We all know the phrase, "Every cloud has a silver lining," right?
Well now, we have a diabetes book that plays on that phrase and puts it into perspective for those of us who are pancreatically challenged and might not always be looking on the bright side of life.
For that, we can thank fellow type 1 Sierra Sandison, who many probably know as the 20-something who was crowned Miss Idaho in June 2014, and went on to become the People's Choice in the Miss America 2014 competition. She sparked a diabetes social media campaign by wearing her insulin pump clipped onto her bikini while on stage and then creating the hashtag #ShowMeYourPump -- snagging 25K+ mentions to date.
I'm excited to have just met and hung out a bit with Sierra this past week, during the Friends For Life conference in Orlando, where she was attending thanks to Tandem Diabetes, and was doing some book signings.
Her new 164-page book that just came out on June 21 is Sugar Linings: Finding the Bright Side of Life with Type 1 Diabetes, and as you can guess from the title, we're meant to be inspired, to find the positive in not-so-good situations in life with diabetes. She's also created a new blog to talk about the book.
And the book doesn't disappoint. Sierra nails the story-telling and inspiration-building, weaving in her own fun and bubbly personality, while also sharing deeper perspective on how diabetes spills into every aspect of life in general.
The power of "me too" relatability resonates throughout, especially early on when she describes how clueless she was upon being diagnosed.
Being an avid snowboarder, she had some of the classic thirst and bathroom symptoms and so, like so many of us these days, she Googled the possibilities, and then called her dad with what she thought was the answer:
"I'm an aquaholic. I need to go to rehab. I'm addicted to water!"
That was an LOL for me, and throughout the pages, I continued to love how Sierra takes this serious diagnosis and makes it fun to read about. Her dad, being a physician, knew better and directed her to go to the hospital.
All Kinds of Inspiration
Many of us have heard Sierra's story before, featured in so many media outlets last summer, but reading it in her own voice hit my heart; she paints a picture of how these "me too" moments actually materialize and matter in our D-Community.
Particularly touching was her description of learning about fellow type 1 Nicole Johnson, who was crowned Miss America in 1999 and wore an insulin pump while competing. Sierra, a pageant hopeful herself, actually heard about Nicole from a woman in her church. When Sierra read up on Nicole, she found something she didn't even know she was looking for.
"I immediately realized how silly I had been to think that wearing an insulin pump would make me any less beautiful," Sierra writes. "If any of my peers had a problem with me wearing a medical device, then their opinions weren't really worth worrying about anyways. I slowly realized that this was true for every 'flaw' I saw in myself."
And the mantra that resulted: "Being different is awesome."
This all inspired her to stop hesitating and enter the beauty pageant world, believing now "she could do that" just like Nicole.
As Sierra describes it, that was her "first sugar lining" of becoming hopeful and inspired about what she could accomplish despite diabetes.
She didn't expect to win Miss Idaho, but lo and behold, we now know how well that turned out.
We get an inside glimpse at how Sierra heard the news of her win and what that experience was like, and of course how everything played out in the following months as she prepared for the Miss America competition in September 2014, doing waves of media and broadcast interviews about the #ShowMeYourPump frenzy, and still trying to manage her own life with diabetes.
Later in the book, Sierra describes meeting a young pre-teen girl backstage who asked about her insulin pump, and how that put her on a new path.
"Forget about going to Miss America! That's not really what I wanted anyways. My sole purpose when starting pageants was to be the 'Nicole Johnson' for others. Even if I only made a difference in one person's life, that was enough for me."
Of course, it's pretty cool to see Sierra plug the DOC in her book, writing: "Thanks to the Diabetes Online Community, I have been able to make connections from all over the world, and I hope that you can do the same." She even mentions a handful of diabetes blogs in the book, giving readers who may not have ever visited those sites a place to start.
More sugar linings come from Sierra's looking at the history of diabetes and all the people who've lived for decades, achieving all kinds of dreams -- even back in the days before today's modern D-technology. Sierra says that perspective gave her a new appreciation for contemporary D-management, and inspired her to get an insulin pump and Dexcom CGM for herself. She also realized how amazing it is to see how people who were diagnosed not long after insulin was developed have thrived; she says that inspired her to more effectively manage her own insulin dosing.
Of course, it's not all good stuff when it comes to life with diabetes. Sierra makes that clear in the second half of her book about "The Cloud" (and sometimes The Storm).
The Cloud for her consists of misinformation and lack of knowledge from the media and general public; scary experiences with low blood sugars and related parental worries; dealing with times when she just doesn't feel like being the #ShowMeYourPump Queen, or when she just doesn't want to talk about her condition but finds herself traveling and speaking professionally about it anyway.
She also talks about her own struggles with a rare type of eating disorder called Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) or Selective Eating Disorder (SED) -- that essentially involves developing a phobia of eating certain types of foods and eating only foods viewed as "safe" that may in fact be unhealthy or contain a large number of carbs. It's pretty eye-opening to hear Sierra describe how she copes with this in the context of her body image and public persona.
Pretty serious stuff, and Sierra tackles it head-on, bringing some much-needed education and awareness to this topic matter.
Sierra may only be in her early 20s, but through her writing you can certainly see she's an intelligent young woman who's wise beyond her years. And that goes beyond diabetes, touching on deeper themes about life in general.
I liked reading how Sierra's family moved to Ecuador when she was 14, so her doctor-dad could work at a medical mission clinic for a year, and how she saw a lack of education in that country that in turn inspired her to do better in school -- thanks to the perspective of appreciating just how good we have it here in the U.S.
She also shares the story of how her younger sister's learning disabilities didn't stop her sibling from graduating from high school with honors and becoming class president, and in so many ways that was a result of her parents' fortitude. They never told their daughters that they couldn't do something, therefore the girls never felt restricted by any health conditions they may have.
I must admit, I hadn't ever really thought much about the world of beauty
pageants before Sierra came along. Sure, I knew of Nicole. But I hadn't really ever
watched or thought about the process, so it was an education for me to read how much work and dedication is required to succeed in this world, and how the Miss
America Pageant structure nowadays really encourages diversity. That's a great upside.
"Make time to look for a bright side of your diagnosis and cherish the sugar linings that come along with your cloud every chance you get," Sierra writes.
Honestly,Sugar Linings is just plain fun to read. Few books (especially on diabetes) bring that kind of enjoyment, I've found.
My final verdict: I'd definitely recommend this as a must-read for anyone -- parents of kids or teens with diabetes, those struggling with diabetes at any stage, or even those who aren't personally touched by this condition.
Sierra's book is available on Amazon in paperback for $9.99 and in Kindle e-book format for $8.99. And if you snag a copy, make sure to snap a photo to share it online with the #ShowMeYourBook hashtag.
But before you go buy it for yourself, here's a chance to win an autographed copy, signed right on the exhibit hall floor at the Friends For Life conference...
A DMBooks Giveaway
Interested in winning your own free copy of Sugar Linings: Finding the Bright Side of Type 1 Diabetes, by Sierra Sandison? We're giving away a free, signed copy in paperback form. Entering this giveaway is as easy as leaving a comment below:
1. Post your comment below and include the codeword "DMBooks" somewhere in the the text so we know you'd like to enter the giveaway.
*NOTE: Our new comment system does require logging in via Facebook or one of a few select email platforms. If you prefer, you can also enter this giveaway by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject header "Sugar Linings Book."
2. You have until Friday, July 17, 2015, at 5pm PST to enter. A valid email address is required to win.
3. The winner will be chosen using Random.org.
This contest is now closed. Congrats to D-Mom Tammy Gillig in North Dakota, who Random.org chose as our giveaway winner!