Mollie and Jackie Singer are 19-almost-20-year-old twins from Las Vegas, Nevada, who have spent the better part of their lives advocating on behalf of people with diabetes. Mollie was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 4 and she and her sister Jackie, along with their mom, Jackie, and their aunt Mollie (who are also twins — so yes, two sets of twins, both Mollie and Jackie!) — recently launched a new social network called Diabetic Angels to educate people about this illness and teach them about diabetes advocacy. Today, Mollie shares the inspiration for Diabetic Angels, talks about what a Diabetic Angel does, and how she stays positive after so many years living with diabetes.
Where did the idea for Diabetic Angels come from?
The idea for the Diabetic Angels came about after my twin sister Jackie and I experienced discrimination one too many times. We were 10 years old, in 4th grade, and like our classmates, we were desperately trying to fit in. But in our case, diabetes was making feeling normal very difficult for both Jackie and me. However, the incident that caused us to say ENOUGH was also a blessing in disguise. This particular episode took place in our school lunchroom when one of our best friends announced, in front of most of my classmates, that she had to un-invite me to her upcoming birthday party, because her mom said, "Diabetics are a hassle!" She finished by saying that she wanted me to know that Jackie was still invited. Some of my friends sat quietly while others laughed. It was obvious that they didn't really understand the depth of the pain both Jackie and I felt. I tried to become invisible, so no one would see the tears that kept trying to well up in my eyes. Jackie's pain was every bit as deep as mine, and maybe even deeper, since she felt like she should do or say something, but it all happened so fast that before we knew it, everyone had left to go play on the playground and the two of us sat frozen at our table, tears streaming down our cheeks.
[After school] we settled down long enough to tell [our mom and our aunt, her twin sister] what happened and then the four of us started talking. Our mom and aunt listened, and listened some more, and then they started talking. They helped us understand that people are rarely intentionally cruel; rather, they are just afraid and uninformed. In some way, what our mom and aunt said felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off our shoulders. It meant that it wasn't us they didn't like and when you are 10 that is really important. It also meant that we could do something to stop the ignorance; we only had to teach our friends about diabetes and let them become part of the solution, rather than remaining the problem.
The way that this traumatic event in our young lives — although extremely painful — turned out to be a blessing in that it caused us to turn a negative situation into a positive movement.
So how did you "move beyond your tears"?
We went on to create an organization that, through education, helps to prevent other diabetics from encountering the same demoralizing experiences. With the help of our mom and aunt, Jackie and I made it our passion and our mission to learn all that we could about diabetes, so we could educate our peers and they could educate their family and friends — and the circle of people who were educated about diabetes would become unending. All of this was done in the hope that someday, as we worked to help cure diabetes, we would also stop discrimination!
What exactly does a Diabetic Angel do?
Before I answer that question, I feel it's important to explain, Who a Diabetic Angels Is: a Diabetic Angel (DA) is anyone who supports a diabetic and/or the search for the cure. DA's are diabetics themselves, their family, friends, co-workers, peers, doctors, etc. Initially, the Diabetic Angels were known as, "Mollie's DA's," but over the past 10 years, the circle has grown and the term "DA" has taken on new meaning. Today, young girls are known as "Diabetic Angels," young boys are called "Diabetic Agents," and teens and adults are "Diabetic Advocates" — DA's all! However, each DA regardless of age or gender learns exactly the same things, so they can then share this information with others.
The first goal for all DAs is to have a very good understanding of diabetes and diabetes management, so they can be their own best advocates. It is our belief that knowledge is confidence and confidence is power, and with these tools, diabetics are better able to educate and empower themselves and the people in their lives. If all diabetics share their knowledge of Diabetes Management, Awareness, Advocacy, and Fundraising with their circle of family and friends, there will be fewer cases of discrimination, and we will create a movement of diabetes knowledge that will flow across the globe and become an unstoppable force for the cure!
And how do you educate people?
Diabetic Angels learn about diabetes and/or take a refresher course on the basics of diabetes. This information can be found on our website under Diabetes 101. Once an individual feels that they are well informed, the DA website presents them with options as to how they can become their own best advocate: different areas of interest such as how to educate others about diabetes and improve Diabetes Awareness; how to support Diabetes Advocacy, which includes joining grassroots movements to pass important Diabetes legislation; and how to become successful fundraisers and raise money for diabetes research and support groups.
Additionally, they all learn to teach the people around them how they, too, can become diabetes advocates and/or start their own chapter of the Diabetic Angels. Together, DA's and their circle of advocates unite to stop discrimination and help find the cure!
How does Diabetic Angels differ from other diabetes social networks like TuDiabetes, Diabetes Teen Talk, and Juvenation?
Although we have much in common, Diabetic Angels are different in that we focus on educating and empowering diabetics, to stop discrimination in an ever-growing circle of people that surround us. So our community encourages people to move beyond chatting on the web, towards taking action.
What plans do you have for Diabetic Angels in 2009?
On the site, we plan to featuring individual DA's, who for one reason or another are deserving of special recognition. We also plan to increase membership by 10% a month, redirect our thousands of friends from our previous DA website to our new Global Community, and form chapters of the Diabetic Angels on every Continent (we currently have individual DA's on six continents). Additionally, we will increase fundraising and donations for JDRF and diabetes research, and create V-logs (videos) on how to take full advantage of what is offered on the Diabetic Angel Social Network.
You and your sister have also launched a successful singing career. How does that fit in?
We've been performing professionally since we were 12 years old. We sing country-western, and recently signed on with label, Sweetsong Nashville! (You can read about it on our blog.) Of course we plan on utilizing the talent and publicity surrounding Mollie and Jackie MJ2, as we, the founders and creators of the Diabetic Angels, tour America and release our first album. It is our hope that through our music we will inspire others to follow their passion, as we continue to raise Diabetes Awareness and fight for the cure!
I realized a long time ago that I am very blessed, especially when I consider how many people live with unmanageable or terminal diseases. The simple answer is: I choose to focus on my blessings rather than on my challenges and as a result I am more positive today than ever!
I have Jackie, my twin sister and guardian angel. I have the most supportive and loving family in the world. I have dear friends. Right now, I feel I make a difference in other people's lives and I am fulfilling a lifelong dream, recording our first album and preparing to go on tour with this many blessings in my life I only feel gratitude.
I'm not blind to the challenges I face, but I do keep them in perspective. Having lived with diabetes for 15 years, I hate it as much today as I did the day I was diagnosed, but at least I have a choice. I can choose to manage my disease and live a fulfilling life. Like all diabetics, I have no choice but to face the daily challenges and fears that accompany diabetes, but at least diabetes is a disease I can do my best to manage and I do. I make my health a priority. I try to remain informed of the latest management techniques, exercise regularly, eat nutritionally, test my blood sugar 10 to 12 times a day, and above all, laugh at myself and never waste time feeling sorry for Mollie!
Thank you, Mollie, for sharing your Happy Ending with us here.
Everybody: please visit the Diabetic Angels website to find out more about the good work of Mollie, Jackie, Jackie and Mollie!