On the First Day of Diabadass

The 1st Day of Diabadass: Meet Phyllisa

Phyllisa Deroze, the mighty voice behind Diagnosed Not Defeated, began her type 2 diabetes journey on February 15th, 2011. She’d been experiencing symptoms of extreme thirst and frequent urination in January (who else has been there? 🙋🏾‍♂️); when she went in to see her physician about it, she was shooed away and told it was just a mix-up with her electrolyte balance. (Who was there, too? 🙋‍♀️)

But when, on Valentine’s Day night, she passed out in her bathtub, she knew something was wrong, and Phyllisa took action. When she went back to her physician’s office the next morning, her blood sugar didn’t register on the meter; once she got to the ER, Phyllisa was told she was going into a diabetic coma.

“I couldn’t walk. I took a selfie and sent it to my husband because I thought that might be the last selfie I took in my life. I was living in NC and he in Paris at the time, so I was dealing with all this alone.”

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As her blog mantra states, Phyllisa is diagnosed, but not defeated. After being diagnosed with diabetes that day in the ER, Phyllisa’s home was torn apart by a tornado. And through it all, she managed to come out on top, and stand tall.

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Phyllisa now lives with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter in Abu Dhabi, where she teaches literature as a Fulbright Scholar (boss lady!). She loves traveling (21 countries crossed off the list), running 5k races (38 and counting!), spoken word poetry, and (currently) writing a book about her experience with postpartum trauma. Phyllisa explains, “this is a huge undertaking emotionally, but I am enjoying the growth in healing that the writing process is bringing me.”

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“[Diagnosed Not Defeated] reminds me that I am much more than even my roughest day with diabetes. It’s also a reminder that diabetes management is an active process, and that as long as I am trying I am a winner, I’m not defeated.”

Phyllisa not only crushes her diabetes on a daily basis, she also spreads her wealth of knowledge and experience with others regularly. But this diabadass spirit hasn’t always come so naturally. For 6 years, Phyllisa used an alias on her blog. “I was too afraid not to. I remember avoiding some interviews with certain publications or not applying for certain patient advocacy conferences because I didn’t want my real name to be public.” But that changed last year during National Diabetes Awareness Month when she decided reveal her true self to the world.

“I woke up one morning, put on my fanciest dress, went downstairs and recorded a video explaining that today is the day when I will no longer hide behind the fear and shame of type 2 stigma.”

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And man, are we glad she did! Since then, Phyllisa has been one of the biggest voices online for diabetes advocacy. She gives all of us insight into what she goes through, what others are going through, and what we’re all accomplishing together! It also gives the rest of us with diabetes the courage we need to fight our own battles. But Phyllisa’s “Diagnosed Not Defeated” mantra goes beyond diabetes; it resonates throughout the rest of her life. She’s gotten a PhD with dyslexia, she’s maintained a healthy, loving relationship with her partner (they celebrate their 10 year anniversary in March!), and she’s given birth to a healthy daughter as a person with diabetes. These accomplishments (what she considers her greatest) all contain examples of her fortitude.

“I am most proud of how I have endured and survived the many challenges that life has given me.”

That fortitude, which she applies to every aspect of her life, is something we could all use as we keep on our own diabetes journeys. Phyllisa, thank you for showing us your tenacity, bravery, and endurance. You are a true diabadass. 🔥

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Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is a Marketing and Communications Manager at One Drop and has been living with T1D for over 20 years.