In 1974 Marcia Lee Harris was just settling into her adult life. Having recently started work as an elementary school teacher, she was doing what she loved and living the life she had always planned for herself. It was then that she started to experience symptoms, which later was determined to be Type 1 diabetes.
During her first year as a teacher, Marcia had a tuberculin skin test done which determined she had a tuberculosis (TB) infection and needed immediate treatment. Eventually, it was discovered that Marcia’s TB diagnosis was a false positive, but her physician was able to discover that she did have Type 1 diabetes. Her new diagnosis complicated her treatment and resulted in her staying at Long Beach Medical Center for observation.
After leaving the hospital, Marcia began experiencing allergic reactions caused by her insulin dosage, which further complicated her health. She coped with these temporary reactions by putting on a mask and costume and teaching her students interactive history lessons in the mornings. It was later discovered that her reactions were caused by the preservatives in her insulin and she worked with her physician to manage her symptoms.
Marcia was at the forefront of diabetes treatment and was even one of the first patients to test the insulin pump in the 1990s. She currently uses a Dexcom® sensor along with a OneTouch® Ping® insulin pump and meter-remote, which have helped her stay clear of allergic reactions.
Marcia has remained active at Long Beach Memorial, taking part in the monthly Insulin Pump Support Group and events that are held by the Diabetes Program.
“Marcia has been a participant in the Insulin Pump Support Group at Long Beach Medical Center since it was introduced here almost a decade ago,” says Linda Kerr, RN, MSN, FNP-BC, CDE, director, Diabetes Program, Long Beach Medical Center. “As a participant she has gained a lot of knowledge and even helps lead discussions which can be beneficial for others who are adjusting to or are having problems with their pumps.”
Having a support group through the years has helped Marcia stay healthy and on top of her diabetes management. She even attributes her excellent health to her diabetes diagnosis. “If it wasn’t for my diabetes, who knows what my eating and exercise habits would be like,” says Marcia.
Over the years, Marcia has made sure to never let anything slow her down. She made sure to not let her diagnosis get the best of her. She even won a lifetime supply of duct tape from Duck® Tape as a result of her “never give up” attitude.
“While teaching paragraph writing to my class I told them a story about how I ran out of shower packs for my Dexcom® one day and didn’t want to go to work without showering, so I used some plastic wrap and duct tape,” says Marcia. “I wrote this story down as an example for my class and when I heard Duck® tape was having a contest asking people how duct tape saved their day I sent it in and I won!”
After 35 years, Marcia has retired from teaching, but she remains active. Her improvised history lessons sparked her interest in historical character impersonations and she now does volunteer historical reenactments. In addition to her costumed work she also raises guide dogs for the blind and is a master magician, who was recently appointed to the Order of Merlin by the International Brotherhood of Magicians. In order to stay active, Marcia also helped found the International Diabetic Athletics Association which would later become the Diabetes Exercise & Sports Association.
From teacher, to magician, to all around volunteer worker, Marcia manages to balance everything seamlessly and without conveying the slightest bit of strain. At 63-years-old, Marcia has recently been awarded an Amazing Woman Award by the Press Telegram for her community service and volunteer work. She admits that she has to learn how to say “no” more often, but she loves what she does and she definitely won’t let her diabetes define her actions.