What’s Advocacy Got to Do With It?

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My name is Hannah McDonald, and I am a diabetes advocate. Or activist. Whatever you want to call me, that’s me. There seem to be some arguments over the semantics of various terms, but here’s what you need to know. I’ve been blogging about my life with diabetes since 2006. I was diagnosed with Type 1 in the summer of 1990, when I was eight years old. I like talking about having diabetes. Does this make me an advocate? Certainly.

Some people think you need a legal designation or some sort of degree to be an advocate for something. Even if you’ve never been a lobbyist or a lawyer, you can still be an advocate for yourself. If you’re not sure that you know how to advocate for diabetes, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do I believe that more work should be done in finding new treatments and a cure for diabetes?

2. Do I think that other people with diabetes could be living better, healthier lives?

3. Do I think that diabetes is portrayed poorly on TV and in the movies?

4. Do I think that the media is doing a poor job of educating people about the many kinds of diabetes?

5. Do I think that the voices of individuals are a powerful tool in diabetes education?

If you have answered yes to any or all of these questions, guess what? You might be an advocate or activist for diabetes. Does it feel like a big responsibility? Maybe. I think that all depends on the person. For some of us, advocacy is as simple as tweeting on a regular basis. For some people with diabetes, they don’t feel like they are true advocates until they get to have a face-to-face meeting with their congressperson. Some of us out there have even been to Capitol Hill to talk about how important funding for diabetes research is. Some of us advocate for diabetes by being a friend to others with diabetes, whether that’s on the internet, in a support group, or joining a diabetes walk team with a friend or family member.

Why the big deal about advocacy? Why now? Because it’s Diabetes Awareness Month.

A lot of people out there think there’s not much they can do to share the experience of living with diabetes, regardless of what type it is. The big A-word can be scary. What qualifies you to be an advocate for diabetes?

Here’s what I think:

If you have diabetes, if you love someone who has diabetes, if you like showing off your insulin pump, if you want a closed loop system, if you want a cure, if you unapologetically test in public, if you offer glucose tabs to your friends just so they know what they taste like, if you wear blue on Fridays, if you purchased that fabulous pair of blue shoes because it’s the diabetes awareness color, if you want a blue circle pin but don’t have one yet, if you called your congressperson to renew the Special Diabetes Program, if you even thought about it, if you are grateful for the safety net the Affordable Care Act has created for people with diabetes, if you don’t give a fig about healthcare reform, if you want your iPhone to test your blood sugar for you, if you write goofy diabetes parody songs in your head, if you’re a fan a unicorns, if you never eat carbs, OR if you love cupcakes…

What I’m trying to tell you here is that YOU can be the best advocate for yourself, regardless of your thoughts or viewpoints. You can be a diabetes advocate. All you need to do is use your voice and show the world that you can really LIVE with diabetes.

Happy Diabetes Awareness Month to everyone on MyGlu.

Hannah McDonald blogs at Dorkabetic.com. She’s had Type 1 diabetes since 1990, and she’s had an insulin pump since 2000. She has many loves, including her husband, writing, social media, competing in poetry slams, owls, and ice cream. You can reach her atnrrdygrrl@gmail.com or tweet her at @dorkabetic.

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