Campus Cutie: Cassandra Falone

This week’s Campus Cutie is Cassandra Falone! Cass is a Senior with a  double major in Business Administration and Psychology, as well as a member of the SMCVT Women’s Basketball team! In 6th grade, Cass was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, a genetic condition that impacts her body’s ability to process sugar. However, she has never let this get in the way of living her best life and she sat down with HC to talk about her experiences. 

https://www.smcathletics.com/sports/wbkb/index

 

Name: Cassandra Falone

Hometown: Chatham, NJ Graduation Year: 2020

Majors: Business and Psychology

 

Athletic experiences: Soccer, High School basketball, SMCVT Women’s Basketball 

 

HC: In simple terms, what is Type 1? 

CF: When the cells in your pancreas don’t make insulin. Insulin turns sugar into energy. You have to inject insulin to balance out. 

 

HC: What is a normal day like with Type 1? 

CF: Wake up, check blood sugar, take insulin with breakfast, wait 30 minutes, count carbs throughout the day and adjust with insulin, corrections for low/high blood sugar, take a long lasting insulin at night.

 

HC: How has it affected your athletic career? 

CF: I’m way more self-aware, I can’t be afraid to be different or speak up for myself. It would be dangerous to not speak up for what I need.

 

HC: How does it affect your personal life?

CF: It makes me more empathetic toward other people, I’m learning to be patient with everything. It pushes me to be confident and not embarrassed of what I have. In terms of personal relationships, I have really close personal relationships with people and specifically the people I can confide in.

 

HC: Does it affect your college lifestyle at all?

CF: I’m not as careless as a typical college student. I have to be more self-aware and constantly plan for my health.

 

HC: Does it change the way you view sports or basketball specifically? 

CF: I don’t think it did until I saw the effect of doing diabetes awareness games/talking with other diabetics that want to play basketball. I’ve used my platform as an athlete to reach out to younger players and show them what they can achieve with diabetes. It also taught me that basketball isn’t that serious. It makes me feel fortunate that in my condition I’m not limited, a lot of other people have things that make them unable to do what they want. I can still do everything I want.

 

HC: What do you wish people knew about Type 1? 

CF: For Type 1 specifically, it has nothing to do with lifestyle choices, it's all genetic. Also I wish people understood the chronic aspect of having diabetes, you can’t take a break from it. You can’t say “Today I’m not feeling it.” It’ll be with me forever.

 

HC: How can people support their friends with Type 1? What are some Do’s and Don’t’s? 

CF: DOs: listen and be supportive, go with them to the doctors if they ask, no judgement just be supportive. DONTs: don’t just say you get it, be genuinely supportive and understand that you do NOT get it, don’t be judgemental, don’t treat them any differently.

 

“Be aware, but don’t judge”

 

HC: Can you tell us about CDN and Slam T1D?

 

CF: Freshman year was the first year we had a CDN, College Diabetes Network, chapter at SMC and it was the first time I openly admitted I had diabetes. It was cool to meet other people who had it and have those connections on campus. There was a senior in the chapter and it was nice to know that all of the members knew what I was going through and were there to go through it with me. Slam T1D is a sports based group that raises awareness and support for athletes with Type 1. The best part is the amount of passion and care everyone in the group provides. They want to raise awareness but there’s a level of passion and understanding that is unreal. They combine two of the biggest things in my life, sports and diabetes. Another amazing aspect has been the connections, anything I’ve ever asked of them, they’ve done everything they could to help me because I have T1. They’ll do anything to help.

 

https://www.slamt1d.org 

 

HC: What is happening this Saturday?

CF: It’s the SlamT1D game! It started last year, hosted by Slam. The main goal of the game is raising awareness through information but the best part for me is seeing the amount of support from my friends, Slam, my parents, and other players. People came up to me and told me they were type 1 diabetics and I was able to connect with them. The game is at 1:30 this Saturday and we’ll have free coffee and bagels, Slam T1D merchandise, and information about T1. It gives people an opportunity to learn more about it, a lot of people you see have diabetes but you would never know. Once you’re aware of this you can be more conscious in your actions towards others. 

 

I’m lucky enough to have been friends with Cass our entire college career. I didn’t even know she had diabetes until about 6 months into our friendship when I saw her injecting insulin. As a freshman she was sly about correcting, about her blood sugar, and rarely (if ever) brought up diabetes. I, and others who are close with Cass, have seen her evolve over the last 4 years. She has gone from a shy freshman who did not want anyone to really know about her diabetes, to the senior President of the Saint Michael’s College Diabetes Network Chapter, an active member in SlamT1D, a camp counselor for the Barton Center Diabetes Vermont Overnight Camp, hosting Diabetes Awareness Games not only in her sport but others as well, and a strong advocate for her health. 

Cass’ 4 years have not been a solely personal evolution. Her impact spreads to more people than we can imagine. At the Diabetes Awareness game, and oftentimes other games, she will have young basketball players come up to her and talk about how she inspires them. She is showing kids that diabetes is not a limitation. Speaking for myself and our friend group, we all have a new knowledge and perspective about diabetes. Cass taught us what good and bad blood sugar levels are, how she uses her insulin to correct, the effects of Type 1, what counting carbs is, and to be honest, what a pancreas is/does. All of our friends are members of the CDN chapter at SMC, simply to learn more and support Cass. We’ve all tested our blood sugar and felt the painful finger prick, knowing that Cass has felt that innumerable times in her life. With all of this new knowledge about diabetes the greatest lesson Cass has taught us can’t be found in a diabetes awareness pamphlet. She teaches us about resilience and strength every day. Her numbers could be completely off, she could feel terrible, but in every situation she shows up with a smile. Last semester when she was really sick, she called and asked what I was doing, and responded to my answer with, “Oh I need to go to the hospital and was seeing if you could come, but do your errands it's really no big deal!” This is the epitome of her attitude, she loves your support but she does not need it. She can, and has been, handling everything that is thrown her way. If you don’t have diabetes you’ll never know what it’s like, but if you talk to your friends who do have it, and you LISTEN to them, you can understand it a little more. Don’t try to “fix” anything, they are not broken. Sit, listen, and if they need it, cry with them. And when they say they’re fine, they really are. 

 

DIABETES AWARENESS GAME

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 15TH

ROSS SPORTS CENTER

1:30 TIP-OFF, 1:15 CASSANDRA FALONE SPEAKING ON HER EXPERIENCE 

FREE COFFEE AND BAGELS!