Wearing your Diabetes

August 6, 2014By 3 Comments

IMG_7436By now most of us in the diabetes community have heard, seen, or read about the beauty queen wearing her insulin pump during the swimsuit portion of her competition.  Newly crowned Miss Idaho’s Sierra Sandison probably didn’t think she would be part of the nightly celebrity news on E Online.  Not only did she get people talking, she got people to dig through their picture folders on their desktops and post pics of themselves with their insulin pumps on twitter at #ShowMeYourPump.

Nearly fifteen years ago the iconic T1D spokesperson of today, Nicole Johnson, crowned Miss America in 1999, did the same thing.  It is amazing and so inspiring to see a new generation of T1D’s putting themselves out there, and not with the intention of just getting sympathetic judges.

In reading the many articles and interviews online with Miss Idaho about her decision to wear her pump on stage, I was a bit taken back by the fact that she said she had quite a few negative comments about her life-line for all to see.  I can only imagine that any negative feedback is from those that are either not diabetic and uninformed, or have unfortunately spent years under the notion that diabetes is something to hide.

Everyone is different, some of us are born introverted and others extroverted, or like me, EXTREMELY extroverted.  I wear my heart on my sleeve and my pump on my hip and I do it on purpose.  I have a lot to say, I have a lot to teach and a lot to ask.  I am a true believer that it is the life in your years and not the years in your life that define you.  It has taken me years to realize that not everyone appreciates or agrees with this way of walking around in life.  After having worked for an insulin pump company for five years, I learned to understand and respect the differences in exposure that those of us living with any type of diabetes feel is appropriate or acceptable to them as individuals.

I know a lot of teenage girls and young adults who are very shy about having their insulin pumps noticeable.  It is often times a huge decision to become attached to a pump in the first place for them, so sharing it with all to see is only validation, in an embarrassing way, that they are different or possibly in their own minds, unattractive.  It sounds silly to me, but that’s me.  Let me just add on a side note that Miss Idaho is extremely healthy looking and an amazing role model for T1D’s battling weight or body issues. 

It is important for those who do not have diabetes and may know someone who does, but who does not frequently talk about it or who does not check their blood sugars or do injections in public, to not pressure them to share their stories.  It is their story to tell and they will speak up if they so desire.  It is a very personal decision to share the details of this chronic disease with others.  Take it from someone who has spent years trying to educate others only to find that much of the information is still misconstrued or even muddled by the media like Dr. Oz (just as an example.)

Now, on the other hand… if you are like me and you wear your diabetes loud and proud, you may be doing it for one of two reasons:

1) You actually don’t give a hoot where your pump, syringe, or meter may fall, you’re too busy with life to care if your tubing is hanging out of your dress, you’ve lived with diabetes so damn long that it’s like a third leg at this point, and you’re not in it to make a statement or start a new fashion trend.

2) You almost want people to ask you about it so that you can seize the teachable moment (ehhm, me).  I don’t write this blog because I can’t afford the co-pay at my therapist office, I write it to share share and share.  Because for every single person I meet or correspond with who has diabetes and wants to commiserate, there are 10 other people who don’t want to talk about it but want to know their not alone.  It’s a comfort factor.

I have just two pieces of advice for those of you that are like me:

1) If you see someone checking their blood sugar or bolusing in line at Starbucks, send them a little ‘poke’ by quietly saying “Hey, I have diabetes too!” or flash your pump. They may or may not be interested in striking up a conversation with you, but you never know if they are maybe newly diagnosed and desperate for signs of life in their very new and scary world.

2) If you do strike up a conversation with someone who may approach you about your shiny diabetes accessories, do take deep breaths.  The odds are 50/50 that they are someone who is a friend of a friend of a family member who has diabetes, and it may not be the very well controlled kind, therefore be prepared for some sort of potentially annoying/harsh comment, take it with a grain of salt.  Try to use it as a teachable moment, but if it doesn’t take, then just smile and move on to someone who wants to spread the word about our beautifully challenging disease.

Thanks Miss Idaho and to all those who wear their pumps on their sleeve.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Elizabeth says:

    Great post from one courageous lady about another. I must have been under a rock and missed the coverage on the story of Miss Idaho…going to check it out now…

  2. Veronica says:

    Very well said, Regina. You always give us “food ” for thought. 🙂

  3. Susan says:

    As always you make great points! You are inspirational!

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