It’s always rewarding when we see how blog posts resonate with our audience. When we shared our post about Bob Fenton and his thoughts on the “invisible type 2’s” in the diabetes online community (DOC), we received some wonderful feedback on the importance of people living with type 2 diabetes sharing their experiences online. That post was also mentioned in the launch post for a new group blog, The Type 2 Experience. Spearheaded by Bea Dominguez, this initiative aims to give a stronger voice to those living with type 2 diabetes. Today I’d like to share Bea’s story with you.
Born and raised in Colombia, Bea was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when she was 25 years old. “Diabetes was always something that I knew about because my dad was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes pretty young,” she said. “He passed away in 2000 due to heart complications associated with his diabetes. Then in 2001, when I was diagnosed, I was already seeing an endocrinologist for other reasons, and as he was going through my test results, he asked me how I was controlling my diabetes. I said, ‘My what?’ I didn’t know until then that I had it.”
In 2007, Manny Hernandez helped introduce Bea to the DOC. “I posted a picture of my glucometer on Flickr,” she said, “and Manny saw the picture and left me a comment. I had no idea that the DOC existed at that time. Manny suggested I check out TuDiabetes, and I started participating in the forums there. Then I also found a big community of people with diabetes on Twitter.”
That same year, Bea also started reading blogs written by people who live with diabetes. “I’d had my own blog since 2000 so I had been blogging for a long time, but it wasn’t about diabetes. Then in 2007, I started reading more blogs on diabetes. I met some people in the DOC and began interacting with them. Since then I have been getting more involved, as much as I can.”
In 2011 Bea saw a recording of DSMA Live and came up with the idea to offer something similar for the Hispanic community, considering there is a high risk of diabetes among Hispanics. And in 2012 DSMA En Vivo! was born. “Cherise Shockley (founder of DSMA) was very excited about the idea,” said Bea. “We do our show every other Tuesday. The weekend before each show, my co-hosts, Christina Rodriguez and Mila Ferrer, and I discuss our show topic. Cherise often gives us an idea, or we may have a guest. For example we had Ayuda Inc. on our show recently, where they talked about what they do, what they have achieved and their diabetes advocacy efforts.” Since Christina lives with type 1 diabetes and Mila has a son living with type 1 diabetes, they each bring their unique perspectives to the show.
While engaging in the DOC, Bea noticed that there weren’t many blogs or twitter accounts from people who live with type 2 diabetes. “Many people don’t want to talk about it because of the type 2 diabetes stigma,” she said. “To me, people feel ashamed of their diabetes; they think that they did it to themselves. We feel judged all the time by society, by friends, by family. I come from a culture where you don’t discuss your personal issues with anybody. The shame is not only for you, but it’s for the whole family, because we feel we’ve failed. So we don’t talk about it.”
Despite these feelings, Bea believes it’s important to have an open discussion about living with type 2 diabetes. “For me, participating in online discussions means I’m being open, I’m sharing my experience, and it has helped me deal with my diabetes,” she said. “It makes me more aware. Trying to hide the fact that you have diabetes doesn’t help you. I think sharing makes you accountable for what you have to do to get your blood sugar in control. That’s why we try to encourage people to share because you may know something that can help someone else.”
Once she recognized this, Bea thought about gathering a group of type 2 bloggers to establish a bigger presence online. So Bea created the group blog “The Type 2 Experience” and contacted some online friends to contribute, including Lizmari Collazo, Kate Cornell, Mike Durbin, Rachel Foster, Bob Pedersen and Sue Rericha. “We’re still in the very early stages,” she said. “At this point, we don’t know if it’s going to be just a blog or if it will turn into something else. We have had some encouraging words from people, thanking us for putting this together.”
Bea hopes the website will help people living with type 2 diabetes feel more comfortable engaging online. “If someone with type 2 diabetes is afraid of opening up, I can say that there is no reason to be afraid,” she said. “The DOC is just a group of people who are really compassionate; we are all there because we want to help others. We want people to be empowered about their condition, to know what’s going on with their bodies and to learn how to take care of themselves without it becoming a burden. Being a part of the DOC is a good way to help yourself.”
Between podcasting, blogging and Twitter, no doubt about it, Bea is a social powerhouse. I love how she uses so many different social channels to share her experiences and potentially help others at the same time. My thanks to her for sharing her story.
All the best,
Disclosure: Bea Dominguez received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.