from the right doctors and hope, you can find a way to make it one of your greatest strengths.”
Casey and her family attended the 19th annual High Hopes Gala at Boston’s Castle at Park Plaza on November 3rd, where Casey gave a speech on her experience.
This piece was submitted to Ursuline Academy.