Along with many of you, I first found out about Sierra Sandison when she wore her insulin pump on stage during the Miss Idaho pageant. I showed my daughter the photo of Sierra with her pump attached to her swimsuit, thinking she would be totally impressed, and she said “that’s cool” and that was it.
You see, for us, seeing a diabetes device, such as Q’s insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor (CGM), are such an everyday and normal thing that we don’t give it a second thought. (Please read “Why #ShowMeYourPump is not a big deal (but such a big deal)” to hear my complete thoughts on this.)
For us, it’s just another day with diabetes. But it’s also pretty darn cool!
I knew that her #showmeyourpump social media campaign would help lots of kids with diabetes feel less self-conscious about their devices if they were feeling that way. And my hope was that it would bring a little more awareness to people who aren’t already entrenched in diabetes management. (Sometimes I feel like diabetes awareness is preaching to the choir and that we need to find ways to reach people who aren’t already familiar with it.)
It wasn’t until we were sitting with the new assistant principal of my daughter’s school to discuss her 504 plan and train her on how to care for Q when the nurse was out of the building that I realized concretely that Sierra Sandison did, in fact, raise awareness outside of the diabetes community. The assistant principal asked us if we knew about the woman with diabetes who wore her insulin pump in the Miss America pageant.
Sierra has recently passed on the title of Miss Idaho and at about the same time released her self-published book Sugar Linings: Finding the Bright Side of Type 1 Diabetes.
If you have read this blog for any length of time or have read Kids First, Diabetes Second, you know that we try to have a positive attitude about diabetes when it comes to parenting our daughter. Yes, diabetes sucks. It really does. And I would much rather my child not have to deal with it for the rest of her life. But it is what it is and we want our daughter to be empowered and to have a great life despite her diabetes. And quite frankly (and she will tell you this, too), diabetes has also brought some great things into our family life. We do something culturally enriching with every single long trip to the endo. She loves diabetes camp and hopes that if diabetes is cured that they can continue to have a camp just for people who formerly had diabetes. We have done some travel to conferences, such as Children With Diabetes Friends For Life, that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. And most recently we participated in the 2015 JDRF Children’s Congress. Because she was diagnosed at three years old, we will never know what our family dynamic would be like without diabetes and we will never know if she would have been a different person without diabetes. But Q is an incredibly driven person with more empathy towards others than I often see in kids her age.
Because of the attitude that we have chosen to take, I appreciate that Sierra is looking at the bright side of her type 1 diabetes and the ways in which it has made her life better by bringing her experiences, allowing her to travel and meet people, and giving her a way to be of service. I think that Sierra’s positive attitude makes her a role model for other people, especially tweens and teens with diabetes who may have an even more difficult time during this life stage because of their diabetes.
I want you to read the book for yourself, so I won’t go into details about her pre-diabetes teen years, how she dealt with (or didn’t deal with) diabetes after her diagnosis, and how she eventually came to be on the Miss America stage wearing her insulin pump. But I want to share the messages that I think are important to tween/teen girls who might read her book or hear her story:
- She was nerdy in high school and didn’t think she was pretty
- She didn’t always take care of her diabetes, but realized she should
- She didn’t just decide to become a beauty queen and win, rather it took both failure and perseverance to reach her goal
- She has been able to find something good about her diabetes and thinks that others can too (and that doesn’t mean that they have to enter pageants)
Q picked up the book when we received it in the mail and skipped right to the chapter “And The New Miss Idaho Is…” I wanted to read the book in its entirety before allowing her to read it just to make sure that it is age-appropriate for my own child. I definitely want her to read the book (though I may have her skip the chapter on eating disorders until she’s a little older).
The tone of the book is very conversational. It’s not a medical book or an advice book, but more like you are sitting down with Sierra and asking her to tell you about her last three years with diabetes. It is also a quick read and I found time to read it in one weekend, wanting to get to the end. (Even though I have homework for a college course that I really needed to be doing instead!)
Sugar Linings: Finding the Bright Side of Type 1 Diabetes is available from Amazon in both paperback and on Kindle. You may also like my post Why #ShowMeYourPump is not a big deal (but such a big deal).
Disclosure: Sierra sent me a copy of her book, but did not ask me to write about it. I sent her a copy of my book Kids First, Diabetes Second in return. All opinions are my own.