FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Carly Wilcox, who was just named Miss Allen County 2021 a week ago, dreamed of winning the crown since she was a little girl. That dream was almost interrupted, though, just days before she was set to compete in the pageant.
The 19-year-old Homestead graduate was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was ten, but it hasn’t stopped her from pursuing any of her dreams, including this one. “I never want my disease to limit me in anything I do or define me in any way.”
That determination was put to a serious test the Friday before the pageant, which was on a Sunday night (July 18.) Carly says she’s had her “ups and downs” with the disease over the years, but this time was different. “I felt so nauseous and I couldn’t focus.”
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, the hormone that plays a key role in helping sugar enter your cells. By 9 p.m. her blood sugar level was around 500, far above the normal range of 70-120. Because she wears a continuous glucose monitor, she could see that the levels weren’t going down, despite giving herself more insulin via an insulin pump. An hour later, her blood sugar was 598 and she was spilling moderate ketones in her urine. Ketones are byproducts of the breakdown of fatty acids. They are especially dangerous for a diabetic and can lead to DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis.)
For the first time since being diagnosed, Carly’s endocrinologist determined she needed to go to the emergency room. Her mind was elsewhere. “My first thought was I was going to miss pageant practice the next day. I wanted to be able to practice and be there with the rest of the girls.”
After lab work, doctors determined she was not in DKA. She got IV fluids and more insulin, and her levels started trending in the right direction. She was able to go home around 3 a.m. and made it to practice the next day. On Sunday, less than 48 hours later, she competed for the title. In the afternoon, contestants met individually with the judges, then in the evening they donned business attire and evening gowns and answered a question they hadn’t seen ahead of time.
When it came time to announce the winner, Carly’s name hadn’t been called. “I was convinced I wouldn’t place at all,” she said. “I was so nervous and I swore you could hear my heartbeat in the audience.” Instead, emcee Dan Austin of K105 said in his booming voice, “Miss Allen County 2021 is contestant number seven, Carly Wilcox!” Carly says it didn’t register at first and she brought her hands to her mouth in disbelief. After a roller coaster weekend, she was realizing a childhood dream. “It’s crazy,” she said. “I’m just thankful and overwhelmed that I actually ended up winning queen.”
For those who know her, it shouldn’t come as a surprise because she’s been overcoming obstacles her whole life. All through school, she was a competitive dancer, which was sometimes difficult because of the demands on her body. “It was definitely challenging because everything affects my blood sugar – exercise, diet, stress, hormones, a lack of sleep,” she explained. “Type 1 is a disease that has to be monitored 24/7 and it’s constantly in the back of my mind.”
She’ll celebrate her 20th birthday during the week of the Allen County Fair and start her senior year at Miami University in Ohio in August. She’s set to graduate in just three years. At Miami, Carly belongs to the College Diabetes Network, which offers support to others with Type 1 Diabetes. She’s also a passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and has served as a mentor to younger kids.
Carly says Type 1 diabetes impacts every part of her life, but has a message for others facing the same situation, especially those who are newly diagnosed. “It gets better, it really does,” she says. “You get more controlled and you won’t be worried about every single unit of insulin or every gram of carbs that you eat.”
With the Allen County Fair set to kick off this week, you can expect to see Carly there, wearing her crown and sash. “I’m incredibly excited to go to the fair with members of the court. I love those girls and we’re going to have an amazing time!”
It’s easy to see why Carly Wilcox, Miss Allen County 2021 is Positively Fort Wayne!