Miss Idaho and the Faces of Diabetes

This week, my attention was caught by something very inspirational in the news! Courageous Beauty Pageant contestant (now winner of the Miss Idaho title), Sierra Sandison, wore her insulin pump on stage during the swimsuit contest. Her actions sparked a viral, very positive response on Twitter.

People who suffer from diabetes and use a pump are proudly uploading their own pictures, under the hashtag “#showmeyourpump”. The movement has even inspired individuals suffering from other medical conditions that require medical devices, such as hearing aids or feeding tubes.

Sandison says she was influenced by Nicole Johnson, the winner of the Miss America Pageant in 1999, who also has type 1 diabetes. Although Johnson never wore her pump on stage, she was, and still is, an advocate for diabetes research; she also stands against discrimination toward people with diabetes. Over the years, she’s used her title to raise over 20 million dollars for research funding, and has worked with U.S. Congress to secure insurance coverage for people with diabetes.

Nicole Johnson

Nicole Johnson has a place in our exhibit, “Faces of Diabetes.” Many other inspirational individuals with type 1 diabetes join her on the walls – Bob Clark, a hockey player who played 15 full seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, Zippora Karz, who spent 16 years in the New York City Ballet, and Victor Garber, an actor (who was born right here in London, Ontario) with four Tony award nominations to his name – just to name a few.

Garber visited the museum and signed his own plaque!

Sandison told the media that she had struggled with accepting her diagnosis. Her denial resulted in physical illness and mood swings. Many of the individuals featured in our exhibit had the same initial experience of self-denial, sometimes even resulting in depression. Nicole Johnson dropped out of college when she was diagnosed, and thought she would never be able to achieve her dreams.

However, like Sandison, every person featured in the exhibit was able to take control of their illness, and continue to succeed in life and reach their goals. They are not only “Faces of Diabetes,” but key active members in the fight to find a cure.

You can see their plaques along the upstairs hallway of the museum when you come to visit!

This blog was written by Siena McLachlan, Special Events Assistant/Interpretive Guide at Banting House NHSC. Siena specializes in English Literature and Creative Writing at Western University.

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