I met Brandy and Laura in person for the first time this June. They both have adorable southern accents and a fire in their eyes when they talk about their new initiative for supporting women with diabetes.
A Guest Post by patient advocates Brandy Barnes and Laura Ely
This is a critical time in the world of diabetes, particularly for the 123 million women worldwide living with the disease. Women are dramatically affected by the devastating impacts of diabetes and they often find themselves alone to cope. Women with diabetes are at increased risk for dangerous health conditions such as heart disease, eating disorders and pregnancy defects. Yet few programs and services exist to meet the needs of this rapidly growing population. This inequity is finally being recognized and many are now asking, "How can we reverse this negative trend?" Consider the impact if all women with diabetes worldwide united in the same mindset:
One Enemy: We are all fighting the same enemy. Although at first glance it may seem that the "One Enemy" we are all fighting is "diabetes," we ask you to consider another alternative. Diabetes is not our enemy, nor is it something we need to "fight." Instead, the more we accept diabetes and learn to live happy, healthy lives with it, the better off we will be! In reality, the enemy we (women with diabetes) are fighting is isolation. When in isolation, we become our own worst enemies—thinking negative, irrational thoughts with no one to talk us out of our nonsense. It is so easy to tell ourselves that diabetes is the cause of 'everything' that is going wrong in our lives or that diabetes is restricting us from doing the things we love to do. Yes, that's easy to get away with when talking to yourself inside your own head. But once we come out of isolation and say those things out loud to someone else who has diabetes (especially another woman), the negativity and irrational thinking is quickly realized. Therefore, it is essential for women with diabetes to reach out to one another.
In order for this to be possible, we must have a place to share our thoughts, feelings, and questions about diabetes without fear of judgment. What better place to do that than the internet! After all, anonymity is an automatic benefit: on the Net, you're never forced to stand up and say, "My name is Brandy.....I am a woman with diabetes" (like in AA, for example). If you wish, you can remain a silent "lurker" while still being able to read about other people's experiences/questions/etc. to offset your feelings of isolation. Remember: Isolation is our true enemy and the only way to escape the enemy is to talk to someone who 'gets' you!
One Heart: The "One Heart" we all operate within is the heart of a woman with diabetes. We all have this special gift, whether we view it that way or not. We have the gift of empathy that only a woman living with diabetes can share with another woman who is living with diabetes. You can easily see this when two women with diabetes meet for the first time and realize that they both have diabetes. The connection is immediate. When we all operate with this mindset and realize what an asset we are to each other, we not only increase our individual self-esteem, but we increase the strength of the entire group.
One Purpose: Our belief is that the "One Purpose" we all operate under is the purpose of uniting, empowering and educating women with diabetes around the world so that we can then use our strength to better the world for women with diabetes! Just imagine what would happen if all 123 million women with diabetes around the world united with this same purpose? Over time, the stereotypical view of women with diabetes as weak and shameful would change to one of power and unity. (Just as the view of women with breast cancer has changed over time as a result of their unity and strength!)
Women with diabetes would be celebrated for their innate strength and wisdom. The media would be filled with role models for the young and old to look up to. Leaders in heath care would hear our strong voice and finally address issues pertaining specifically to women with diabetes. Research would be underway to find answers to each and every gender-specific diabetes question...
These are the thoughts behind our creation of DiabetesSisters, an online community dedicated to Women with Diabetes. We believe we're making history by offering things like a volunteer network connecting women with diabetes, and the first-ever triathlon team of women with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes training to participate in a Half Ironman race.
To read more about DiabetesSisters and Brandy and Laura's vision, please visit www.diabetessisters.org.