From a Person with Diabetes to a Diabetes Advocate
When I first got involved in the diabetes online community (or DOC), I was simply looking to connect with others like me. I always felt alone in dealing with diabetes, so it was incredible to find a whole community who really understood the things I was going through. The support was wonderful . . . but I soon found I could turn to the DOC for more. I found a great wealth of information on the non-medical side of life with diabetes – things such as the best place to stash my pump when wearing a dress or where to buy cute carrying cases for my meter and supplies. I also found topics that I could discuss with my endocrinologist during our appointments. In short, the online community helped me to become an empowered patient.
I was soon surprised to find that the empowerment didn’t stop there. Being a diabetes blogger and a member of the online community connected me to many diabetes causes. I signed petitions asking insurance companies to cover continuous glucose monitors. I helped to raise awareness on World Diabetes Day and Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. I helped promote the “Life for a Child” program to bring insulin to underprivileged children. Along with these large issues, I was also sharing my personal diabetes experiences on my blog. I didn’t think much of it until a fellow blogger who was newly diagnosed emailed after I blogged about a particularly bad low blood sugar. She told me she had yet to experience a bad low, but that she printed my post and shared it with her husband so they would be more aware of what could happen. It was at that moment that I realized I had become a diabetes advocate.
Before I knew it, I was moving my advocacy efforts offline as well. I’ve been a panel member sharing the patient perspective and I’ve presented the DOC at booths during health fairs and expos. I became the volunteer Advocacy Team Chair for my local JDRF chapter, coordinating and attending Promise Meetings with members of Congress. And earlier this summer I participated in JDRF Government Day, lobbying on Capitol Hill for diabetes funding and awareness. This all seems so unlikely considering I was the shy girl in school who never ever raised my hand in class.
I’ve learned that being passionate about a cause can change you for the better and give you a strong voice that you are empowered to share. So don’t be afraid to take that first step on the path to advocacy . . . . because you may be surprised to find where it will lead you.
Editor’s Note: It’s always wonderful to hear from Karen and we think the DOC is incredibly lucky to have Karen advocating on behalf of people with diabetes. But we know she’s not alone. How do you advocate for the diabetes community? Tell us in the comments – we’d love to hear about your efforts!