Mighty Blog

Former Children’s Minnesota patient turned her diagnosis into a career helping others

Kathryn Cassellius, MS, RDN, LDN, was 13 years old when her parents took her to the doctor after she experienced excessive hunger, weight loss, extreme thirst and fatigue. After her pediatrician referred her to Children’s Minnesota, her diagnosis was confirmed: Type 1 diabetes.

A life changing diagnosis

Despite not quite understanding what was happening as she was admitted to the hospital with a revolving door of doctors, nurses and diabetes educators visiting her hospital room to take blood, teach her about counting carbohydrates and practicing giving shots on an orange, Kathryn understood that her diagnosis was life changing.

“I knew it was very serious right away,” Kathryn said of that time over 20 years ago. “And what I remember most was the diabetes educators and what they taught me.”

Her experience with the diabetes educators at Children’s Minnesota – both in the hospital and at subsequent clinic appointments – left such an impression on Kathryn that it guided her career path.

Kathryn, age 13, around the time of her

Before Kathryn was able to think long term about college applications and majors, she had the opportunity to mentor and share her experience with someone close to her. Just 7 months after her diagnosis, her younger sister, Sarah, was also diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just shy of her 10th birthday.

“It was helpful to have an older sister that had already been through the learning curve,” Sarah said. “She was available to answer questions as I was learning the ins and outs of being a diabetic.”

As they’ve gotten older, they still talk regularly and share new ways they’ve learned to manage their diabetes.

“I may have taught Sarah some things early on but she has and continues to teach me so much,” Kathryn said. “Although I wouldn’t wish diabetes on anyone, I’m glad we have each other.”

Using her experience to help others

Kathryn attended University of Wisconsin – La Crosse where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology with minors in chemistry and nutrition, before obtaining her Master of Science degree in food and nutritional sciences at the University of Wisconsin – Stout.

Kathryn works as a registered dietitian in North Carolina where she moved with her husband in 2019 and sees a variety of patients in her practice, including those with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. In addition, she teaches diabetes management classes.

Kathryn’s approach with her patients, and in particular with her diabetic patients, is encouragement and empathy.

“I share a lot of my personal experience with my diabetic patients,” said Kathryn. “It’s a disease you have to constantly think about, which can be difficult, so I always try to validate their feelings because with diabetes, you can’t expect to be perfect.”

Kathryn enjoys hiking as a way to exercise
and keep her blood sugar in a healthy range.

Living a healthy life with diabetes

Another piece of advice Kathryn imparts on her diabetic patients is to find a support group. Kathryn credits the support group she’s attended, along with her husband Jacob’s encouragement, as integral ways she’s manages the day-to-day frustrations diabetes can bring.

Diabetes is a big part of who Kathryn is and while her life may be easier without constantly managing a disease that requires her to check her blood sugar, administer insulin, eat if her blood sugar is too low and give herself additional insulin or go on a walk if her blood sugar is too high, she’s grateful for the way it’s help shaped her into who she is.

“It’s almost a positive in my life because I make healthier choices because of my diabetes,” Kathryn explained of her diagnosis. “I’m more active and in control of my health and, although it can be frustrating day-to-day, when I look at the big picture, I’m thankful for how it’s shaped my career and allowed me to show empathy to my patients.”

Diabetes and endocrinology care at Children’s Minnesota
At the Children’s Minnesota McNeely Pediatric Diabetes Center, we care for more young patients with Type 1 diabetes — the type typically found in children and teens — than any other medical center in the state. We also treat a smaller but growing number of teens with Type 2 diabetes. Our expert team of dedicated professionals also diagnoses and treats all kinds of endocrine disorders in children and teens, including growth disorders, abnormally early or delayed puberty and diseases of the thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands.

Stephanie Hoff