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Not many people manage to become book authors in their sophomore year of college — not to mention a beacon of chronic disease survivorship and empowerment.

That’s why we’re so impressed with Morgan Panzirer, currently studying at Villanova University in Philadelphia. In June 2020, Panzirer published her first book: “Actually, I Can: Growing Up with Type 1 Diabetes, A Story of Unexpected Empowerment.”

The title is an assertion to the world at large, which tends to assume that people with diabetes can’t do many things because they happen to live with this condition.

At 200 pages and available in paperback and Kindle e-format, Panzirer’s new book is aimed at showing children, families, and anyone else who will listen that type 1 diabetes (T1D) can be viewed as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.

Of course, you can’t escape the family history behind this book. Panzirer is a well-known name in the Diabetes Community, as Morgan’s dad is David Panzirer, who heads up the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust named after his grandmother, Leona Helmsley, the late hotel heiress who left millions to family members (and her dog), and who died just prior to Morgan’s diagnosis.

The Helmsley Trust has pumped more than $1 billion into a variety of T1D research and advocacy initiatives over the last decade.

Morgan was diagnosed at age 6 in 2007, while her sister Caroline was later diagnosed as a teenager in 2017. The author tells us that the idea of writing a diabetes book to share her story came to her first in seventh grade, but it got moved to the back burner. Years later, as she began college, she was frustrated by years of misconceptions and a public perception that “no, you can’t” when you have T1D. The idea to write a book became a mission of clarification for her.

Morgan Panzirer

The family influence is evident throughout the pages of Panzirer’s book, as she describes traveling the world and being able to meet and mingle with high-profile movers-and-shakers throughout her life.

Yet, it’s not her semi-charmed life that dominates the narrative. Rather, it’s Panzirer’s optimism and willingness to embrace the positive sides of life with diabetes despite the many downsides of this lifelong condition.

Panzirer delves into her journey with T1D, from growing up going to the Naomi Berrie Center for diabetes care, to her experience with hypothyroidism since 2013, to how sports have been an important part of her life, as well as her commitment to school, faith, and family.

She describes her own advocacy efforts with JDRF, including being a part of the JDRF Children’s Congress through the years.

Potential readers may wonder about the rest of the sentence following “Actually, I Can…” Spoiler alert, some of those key points include:

Eat sugar

Panzirer clears the air about a key misconception regarding people living with T1D, namely that we can never eat sugar. She expresses her hope that if readers unfamiliar with T1D take away one thing, it should be the message that people with diabetes can actually eat sugar if they choose and don’t have to follow a specific strict diet. (Of course, we need to manage our blood sugar levels accordingly.)

Travel

While travel is always less convenient for people with T1D — given the need to take precautions and pack a battery of backup supplies — Panzirer describes a life of happy mobility. On one trip to Rome, she not only met then-Vice President Joe Biden and shared her T1D story with him personally, but also met with Pope Francis. The Pope shook her hand and offered her blessed beads before she was honored with the Pontifical Hero Award in 2016.

Wear gadgets with pride

While insulin pumps and glucose sensors stuck to your body may seem like embarrassing spy gear to some, Panzirer describes the glucose management advantages of the devices she wears and encourages people to not stare or make assumptions. In other words, she’s “out and proud” when it comes to diabetes gear on the body.

Cope with negative emotions

Despite her obvious privilege, there are some poignant parts of the book in which Panzirer shares her struggles with the emotional toll of diabetes — to which none of us are immune. As someone who “keeps everything bottled up inside,” she often tries to keep a strong face even when feeling down, she writes. T1D management is tough enough, but sometimes the emotional exhaustion is worse.

“Over the years, I’ve learned that the sucky days where you feel beaten down are the ones that make you stronger,” she writes. “But oftentimes before you get stronger, you have to be weak. So don’t be afraid to lie on the ground and sob your eyes out because you’ve done everything you can think of and nothing’s going your way.”

Writing a book with this broad focus on educating the public and dispelling diabetes myths makes sense, given Panzirer’s career goal of becoming a pediatric endocrinologist who can help other families with diabetes.

“It has made me appreciate every hour, every minute, and every second I stand on this Earth,” she shares about her T1D. “Everyone has obstacles in their lives; it’s just the way life is. But you don’t have to sit there and let them beat you down. Defeat them. Strength is a choice, and if you tell yourself you can get through whatever you’re battling, then you can.”

Interested in winning a free copy of Morgan Panzirer’s book “Actually, I Can?” Here’s how to enter:

  1. Email us at info@diabetesmine.com with the subject “DM-Actually.” You can also ping us on Twitter or our Facebook page using the same codeword. (For shipping purposes, we must limit the giveaway to those with mailing addresses within the United States.)
  2. You have until Friday, July 17, 2020, at 5 p.m. PST to enter.
  3. The winners will be chosen using Random.org.
  4. Winners will be announced on Monday, July 20, 2020, via social media, so please be sure to keep tabs on your email, Facebook, and/or Twitter messages, as that’s how we will contact our winner. (If the winner doesn’t respond within a week, we will select an alternate.)

We thank the author for helping us give away a free copy to one lucky winner.

We’ll update this post with the winner’s name, once chosen.

Best of luck, D-Friends!

Congrats to D-Mom Sandra Volling for being chosen by Random.org as winner of this giveaway!