Pageant Is Platform For Diabetes Plea

Sarah Pacheco
Wednesday - May 05, 2010
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Nicole Carvalho Silberfeld

Nicole Carvalho Silberfeld competes for the title of Mrs. Hawaii United States this month at Paliku Theatre in Kaneohe, where the 32-year-old will proudly represent her hometown of Hawaii Kai. But her quest for the crown isn’t just for bragging rights.

“I am running to bring awareness to diabetes,” said Silberfeld, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in November 2008.“Most people do not know what type 1 diabetes is - they think that diabetes is diabetes and you get it from a poor diet and lack of exercise. They think it is a lifestyle disease.”

Also known as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that has no cure. Only 5-10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, and while it is usually diagnosed early, it can strike at any age.

“The immune system goes haywire and thinks the pancreas is a foreign body and starts attacking it,” she explained. “It destroys the insulin-producing beta cells and renders the pancreas unable to produce insulin. There’s nothing that someone with type 1 can do to prevent it and nothing they can do to stop it - it’s pretty frustrating when people ask me if I ate too much sugar!”


Silberfeld contacted the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation nine months after her diagnosis and voiced her interest in helping out. Executive director Manya Levin suggested she run for Mrs. Hawaii to promote awareness.

“Most people also don’t know the emotional toll that it takes,” said Silberfeld, who married her husband Michael in 2008.“I was diagnosed six weeks before the wedding - talk about stress!”

Prior to her diagnosis, Silberfeld said she experienced extreme thirst, blurred vision, exhaustion, frequent urination and weight loss. Suspecting a urinary tract infection, she consulted her doctor, who found sugar in her urine sample. He initially thought she was glucose intolerant and asked her to exercise and monitor her diet. As she continued to get sicker and sicker, he ran an antibody test that showed she had almost no pancreatic function.

“I was told that I would be on insulin injections for the rest of my life,“said Silberfeld, adding that after the pageant wraps May 21 she will start using an insulin pump.

“The insulin pump is wonderful because it allows the patient the freedom to dose without giving shots. It is a pager-sized device delivers rapid-acting insulin through a catheter. I am told that it takes a bit of time getting used to it, as I will have something attached to me 24/7. It’s not a pancreas, but it is a convenience that makes living with this illness a little more bearable.”

Her platform for “making life more bearable” extends beyond the pageant realm. She and Michael raised nearly $1,000 for JDRF during its annual charity walk in November, and this past December she decorated faux Christmas trees in her favorite shade of pink for Shriners, Hospice Hawaii and other local charities.

Earlier this year, she and JDRF families met with U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye to discuss ways to provide funding to find a cure for diabetes.

“Each of us went around the room and told our stories of diagnosis and our daily life struggles. He is a wonderful man, very supportive. He assured us that he would do everything that he could to try to help us.”

Shortly before becoming ill, Silberfeld had left her position as an assignment desk assistant/associate producer at KHON 2 to pursue a degree in journalism from HPU. With one semester left, she had to drop out but hopes to finish in the near future.“I also hope to return to television news one day, as it is my true passion and I have a lot left to do.”

Also on her to-do list is start a family or adopt children, though her illness has delayed those plans for now.

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