Sierra Sandison was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 18, a few months before graduating from high school. At that time, Sandison refused to wear an insulin pump and checked her blood sugar levels in the secrecy of the bathroom. After hearing about Miss America 1999 winner Nicole Johnson proudly wearing her pump, Sandison changed her mindset.
“I decided I would get an insulin pump and told myself that someday I would wear it at the Miss America pageant to make an impact on others just as Nicole had done for me,” Sandison said. Three years later, she won the title of Miss Idaho 2014 and a photo of her wearing her insulin pump on her bikini went viral. Since then, Sandison has been traveling the country sharing her story with a variety of audiences. She recently published Sugar Linings: Finding the Bright Side of Type 1 Diabetes.
Why did you start the #showmeyourpump campaign?
To encourage people to not just accept or tolerate their medical devices, insecurities or whatever else makes them feel different, but instead show them off proudly, celebrate them and be proud of them. The things that make us feel different sometimes actually make us unique.
Why is it important to show your pump in everyday life?
The pump is a symbol of something much bigger! Every single one of us lives with something that makes us stand out from the status quo, and while those things should be seen as beautiful and unique, our society often teaches us that things that seem different are bad and scary. My hope is that we can all learn to love and embrace those things that otherwise we wish we could change about ourselves.
What is your state of mind today?
I try to be positive and grateful for everything positive diabetes has brought into my life. There are still those moments where I wish I didn’t have to interrupt what I’m doing to go poke my finger with a needle, but there are things that have come out my diagnosis that are so priceless to me, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Which words would you use to describe who you are?
Strong-willed, introverted, and I don’t listen when people doubt me!
How does diabetes change – or not change – who you are?
Diabetes is a part of my daily life, whether I like it or not: I need to spend a significant amount of time making up for the work my pancreas is supposed to be doing. Furthermore, it’s what I’m known for. It is a big part of my identity, but that is absolutely not something to be ashamed of. It has made me stronger. I know that if I can handle this, I will be greater equipped to handle whatever the world throws at me in the future.
Who inspires you?
People who have lived with diabetes longer than I have inspire me.
What do you appreciate most in your friends?
That we can be comfortable just sitting in silence. We don’t have to entertain one another to enjoy each other’s company, and the introvert in me loves that.
What’s in your refrigerator right now?
The first thing that comes to mind is the wet cat food I just put in there. I just adopted a cat from the animal shelter last week. His name is Bernie, and he is wonderful.
What is your favorite way to relieve stress?
What is your idea of happiness?
Nothing makes me happier than my close friends and books.
What do you most dislike?
When someone judges, jumps to conclusions, or just completely lacks empathy for someone else that is going through something he or she has never (and probably will never) experience themselves.
What’s your favorite diabetes management tip?
Get the right tools! Figure out what your greatest challenge with diabetes is, and then get your hands on the tools to make that challenge as easy as possible!
People living with diabetes may sometimes blame themselves. What words of encouragement would you give them so they can let go of the blame?
Sometimes, we need to realize that perfection isn’t necessarily attainable, and instead, praise ourselves for simply trying our best.
Everyone gets stuck in a rut now and then. What do you do to remotivate yourself?
Take it one day at a time. Keep up good habits, even when you really don’t feel like it.
What words do you try to live by?
Don’t tolerate intolerance. Be compassionate. Love the weirdness in others. And the hardest to live by, but the most important: don’t listen to destructive or unnecessary criticism.
What is your greatest fear?
Gah. I hate spiders! But even more so, I hate falling.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Chocolate fondue, cheesecake, cat videos, and The Bachelor or The Bachelorette.
What are you looking forward to right now?
Just like everyone else my age, I haven’t quite figured it out. I have some exciting ideas though – I am going to launch the Sugar Linings Blog soon, when my life settles down a bit – so stay tuned and follow me on Twitter and Facebook!
All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the interviewee and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2015 The DX: The Diabetes Experience