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From a Person with Diabetes to a Diabetes Advocate

By Karen Graffeo

Guest Blogger

Posted:  7/31/2012 4:08 PM


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!


Richard Vaughn

Posted on Fri Aug 03 16:21:21 GMT 2012

Karen, I admire you for what you do as an advocate for the DOC! I am also an advocate on several of the larger diabetes websites, on Facebook and on my own blogsite. I have written a book about my first 64 years as a type 1 diabetic. My primary audience seems to be the parents of children with diabetes. They connect with me, primarily on Facebook. I was diagnosed in 1945, when I was 6, so the parents can identify with me and they like to see that I have lived with diabetes for 66 years now, and I am very healthy.

You seem to get a lot of replies to your blogs, but I get so few. If I post my blogs on Facebook and the diabetes websites, I get many "likes" and replies. I am thinking of discontinuing my blogsite for that reason.


Scott K. Johnson

Posted on Sat Aug 18 17:27:25 GMT 2012

Karen, I love that our desire to connect online has broken away the isolation we all feel. But in addition to that, it creates a desire within us to give back to the community, and with time, that often happens offline. Which is a great example of getting help and representation where it is often needed most.

Scott A. Dunham

Posted on Tue Jun 25 16:40:44 GMT 2013

It's very nice to see all of you being involved. I have had diabetes for 43 years and have been fortunate to be on a pump for 15 years.
I have just recently retired and would like to be involved in helping the Diabetic community to better understand the many different aspects of life with this challenging disease. If you can guide me to accomplish this task I would greatly appreciate your help.
God Bless


Posted on Fri Jun 28 22:25:12 GMT 2013

That's a great question, Scott! There are many ways to get involved with the diabetes community to share your experiences and help others. We recommend checking with your local JDRF and ADA chapters. You can also join our communities (here on the LOOP, on our Facebook at, or on our Twitter at MDT_Diabetes). We would love to see you get more involved and wish you the best of luck!

Phil Hayward

Posted on Wed Jul 23 19:34:37 GMT 2014

It is always great to hear about others spreading the positive side to life with diabetes. Since being diagnosed, 46 years ago, I have tried to educate family, friends, work colleagues and many new acquaintances that diabetes is a complicated disease but doesn't mean an end to an enjoyable, healthy and active life.
l set myself one goal every day and that is to make at least Five people smile. That includes even days when things are not going so well. After operations, during Cancer treatments, my football or Rugby League team losing. Life is so much better if you can spread some happiness and positive thoughts.
Keep up the good work Karen and all those positive Diabetes advocate.


Posted on Fri Jul 25 18:22:32 GMT 2014

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Phil! It’s great you set daily goals for yourself and keep a positive attitude! Your outlook on life is very inspirational, and we’re happy you’re able to help others look at the brighter side of life.

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