Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

DIABETES awareness

Former Miss America Nicole Johnson and a Type 1 diabetic, finds healthy relationships help us; she's part of Bringing Science Home at USF

By Nicole Johnson

Special to the Times

It has been almost 19 years since the day that my doctors defined the course of my life with a devastating diagnosis: Type 1 diabetes.

Within days, they decreed that nearly everything I wanted out of life was impossible because of my condition. I was advised to drop out of college, move home with my parents, choose a predictable and calm career, and forget about motherhood.

I was also told that I should avoid competition, which would be far too stressful for me.

I was in despair. I denied I had a problem. I isolated myself. I got sicker.

Then I got smarter. With the support of caring people in my life, I learned that, yes, I have a serious illness, but I also have a voice in my health and in my life.

Today, I have two master's degrees. I have worked in television and public health.

I have flown more than 3 million miles educating people about diabetes. In 2006 I gave birth to a healthy child.

As for competition? I checked that taboo off the list on the evening I walked down the runway and heard them announce that I would be crowned Miss America 1999.

• • •

In the past 19 years, I have walked many paths with this disease. At times I have isolated myself. Mostly, though, I have been surrounded by people who care about me. There's no contest: I am healthier and better when I have support.

I like to say that whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, or any other chronic illness, friends are medicine. You live better with friends who help, support and challenge. In fact, I call these people "Type 3's," anyone who cares enough to help, support and challenge you — and as a result, have their lives changed by diabetes, too.

November is National Diabetes Month. I'm sharing my story in hopes others who face health challenges can gain some insight into how crucial it is to find the connections we all need to weather the toughest times.

Every day I live with the reality of a chronic disease that will kill me if I don't take precise, consistent care of myself. How precise?

In the past 19 years I have given myself:

• 45,000 finger sticks to check my blood sugar

• 10,000 insulin injections

• 1,500 insulin pump site changes

And that's on top of all the care I must take with lifestyle measures such as nutrition. Little wonder I rely so much on my friends, family and health care professionals.

• • •

Every day, I am grateful for all these people and the many medical advances in diabetes care that benefit me every day. But constant vigilance in the face of dire consequences brings a complex psychological turmoil into daily living. It is all too easy to slip into depression, discontent, chronic sadness and to have a defeated attitude. I fight it daily.

Yet I believe in optimism, in happiness, in the power of spirit and in the power of relationships. Science supports this notion. A positive attitude leads to better quality of life, and that means better outcomes.

I see this power every day in my life and in my work at Bringing Science Home, a program I run at the University of South Florida. We believe that people need to know more about possibility and how daily living — including social connection — impacts health.

And we believe health care professionals need to learn these lessons, too.

So many times in my care I have only seen the top of a doctor's bowed head. Their eyes never made contact, their hands never felt my nervousness and frustration. My thoughts and beliefs were never addressed.

Today, I know enough to seek out the connections that I need, and to challenge those who stand in my way. My years of disease have been filled with some pain, but also with beautiful moments that have made me stronger and wiser.

My hope is that health care professionals realize the power of their words, responses and advice. And even more, I hope that patients realize possibility always exists — especially if they keep reaching out for it.

Nicole Johnson is executive director of Bringing Science Home at USF Health. For more information, go to bringingsciencehome.com, or go to her web site: nicolejohnson.com.

Former Miss America Nicole Johnson and a Type 1 diabetic, finds healthy relationships help us; she's part of Bringing Science Home at USF 11/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 18, 2011 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. PolitiFact Florida: Claim that 5.7 million noncitizens voted is wrong

    State Roundup

    President Donald Trump's unfounded allegations that millions voted illegally in 2016 is back in the news, with his supporters pointing to a new analysis that claims millions of undocumented immigrants voted in 2008.

    Instances of noncitizens voting have been reported, but evidence points to a small number among millions of votes cast.  
  2. For Fourth of July, an American feast inspired by founding father Alexander Hamilton

    Cooking

    Are there a million things you haven't done? Is one of them throwing a patriotic party inspired by one of the founding fathers?

    Caribbean Pork With Potato Salad makes for the perfect Fourth of July meal.
  3. 'Baby Driver' literally turns heist movie genre on its ear, set to slick soundtrack

    Movies

    Buckle up for Baby Driver, a movie so full throttle cool that you want to fist bump the screen. Style is the substance of Edgar Wright's inventive heist flick, a fresh, masterful synching of music and getaway mayhem, as if La La Land's traffic jam was moving, armed and dangerous.

    Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver for heist arranger Doc (Kevin Spacey). Plagued by tinnitus, Baby tunes out his distracting “hum in the drum” by listening to music while he drives.
Sony Pictures
  4. Former mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor
  5. Life after HB7069 to be discussed at Pinellas school district workshop

    Blogs

    The Pinellas County school district is still trying to navigate life after the controversial passage of HB7069.