I first became aware of Sarah Hallberg from watching her amazing talk at my very first low carb conference in 2016, Low Carb Vail. The talk was LDL on LCHF and thus she instantly became someone I needed to talk to about my quirky ideas about diet-induced cholesterol levels on low carb. In spite of my being completely unknown to everyone, Sarah followed up with me by phone after the conference to discuss my crazy ideas.
Ever since, she has connected me with many important people inside the world of lipidology and I can’t imagine having gotten this far without her help.
Odds are, you may have first heard of her from the extraordinarily viral TED talk, Reversing Type 2 Diabetes starts with ignoring the guidelines. I quite literally interviewed people during the shooting of our documentary who recounted how that was their first real introduction to low carb.
Yet one of the most daunting accomplishments was her drive as Medical Director at Virta Health to amass a truly unique and powerful dataset on treatment of patients with severe type 2 diabetes using a low carb diet. These ongoing studies have been immensely powerful to clinicians around the world who are considering this advice for their patients.
Somehow she managed to achieve all these milestones while actively raising a family with three children.
Today I read an article in the Tampa Bay Times where she provides her thoughts on the challenges we’re facing with COVID-19 and how it is affecting her personally.
I have advanced cancer. Stage 4 lung cancer, to be exact, even though I have never smoked, and I am only 48 years old. Cancer is scary enough, but now I am in a real unknown, with so many others like me: dealing with advanced cancer in a pandemic.
In spite of the shock so many of us are feeling in her sharing this news for the first time, it’s really an opening to her very pragmatic advice throughout the rest of the article on the urgency to act.
We need to prepare for that second wave. That’s why, right now, physicians must begin urging those who need medical treatment to receive the care they need, whether virtually or in-person. I understand how this delay of care can be as deadly as COVID-19 itself. In addition to being a cancer patient, I am also a practicing physician. Even before COVID-19, I treated my patients virtually. That made a huge difference when the pandemic hit. My patients all have diabetes or prediabetes, conditions that put them at a high risk of COVID-19 complications — just like me. Connecting with them virtually meant that their care was never delayed.
She’s correctly pointing to our need to look ahead to many different downstream consequences of this pandemic to care, and importantly, how that will affect further diagnoses (including those with cancer). This article could have been written without sharing her very personal news. But including it certainly helps drive the point home.
I realize this stage of cancer is very serious and time may be limited. To say I’m very saddened by this news would be a profound understatement. That said, for as long as I’ve known her she has been the greatest of patient advocates and taught us not to see the disease before the person. Rather, seeing all someone has done and is still doing should always be in view — and let’s face it, that’s easy to do with her many accomplishments to date.
She has never stopped working to help others, and today is no exception.