Wendy Novak memoir on her diabetes journey offers hope, empowerment to others with the condition

In “Diabetes and Me: Living a Healthy and Empowered Life in the Face of Diabetes,” Wendy Novak shares how people with Type 1 diabetes can accomplish their goals and dreams.

Purchase a copy of ‘Diabetes and Me’ now

[In her new book, “Diabetes and Me: Living a Healthy and Empowered Life in the Face of Diabetes” (ISBN-13 9781633310803, Nov. 14, 2023), Wendy Novak takes readers on a journey illustrating that people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, despite the challenges they may face, still can accomplish their goals and dreams. Proceeds from the sale of the book benefit Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute

“Diabetes and Me” is 158 pages and available in hardcover, e-book and audio versions wherever books are sold.  Learn more now, purchase your copy, or support Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute.

Wendy Novak was 7 years old when she learned she has Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes. Her father also had the condition, so the family was well aware of the classic symptoms — excessive thirst and frequent trips to the restroom.

The highs and lows of blood sugar, the indicator of blood glucose levels in the system, can have some dangerous, life-altering effects if not properly controlled. For Wendy, diabetes has caused vision issues, resulted in falls and even made her so confused she had difficulty finding her way home.

Some 64 years ago when Wendy was first diagnosed, diabetes was not something that most people talked about. In fact, her father never shared with others that he had diabetes, fearing the consequences of what others might think of his ability to work. But now, Wendy is talking about her journey, hopeful that others can benefit and learn more about this disease.

Wendy also is the face of Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute, a part of Norton Healthcare and Norton Children’s, supporting groundbreaking clinical services, education and research to ensure young people with diabetes can thrive.

Living with the challenges of diabetes

Activities most people take for granted, like exercise, can cause dangerous lows and even highs in blood sugar. And pregnancy is a risky subject. But Wendy wasn’t willing to let diabetes hold her back from the things she wanted to do. While she forged ahead, she didn’t realize at the time exactly the risks she was taking.

She knows now that while you can do anything you want, even with Type 1 diabetes, you still have to take care of yourself.

“You have to keep your blood sugar balanced, using insulin to reduce the highs and adding food to raise it if you’re too low,” Wendy said.

Living with diabetes

Today, Wendy manages her diabetes not with multiple finger pricks, but with a monitor that sends her blood sugar levels to her mobile device so that she can address dangerous lows. A pump ensures that her insulin levels remain where they need to be to prevent dangerous highs.

“We’ve had a lot of challenges over the years, and that’s just part of living with the disease,” said Wendy’s husband, David Novak, founder of the Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation and former chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands Inc., headquartered in Louisville. “But it is a huge, huge challenge. I always say, ‘A diabetic never gets a day off.’ You and I, we live our lives healthy. We don’t think about it, but she gets up every day and she has to manage something.”

“In-control diabetes is not that big a deal. Out-of-control is a killer,” Wendy said.

Diabetes facts

Nearly 2 million people in the United States have Type 1 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Millions more have Type 2 diabetes, meaning that 11% of the U.S. population experiences some kind of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes usually is diagnosed in children and young adults, and occurs when cells in the pancreas, damaged by the immune system, produce little or no insulin. Insulin is necessary for moving blood sugar into cells for storage and use as energy. When the body does not make enough insulin, the blood sugar builds up and cannot turn into energy.

While no one knows the exact cause, this autoimmune disorder can be fatal if not properly treated. People with Type 1 diabetes must test their blood sugar five or more times per day. Treatment includes taking multiple insulin injections or using an insulin pump every day, along with maintaining proper diet and exercise. There currently is no cure, but research initiatives underway at Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute and elsewhere around the country aim to come closer to a cure and offer relief to patients. Type 1 diabetes differs from Type 2 diabetes, which is more commonly diagnosed in adults. In Type 2, the body becomes resistant to the insulin it produces, often due to weight gain, poor diet and lack of activity. Ultimately, this results in high blood sugar as well.

Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute

Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute was formed in spring 2023 with a $15 million gift from the Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation. This gift became the starting point of a $60 million vision to expand diabetes care for children and adults at Norton Children’s and Norton Healthcare.

The goal of the institute is to become a national center of excellence by expanding and elevating diabetes care services across the region, while helping children and adults with diabetes manage their conditions. The institute also will make it easier for pediatric patients as they grow and move on to adult care.

“We are confident that with the strategic partnership with Norton Children’s and Norton Healthcare and the outstanding leadership of Kupper A. Wintergerst, M.D., one of the most renowned endocrinologists in the world, we can continue to climb the rankings and become the best-practice institution others will want to emulate,” David Novak said. “We see this impacting not only Louisville but the world.”