Serena’s Story: 5-Year Misdiagnosis + Living With Diabetic Retinopathy


Without the proper resources and support, people with diabetes (PWD) can get misdiagnosed or develop complications from diabetes like diabetic retinopathy. Without access to affordable insurance and education, PWD don’t receive the treatment they need and deserve, to take preventative measures or catch complications at the onset. 

Serena Valentine, a 39-year-old Houston mom, went blind for nine months due to developing diabetic retinopathy—a complication she experienced from not having access to care for her type 2 diabetes. She was misdiagnosed for five years, believing she was living with type 1 diabetes when she has type 2.

Serena was inspired to take action for others after experiencing this failure of the healthcare system. After being misdiagnosed, Serena started and became the executive director of Peoplenomix, a nonprofit that provides diabetes support. Serena also advocates for and educates others about diabetes-related complications as an ADA Focus on Diabetes Champion.

Beyond Type 2 sat down with Serena to talk about the impact diabetes has on her life, including her experience with vision loss, her original misdiagnosis and why she’s a passionate diabetes advocate for health equity, eye health and diabetes education.

What Serena wants you to know

  • Everyone deserves access to quality diabetes education, affordable care and support.
  • PWD needs to advocate for themselves and be transparent with their providers.
  • Complications like diabetic retinopathy impact every area of your life—early detection of diabetes and complications is critical for improving long-term health.
  • Serena’s support system and faith helped her through—have a strong support system!

WRITTEN BY Liz Cambron-Kopco, POSTED 03/01/23, UPDATED 10/20/23

Liz has been living with type 2 diabetes since 2014, but grew up surrounded by it as a first-generation Mexican-American. With a bug for research, Liz pursued a PhD in molecular biology and spent her early career studying insulin signaling in invertebrates to understand how insects' tiny little bodies work. Along with advocating for women and girls in STEM, Liz shares her personal journey with diabetes on her social media platforms to help teach people to become their own advocates. Her passion for advocacy led her to join the Beyond Type 1 team. When she's not advocating, Liz enjoys hiking with her husband and their terrier/schnauzer mixed pup Burberry.