Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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The Importance of Role Models

by Amy Mercer

Ito says, “Participating in the video was very meaningful because I was shocked at the difference in my blood glucose after just 14 minutes of exercise. I loved the process and the message, and I can only hope it made a difference to other people with diabetes.”

A new Big Blue Test video is made every year, and founder Manny Hernandez says this year they are taking a different approach. “This year we are telling stories from some of the people who were featured the past couple years. Also we will feature Dr. Natalie Strand [a medical doctor with Type 1 diabetes who competed in and won the reality TV show Amazing Race 17], Sean Busby [Olympic snowboarder who has founded the ski and snowboard camp Riding on Insulin for kids with diabetes], and several other people from the diabetes community (advocates as well as medical professionals).”

Diabetes camps. Diabetes camps have been around for a long time and have provided many young people with diabetes with a transformative experience. Quinn Nystrom, founder of Dateline Diabetes, a nonprofit that provides support and mentors for young people with diabetes, says Camp Needlepoint in Wisconsin changed her life forever. “To me it wasn’t about learning to live life with diabetes, but how to live life despite having diabetes. My fellow campers were the ones who taught me these critical life lessons. For once in my young life I didn’t feel so alone. I felt normal. The first year I went (at age 13) I met a girl named Nicole. She had had diabetes since she was little, and I had had it only for five months. She showed me courage, strength, and faith that we could overcome any obstacle put in our way.”

To locate a diabetes camp for a child, go to the Web site of the Diabetes Education and Camping Association, www.diabetescamps.org.

Photographs. Ken Kotch, a photographer with Type 1 diabetes, was tired of hearing about all the things people with diabetes couldn’t do, so he set out with his camera to take pictures of all the things people with diabetes can do. His Web site, http://brokenpancreas.org, and book in progress, Broken Pancreas, highlight the faces and stories of people living and thriving (and riding motorcycles, making art, healing others, and drag racing, among other activities) with diabetes. Kotch’s goal is to get the book to people who are newly diagnosed with diabetes to offer pictures of all the things they can do with diabetes.

Books. The memoir Not Dead Yet, by Phil Southerland, is as much about his life with diabetes as it is about his development as a professional cyclist and founder of Team Type 1, the world’s first professional cycling team to include athletes with diabetes. Southerland’s life mission is to empower people with diabetes.

Another memoir of living with diabetes, this one with recipes, is The Sweet Life: Diabetes Without Boundaries, by Sam Talbot, recent runner-up on cable TV network Bravo’s Top Chef. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 12, Talbot is now a professional chef who develops diabetes-friendly recipes.

Videos. The Web site http://youcandothisproject.com, which was created by Kim Vlasnik, hosts a series of homemade videos of people sharing their stories about the realities of living with diabetes. Watching the videos of everyday role models is a great reminder that you can do this!

Web sites. The mission of the nonprofit organization Insulindependence (www.insulindependence.org) is to inspire people with diabetes to set personal fitness goals, educate them on management strategies, and equip them to explore their individual capacities. Local chapters organize group activities such as hiking, running, surfing, cycling, and yoga, and there are also regional activities that may take place over a weekend.

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