Diabetes Dialogues

Meet Serena

Updated on
Serena Valentine

Serena lives in Houston, TX. She finds purpose in helping others find the information they need to live healthy lives.  

When I was 20 years old, I hit a point of exhaustion. I thought it was from trying to balance being a student and a full-time employee, but one night I was at home, couldn’t stay awake, and was having pain all over my body. My aunt took me to the emergency room, and it was there that I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
At the time, I remember thinking diabetes was something older people got, not a 20-year-old. While my diabetes diagnosis was difficult to deal with on its own, I found out from my OBGYN five years later that I was misdiagnosed. I actually had type 2 diabetes, which meant that I had been treating my diabetes incorrectly for several years.

In 2017, I started noticing issues with my vision, but I thought they could wait. You hear about vision problems from doctors who remind you, “Oh, watch your eyes,” or “Go get an eye exam,” but you don’t think you can go blind from diabetes until it happens to you. In February 2018, I lost vision in my right eye despite having a retinal reattachment surgery. Then in May 2019, I lost vision in my left eye as well. Once the vision in my left eye was gone, I experienced total blindness for nine months and had another surgery in an effort to repair my vision. Finally, in February 2020, I regained some sight in my left eye. 

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I felt that there was a lot of misinformation and a lack of general information to educate people about diabetes and eye health management. Some people will say, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you,” but that’s not true. What you don’t know can hurt you, and in my case, it did hurt me.

Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of prioritizing my diabetes and eye health and asking for help along the way. I started eating healthier and working out 30 minutes a day, six days a week so I could hit my goals—and I succeeded. Now, I share my story with peers and support groups to teach others how to stay on track. Helping them helps me stay accountable for my own diabetes management too—we help each other! 

If I had one thing to say to those who currently live with diabetes it would be this: Diabetes management is not going to “look good” all the time. Some days you’re going to wish diabetes was a jacket you could take off and put in the closet for a little bit, some days you’ll manage it well, and other days you won’t. But despite this, keep moving forward and do the best you can to control your diabetes.