EVEN WHEN IT'S DIFFICULT
& LOVE YOURSELF,
MEDICAL DEVICES AND ALL."
After being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 18 in a rural Idaho community, I felt completely alone. As a teenage girl, still finishing high school and dealing with enough body image issues already, I did not want to even think about wearing medical devices. When I heard about Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999, who has type 1 diabetes and wears an insulin pump, it was an eye opening moment. I realized it had been ridiculous for me to think that wearing an insulin pump would make me any less beautiful,
I made it my mission to someday wear my insulin pump on the Miss America stage. Two years later, I did just that. I also launched the viral #showmeyourpump campaign, which encouraged people worldwide to post pictures of their medical devices proudly, decreasing stigma, increasing awareness, and greatly impacting the confidence of many who now wear their medical devices with pride. The hashtag has now been used almost 20K times on instagram alone.
Since finishing in the top 15 at Miss America in 2014, I have given over 100 speeches in 32 different states at various schools, conferences, and events. I rode my bike from New York City to San Francisco with a team of 18 fellow type 1 diabetics while followed by a documentary crew, and I wrote and published my book, Sugar Linings: Finding the Bright Side of Type 1 Diabetes.
If you had asked me 8 years ago what the most difficult thing about diabetes was for me, I wouldn't have hesitated about saying that the greatest challenge I faced was dealing with how diabetes, and medical devices specifically, made me feel even more different than I already felt as a teenage girl so desperately wanting to fit in. I am 26 now, and no longer able to be on my parents' insurance. For the first few years of diagnosis, I was privileged enough to be
sheltered from the high cost of medical devices, let alone insulin. As I grew up, and especially now on my own insurance, the price of insulin and medical devices really started kicking my butt. Expenses have now become the most difficult part of my diabetes, which is true for so many Americans living with this disease. The price for a vial of insulin in America has tripled over the past decade. We need this hormone to live. It is not optional, so the insulin companies know that they can continue price gouging and we have no other option but to keep draining our bank accounts at the pharmacy every month. Health care is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.. There is an insulin rationing crisis in our country, causing diabetics to die from what should be a very treatable chronic illness. This is not acceptable in the United States of America, while every other developed nation has placed price caps so that the same exact insulin companies are not permitted to charge their diabetic citizens unreasonable amounts and endlessly keep raising prices.
The past few years, I have stepped back a bit from my intense involvement in the diabetes community in order to focus on earning my degree in mechanical engineering, with which I will graduate in the spring of 2021. However, as the insulin pricing crisis becomes more and more difficult to ignore, I felt it was time to step back onto the battlefield. I will be competing for Miss Idaho USA and the chance to compete (and wear my insulin pump) on the Miss USA stage. Crown or no crown though, I plan to continue pushing for medical device/disability representation in pageants and the media, be a role model for girls in STEM, and of course, using my voice to bring change surrounding the insulin rationing crisis.