I Heart Everybody.
All of these people have made a significant, lasting impact on my life. Mostly I just had to assign an order that they go in, but I just wanted to share how much I love and appreciate all of these people. How much I care about them. How much I am thankful for all that they have given me.
This is a long one. I recommend bringing some tea and a big box of Kleenex.
My Top 12 People Who Helped or Inspired Me to Do Good For Diabetes
12. Jeff Hitchcock. Come on. It's Jeff Hitchcock. Of course he's on the list! Nothing I have done really would have been possible or successful without Jeff. Not only has he created ChildrenWithDiabetes (by far the most amazing website on diabetes EVER), but he is determined, passionate and caring. Those amazing qualities have inspired millions of those affected with diabetes to come together to gain friendship, education and inspiration. He has opened up so many doors and opportunities for people, including me. I think we should elect Jeff as President. Maybe we can find a small island in the Pacific and take it over as Diabetica and Jeff and Brenda can rule as King & Queen. Just a thought...
11. Brynna Hurwitz. Brynna is the Director of the Children's Diabetes Network in Portland, OR and the wonderfully dedicated mother of Benton. I began volunteering with CDN (formally Children's Diabetes Seminars and Support Network) in 2000, when Brynna opened this program with a couple other parents. I started out as a child care provider, coming to the Seminars to baby-sit children with diabetes. After a few sessions, Brynna hired me as the Child Care Coordinator, and I organized teens in the community to come and watch the kids. With CDN, I served as a role model to the kids, teens and parents in the Portland Metropolitan area and it fueled my passion for helping families. CDN has also grown substantially. Dr. Francine Kaufman spoke last spring, and this March, they are flying in Dr. Peter Chase. CDN is an amazing local organization and if you are looking to start something similar, I strongly recommend talking to Brynna. How did she do it? Lots of work!
10. Susie Buss. Susie used to be the Special Events Coordinator for our JDRF chapter when I was in high school. She let me tag along to corporate Walk kickoffs as the Diabetic Poster Child. Pretty much everything I know about speaking in public I learned from those experiences. Question and answer sessions at the end of the presentations taught me how to educate effectively. They were also fun! Watching Susie at those special events, getting up and being so comfortable talking about the importance of finding a cure definitely inspired me to pursue working at JDRF someday.
9. Gary Scheiner. Before Gary became my diabetes educator, he was the guy Diabetes Station brought on to talk about pumps. A lot. I swear, there was a Gary program every other day. So when I found out he was taking patients outside of Philly, I asked my parents to let me switch. They said no. Obviously, I won (through much negotiating and the selling of my soul). He is by far the best thing to happen to my health care since Dr. Hansen (and if you read the tribute, you know that's a Really Big Deal). Gary has diabetes and he gets it in a way that I don't see very often. Not only is he great at his job, but he's also a really great friend. I feel really lucky to have him around. I heart Gary. - Signed, the President of the Gary Scheiner Fan Club.
P.S. As President of the GSFC, I feel it my duty to encourage EVERYONE to buy Gary's book. Right now. I'm serious. Go. You can finish the countdown after you buy the book.
8. The O.C. Hi guys. I suppose it's kind of cheating by listing the O.C. as one person that has inspired me, considering the O.C. is now comprised of 8,938 blogs in 210 countries and Mars. But this is my Countdown and I don't care. Because honestly I don't think I could single any one of you out as "Most Inspiring." Reading about your lives and feeling connected through shared circumstances and emotions, adorable photos and random facts has motivated me to Keep Going. Sometimes I forget why I do what I do. I get bogged down with the details of website management, advertising and public relations, who needs this or what I should add. I forget that there's a Difference being made in people's lives that I should never forget. I'm not going to single you out because all of you are inspiring me to not give up. To keep fighting the good fight. To keep the Dream alive.
7. Deb Butterfield. The woman who plucked the little Nobody out of obscurity and gave her Fame. Well, okay, that might be a tad overdramatic, but still. Deb is former President of Diabetes Portal. Diabetes Portal is the company I used to work for as Youth Programs Manager. As Youth Programs Manager, I hosted Teen Talk, interviewed dozens of really awesome people and mentored tons of teens. Although Teen Talk wasn't the first advocacy job or website I had, I consider it My Big Break, considering it's basically how I came to know everyone. Deb, of course, is an amazing woman all by herself, neverminding the fact she gave me Teen Talk. She had a pancreas transplant in '93, and in '95 started Diabetes Portal as a hub for research and advocacy news. I'm terribly sad that Diabetes Portal is no longer around, as it provided amazing resources and hope to so many people. Deb = total awesomeness.
6. Clare Rosenfeld. Clare has been a diabetes advocate for 11 out of the 12 years she has had diabetes. I could write a book about all the different things she has done to help people with diabetes. Obviously, I'm not going to, but sufficed to say she is an amazing, tireless advocate for diabetes and far too busy for her own good. Clare and I also went to camp together. I remember watching her growing up, seeing her in magazines and thinking all the things she did were really cool. But then I heard her talk about all these children around the country that were facing discrimination in schools. I never had that problem, but Clare made it seem like I could do something to help. I could make a difference. That fall, I applied to go to Children's Congress, having never done anything at all to help the cause. But Clare told me I could make a difference and I believed her. I still do.
5. The Camo Crew. Clare and I were a part of a group at Gales Creek Camp called the Camo Crew, named for our obsessive use of camo-wear during camp. There seven of us: Clare (Radar), Daniel (Tarzan), Kimberly (Tweety Bird), Kelsey (Velcro), Travis (Zedd), Nathan (X) and me (Angel). Those are our camp names, because we were convinced we would all one day be counselors together. Daniel is the only one who made it. For three summers, and for a handful of youth conferences and random encounters, we were the Camo Crew. A camp icon. We weren't really anything special. We weren't superheroes, though we thought we were. We were just a group of kids who had nothing in common except diabetes and, somehow, that was all we needed. The Camo Crew taught me about friendship, adventure, courage, honesty, disappointments, loyalty and love. Many lessons came out of my relationships with these six individuals and although most of us have little or no contact with the rest, we will always and forever remain the Camo Crew.
4. All of my friends from High School. My friends from high school are amazing. They are educated and wise about diabetes. They know when to help and they know when to back off. They know what a high is and they know what a low is, and why both suck. They know I am strong and capable and should never not be invited. They are proud of me for my accomplishments, and I love them for their support. I am thankful that they never made me feel different or weird, except for the Good Weird. I am so thankful to have these kids in my life.
3. Dr. James Hansen. I included a tribute to him in my D-Blog day post. So I'm not going to write very much more. All I can say is this: Dr. Hansen was and continues to be one of the most amazing men I have ever known. He was a brilliant doctor coupled with a loving soul. His death was a tragedy for so many because we believed he was one of the few good doctors, no, one of the few good people we had. Dr. Hansen, his entire spirit, inspires me to become a better teacher, a better person.
I love you, Dr. Hansen, and I miss you so much.
2. Amanda F. Amanda was one of my kids from the Children's Diabetes Network. She was 3 years old when I started babysitting for her, having been diagnosed at 2 1/2 years. One night, while I was babysitting her and her sister, Julia, I had to give Amanda a shot of insulin. It was over dinner time and it just wasn't possible for her mother to give her the shot before she left. I, of course, thought it not a problem. I have given myself thousands of insulin injections, including some on other children. I prepared the syringe, and Amanda laid over my knees as I prepared to give the injection. I set it up, I injected, and I released. Amanda sobbed. So this must be what it feels like to be a Mother, I thought, knowing full well this was just the tip of the iceberg. But the feeling in my heart of having to hurt Amanda in order to keep her healthy has stayed with me ever since. At that moment, I made a promise to myself to do whatever I could to make sure no other child like Amanda ever had to feel pain in order to stay alive.
One day, Amanda will have her cure and I will have kept my promise. I do this for her, and all the children: past, present and future.
1. My parents. My parents are amazing people. I don't say this just because they've put up with me for twenty years (though that doesn't hurt), I say it because of everything they have done for me. The places they drove me, the doctors they talked with. The patience. The travel. The time. The energy. The sleepless nights. The wondering. My father told me over winter break that my mother had actually considered at one time becoming a diabetes educator. But it's more than just what they did for me that matters. How they taught me to think is what really inspires me.
My father always tells me, now as an adult, how they put a concerted effort into integrating diabetes into my life as much as possible. I don't remember a gigantic take-over of diabetes onto my life. Diabetes just became another thing that I did. It was normal. It just was what it was and what it still is. We made it part of the routine, like brushing teeth or taking out my contact lenses. My childhood didn't go from being my wonderful, easy-going childhood to this miserable existence with needles and blood. It just changed. Like life changes. They adapted, and as I grew up, my parents taught me to adapt with it. As difficult as life with diabetes is sometimes, I think the reason I don't go overboard or quit is because of what they taught me.
I could go on like the Energizer Bunny about how wonderful my parents are and how I don't tell them nearly enough how much I love them. So I think I'll just say that right now and leave it at that: I love them. Very much.