“We believe that by sharing experiences with other people with diabetes, we can expand our knowledge base in more and better ways than can be learned in any medical office. We can save each other a lot of trial and error by sharing what has and has not worked in our own diabetes management,” says Blair Ryan, media and public relations director.
Ryan, who has Type 1 diabetes herself, has traveled as a photojournalist on expeditions and says she has seen participants change over the duration of the program. “I witnessed the true meaning of Insulindependence’s founder and president Peter Nerothin’s experiential diabetes education and understood the importance of sharing experiences for the benefit of the entire diabetes community.”
A competitive runner who, thanks to the encouragement of her family, didn’t let diabetes slow her down, Ryan adds, “It’s an unfortunate truth that newly diagnosed patients are often told they must discontinue activities they have done their whole lives. It’s widely known that exercise is a crucial component of diabetes management, and we recognize how important it is that people with diabetes are shown by example that there is nothing they can’t do.”
Diabetes Sisters. The idea for the nonprofit Diabetes Sisters (www.diabetessisters.org) began when Brandy Barnes was pregnant with her daughter. Overwhelmed by the hard work required to manage a healthy pregnancy with Type 1 diabetes, Barnes wished there was someone who could relate to what she was going through. Eight years later, her dream became a reality, and the women’s support organization she founded now offers an annual conference, cross-country support groups, expert online advice, forums, sisterTalk blogs, and a SisterMatch Program. “Everyone should think of him/herself as a role model. You never know who might be inspired by you,” Barnes says.
Showing the way
Although it may feel as if you are alone in your life with diabetes, in fact, there are millions of other people who are living with diabetes and facing some of the same challenges you are. Chances are, you can learn from their examples and possibly avoid making some of the mistakes that they’ve made.
How do you find these people? Start by looking around. Check out the resources mentioned in this article, look for support groups in your area, or use the many opportunities to participate in online discussions about diabetes. Be proactive about learning about diabetes, talking about it, and meeting others who have it; pretty soon, you may realize that you’ve become a diabetes role model yourself.