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She Turned Her Diabetes Diagnosis Into Her Daily Grind

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"If someone asked me when I was younger and in college, "What are you going to do?" And that I would say, "Oh, I'm going to start this diabetes fashion company some day," I would be like what are you talking about? Nothing on this track was ever in the life plan."


Type 1 Diabetes is not caused by candy or carbohydrates. It is a serious disease that is caused by a person's own body attacking the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. Nobody thinks about how they would react to getting diagnosed with an autoimmune disease until it happens to them.

Kyrra Richards, founder of Myabetic sat down with SWAAY to have a diabetic-to-diabetic discussion [I have had Type 1 Diabetes since college] about her diagnosis and starting her incredible line of functional accessories. Bonding over our 'late' diagnoses with a juvenile disease, her being 24 at the time of diagnosis and me being 19, Richards and I hit it off right off the bat. During our chat she talked about every aspect of juggling type 1, running a company, being a mom, and how she never thought she would own a business like this in her life.

Frost pink Brandy backpack

At 24 years old, Richards was working as a professional dancer and model when she started feeling the telltale signs of her disease. “I was actually performing for the troops in Afghanistan on a dance tour flying from base to base and performing. And that's when I started feeling a little bit off. Was super thirsty all the time and obviously had to go to the bathroom a lot," the dancer explains.

Richards went back to the United States and could not shake the symptoms. Thinking she 'broke her bladder' in Afghanistan she promptly went to see a doctor. When they checked her blood glucose, it was around 500 MG/dl, which is very high. The average non-diabetic person should range between 70-130 MG/dl. I myself was at 300 MG/dl when I was diagnosed.

Lavender James wallet

“I had a really hard time in the beginning," she says. "I still do. My doctor (at the time) wasn't exactly super understanding and really comforting, unfortunately. She was a good doctor as far as the medical side, the insulin levels and what you're supposed to do." Says the diabetic fashion guru. "But not necessarily the emotional and psychological part of it, which is way harder for me to deal with. I could deal with all the shots and trying to figure those things out. Like, "Fine." But that wasn't the problem."

Richards told me that feeling like a patient was one of the worst parts of her diagnosis. This feeling sparked a desire in her to come up with a solution to the shame she felt carrying around her medical supplies and to find a way to make at least that one part of the disease more bearable.

“That emotional feeling of being isolated, not really knowing anyone, who to talk to and feeling a little bit ashamed to bring it up. I didn't really want to show my testing kit to anybody, they come in those ugly little black cases. I was trying to hide it. I'm in Los Angeles doing this awesome career and I have cute bags and then I have this ugly little case, you know? So it just represented everything that I hated about diabetes. I was like, I feel like I have this awesome fabulous life and I'm pursuing my goals and big dreams and then there's this ugly side of me and that's just kind of how I felt about diabetes." -Kyrra Richards

And thus, Myabetic was born. Richards sat down with the goal to find a silver lining and make parts of the disease, in her words, more beautiful. She got to the drawing board and started making bag designs that are not only stylish but also practical and able to hold the medical supplies type 1 diabetics have to carry with them everywhere they go.

When asked about problems she has faced as a female CEO, she credits her auditioning background to what has helped her in the business world and in turn the business world has helped her as a patient. Appeasing her doctors has been a struggle for Richards but she knew she had to express what was on her mind in the boardroom and in the doctor's office. The bag designer says that she is naturally a 'people pleaser' so learning to say no was a challenge for her.

“Sticking up for myself is something that I've learned as I've gone along with the business. But, it's played into other aspects of my life as well. With my health and with my business."

As for starting a fashion company that incorporates a medical aspect, Richards found that part more challenging. Her motto during that process was 'fake it till you make it'. There was no blueprint or company to model hers off of so she figured it all out as she went. “I don't know how to completely draw the perfect plans for a wallet or a purse, but okay let me contact some other people that may have been in this space. And then figure this out." The Myabetic founder says. "Or, I'll do the best I can and then research different manufacturers, going door to door. There are just so many things to learn that I don't feel like there was ever a point that I was educated in this. It's just an adventure in every little step."

The entrepreneur recently had a baby girl. Finding a balance between work and family is something she says she has to work for but it's more than worth it. “The biggest struggle, at least this year, is finding the balance." She says. "Spending quality time with my daughter and wanting to be there for her, but also wanting to create something for her and wanting her to grow up seeing her mom pursue something that she really believes in."

Blue Banting wallet

Being sold in over 40 countries, Richards' company has everything from tee shirts and insulin pump cases to backpacks and purses. Myabetic makes it easy for every diabetic to stay stylish while managing their disease. The best seller is the essential Banting Wallet for men and women but Richards' personal favorite item that they sell is the Love Bug case for little kids.

“I've had parents reach out saying my daughter tests more and shows off her Love Bug on the playground. And because of it, has started actually wanting to check her blood sugar herself. That's something that makes me so happy. So that's my favorite product."

A word of advice Richards has for women who aspire to start their own companies is, “From the same perspective that I have on my diabetes, starting a business is a huge roller coaster of ups and downs. And it's okay if you're having those bad days. You're going to have some great wins and feel like you're on top of the world at some point and have things under control. Then the next day you feel like everything is spiraling, and that is part of the deal, but it's okay. There's going to be those sunny days and cloudy days. But, I think the bad times make the good times feel so much better."

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My Untold Story Of Inventing the Sports Bra And How it Changed the World (And Me)

Following are excerpts from "Unleash the Girls, The Untold Story of the Invention of the Sports Bra and How It Changed the World (And Me)" By Lisa Z. Lindahl


There is an idea that has popped up everywhere from Chaos Theory to Science Fiction and New Age memes known popularly as the "Butterfly Effect." Simply put, it is the notion that one very small thing—the movement of a butterfly's wing say, or the ripple in a lake caused by a pebble being thrown into it—can cause tremendous effect far away: the butterfly's wing a tornado, the ripple a large wave on a distant shore. Cause and effect, does it have limits? The field of physics is telling us that it takes only observation to bring a thing into being. We cannot consider these areas of investigation and not acknowledge that everything—everything—is in relationship in some way or another with everything else.

So, it is evident to me that commerce of any kind is, also, just about relationships. It all boils down, on every level to this simplicity. While we usually think of relationships as occurring between people—it is far more than that.

I used to teach a course in entrepreneurship specifically for women in The Women's Small Business Program at Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont. I made this concept of relationship and its importance central in how I taught the marketing thought process. I would stress that for a product or service to be successful, it had to meet a perceived need. There is a need, and it wants to be met; or it may be thought of as a problem to be solved. Or there may be an existing solution that is less than adequate.

For example: In my universe as a runner there already were a plethora of bras available, but they were inadequate for my purpose. The relationship between my breasts, my running body, and my bra was creating discomfort and distraction. A new solution had to be found, the relationship occurring when all these things came together had to be fixed. Utilizing this point of view, one sees a set of issues that need to be addressed—they are in relationship with each other and their environment in a way that needs to be changed, adjusted.

Nowhere is this viewpoint truer than in business, as we enter into more and more relationships with people to address all the needs of the organization. Whether designing a product or a service or communicating with others about it—we are in relationship. And meanwhile, how about maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves? All the issues we know about stress in the workplace can boil down to an internal balancing act around our relationships: to the work itself, to those we work with, to home life, friends and lovers. So quickly those ripples can become waves.

Because Jogbra was growing so quickly, relationships were being discovered, created, ending, expanding and changing at a pace that makes my head spin to recall. And truly challenged my spirit. Not to mention how I handled dealing with my seizure disorder.

"My Lifelong Partner"

Let me tell you a bit about my old friend, Epilepsy. Having Epilepsy does not make any sort of money-making endeavor easy or reliable, yet it is my other "partner" in life. Husbands and business partners have come and gone, but Epilepsy has always been with me. It was my first experience of having a "shadow teacher."

While a child who isn't feeling she has power over her world may have a tantrum, as we grow older, most of us find other more subtle ways to express our powerfulness or powerlessness. We adapt, learn coping mechanisms, how to persuade, manipulate, or capitulate when necessary. These tools, these learned adaptations, give a sense of control. They make us feel more in charge of our destiny. As a result, our maturing self generally feels indestructible, immortal. Life is a long, golden road of futures for the young.

This was not the case for me. I learned very early on when I started having seizures that I was not fully in charge of the world, my world, specifically of my body. There are many different types of epileptic seizures. Often a person with the illness may have more than one type. That has been the case for me. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy—with a seizure type now referred to as "Absence seizures"—when I was four years old. I have seen neurologists and taken medications ever since. As often happens, the condition worsened when I entered puberty and I started having convulsions as well—what most people think of when they think of epileptic seizures. The clinical name is generalized "Tonic-clonic" seizures.

In such a seizure the entire brain is involved, rather like an electrical circuit that has gone out as a result of a power surge. I lose consciousness, my whole body becomes rigid, the muscles start jerking uncontrollably, and I fall. Tonic-clonic seizures, also known as "grand mal" seizures, may or may not be preceded by an aura, a type of perceptual disturbance, which for me can act as a warning of what is coming. The seizure usually only lasts for a few minutes, but I feel its draining effects for a day or two afterwards. Although I would prefer to sleep all day after such a physically and emotionally taxing event, I have often just gotten up off the floor and, within hours, gone back to work. It was necessary sometimes, though definitely not medically advised. I'm fond of saying that having a grand mal seizure is rather like being struck by a Mack truck and living to tell the tale.

Having Epilepsy has forced me to be dependent on others throughout my life. While we are all dependent upon others to some degree—independent, interdependent, dependent—in my case a deep level of dependency was decreed and ingrained very early on. This enforced dependency did not sit well with my native self. I bucked and rebelled. At the same time, a part of me also feared the next fall, the next post-convulsive fugue. And so I recognized, I acquiesced to the need to depend on others.

The silver lining of having Epilepsy is that it has introduced me to and taught me a bit about the nature of being powerless—and experiencing betrayal. I could not trust that my body would always operate as it should. Routinely, it suddenly quits. I experience this as betrayal by my brain and body. It results in my complete powerlessness throughout the convulsion. Not to mention an inconvenient interruption of any activities or plans I might have made.

Hence, I am the recipient of two important life lessons—and I was blessed to have this very specific and graphic experience at a young age. It made me observant and reflective, giving me the opportunity to consider what/where/who "I" was. I knew I was not "just" my body, or even my brain.

So, who or what did that leave? Who, what am I? Much has been written about trauma, and about near-death experiences, both of which seizures have been classified or described as. I won't delve into that here except to say that experiencing recurrent seizures and the attendant altered states of consciousness that sometimes accompany an episode (the euphemism for a seizure) changes one. It deeply affects you. It is both illuminating and frightening. It opens you up in some ways and can close you way down in others. For me it made it easy to consider the possibility of other ways to perceive, of other realms. And as an adult I became interested in quantum physics, where Science is pushing and challenging our long-held perceptual assumptions. Me, who was poor in math and disinterested in Science while in school! So if not merely body and brain, who am I? Spirit. And with Epilepsy's tutelage, I was encouraged to question, seek, try to understand what lies beyond.

Living with Epilepsy has also given me great strength. In realizing the futile nature of trying to have "power over" Epilepsy, I developed a deep well of "power within"—that inner strength that comes in the acceptance of that which one cannot change—and looking beyond it.

Through my experience building the business of Jogbra with the unique lens afforded me by my Epilepsy partner, I came to understand more fully the nature of power and what it means to be truly powerful.

Specifically, that having power and exercising it is not simply a manifestation of the ego. It need not be "power-tripping." It is how I wield my power that matters, making the all-important distinction between creating a situation of power over, power with, or empowering and having and creating strength in oneself and others.

Being powerful is a big responsibility.

To put all this another way: do I choose to create situations in which I am able to wield power over others? Or do I choose to empower others, sharing my strengths with them, while nurturing their strengths as well? The first is not true power. It is control. The second I believe to be the essence of true and positive power: strength. And integral to creating a more harmonious world, oh by the way.

While this may be apparent, even basic to others, it was an "aha!" moment for me. Too often in the years ahead I would give away my power and question my own strengths,. Time and again, however, my inner strength, my shadow teacher's gift, helped me survive and thrive until I could take responsibility for and embrace more fully my own power.

© Lisa Z. Lindahl 2019