A lot of people were ridiculously ready for this year to be over, and I don’t blame them. It’s been an intense one; filled with emotional roller coasters and wake up calls. But reflecting back on a year where we lost many artists, whole countries nearly collapsed, and the US elected a reality TV show host to be the leader of the Free World, I have to admit…surprisingly….a lot of good stuff happened, too. Especially in the realm of our little tiny diabetes world. Having a hard time recalling anything other than devastating memories? Here, let me help you rack your brain.
1. Girl Power Took A Big Step Forward
Yes, a woman ran for President and was painfully close to winning. But politics aside, this year some of the women in the diabetes community did some incredible things. Thanks to stars aligning, and a little bit of side hustle, I met four of these amazing women. Because of Instagram, I have been able to grow a community of young, ambitious, diabetics that have always been out there in this universe, I just didn’t know how to find them. Now, I’m digitally surrounded by their energy, encouragement, empathy, and curiosity on a daily basis. Because of this community, 2016 was the year I finally got the courage to go out there and meet some of the women who have influenced me so much from a personal growth, ambition, and self-care perspective. These are the types of women we all need in our lives, and I am beyond grateful to now call them my friends. Here’s my list:
Liz Van Voorhis, Master Instructor at The Monster Cycle
I met Liz after I took one of her classes at The Monster Cycle over a year ago. Right before class started, I realized the device on the back of her leggings wasn’t her microphone, it was her insulin pump. I almost passed out from excitement. After class, I awkwardly flashed my pump to her (the diabetes calling card) and we promptly dove into conversation. She almost immediately convinced me to get a Dexcom, which I did as swiftly as the process would allow, and shortly after that, I became a Monster Cycle faithful. Liz brings an inspiring energy level to everything she does, she takes pristine care of her body, and…insider scoop…but she’s the most fun person in the world to go to fancy parties with. She’s doing big things with her Monster business, and is an amazing coach, confidant, talented business woman, and all in all, an incredible role model. If you live in NYC, check out one of her classes. Spoiler alert: Homegirl can twerk.
Grace Bonney, Founder of Design*Sponge
One day I was sitting at work and my friend, who is an Art Director, and has helped me with several Sugars projects says, “Um, holy shit Libby, Design*Sponge just commented on one of your Instagram photos.” And I was like, “Design*Sponge? Like, the Design*Sponge?” and thus began a journey with what would become one of my biggest female entrepreneur and blog writing idols. For those of you who don’t know, Design*Sponge is a blog mecca for designers, art nerds, young entrepreneurs, and really anyone who loves beautiful things. And the woman behind it is Grace Bonney. A woman with a similar path as mine, but about 15 years ahead of me, I didn’t know how much I needed to be influenced by her until this year when I started to have doubts about being tough enough to keep up with the New York City grind while having diabetes. She was diagnosed late in life (around age 40), and her tenacity post-diagnosis has been a great force to watch. This woman is fierce, honest, business savvy, and is a warrior to her core. Not to mention, she released a new book this year called In The Company of Woman, and if you have a hoo ha or love someone with a hoo ha who also has the ambition of a Lioness, you need this book. When she did a talk/signing in New York this fall, my friend and I went and fan girled so hard. Meeting her gave me the perfect boost of energy, and I think, given her recent diagnosis, it was a mutually fulfilling beginning of a friendship. It was one of those nights that I cried myself to sleep because I was so full fresh energy, and quite honestly, was one of the driving forces that helped me put my head down and push through the rest of the year. Grace is doing huge things, and is a very valuable, positive person to keep an eye on for inspiration.
Tracey McCarter, Leadership Council Member of Beyond Type 1
I initially met Tracey because her husband, is my boyfriend’s brother’s CEO. Yup. It’s a small world, after all. 6 degrees of separation led me to meeting a woman who would remind me that anything is possible. Like me, Tracey is involved with Beyond Type 1, but she is on the leadership council as a fundraising master. However, she is not a diabetic, her teenage daughter, Charli, is. Charli is a little bit younger than I was when I was diagnosed, but hearing about Tracey’s world as a mom of a little girl coming in to her own while learning how to cope with her diabetes has been invaluable to me. Learning about their family dynamic and how independent and amazing Charli is, but how difficult it can be as a parent to mind-read and educate as you’re acting as an external pancreas for your own child, gave me some seriously fresh perspective. Most importantly, Tracey has reminded me how much having diabetes effects the people without diabetes around me, particularly the one that lives with me, and helps me manage the day to day. We’re obviously all people first, but the diabetes side of who we are can be really taxing, tiring, and demanding on everyone involved. It’s incredibly important to recognize that there are times diabetes is just as hard on our loved ones as it is on us. Even though we can’t turn diabetes off, or truly express how it all feels to others, we have to go easy on and express our gratitude towards the people who work their asses off to make our diabetes management less miserable. If I had a sticker or cookie or award to give all the moms, dads, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, coworkers, siblings, and friends of people with diabetes…I’d give you all of them.
Robin Arzon, VP of Fitness Programming at Peleton Cycle, and Beyond Type 1 Leadership Council
First things first, Robin is batshit insane. She runs like 456 miles a day, and is the most sought-after Peleton instructor in … the world. She was also on this crazy show where she had to forage through the wilderness of Tanzania on a 200 mile journey only 2 years into having diabetes, and yeah… She’s nuts. I’ve always wanted to meet her just because she also lives in New York, is an Adidas sponsored athlete, bucked a law career to do what she really loved, has a massive following (83.4k followers on IG, nbd) and all-in-all felt like a pretty important person to say, “Hi, I’m Libby” to at some point in my life time. I finally got that chance a few weeks ago and I’m so grateful for it. Robin has shown that being incredibly fit, positive, edgy and honest is doable with diabetes. Nowhere does she mention or give power to the downsides of diabetes, something that I personally need to learn from. She is the true definition of #MeFirst, and puts her goals and mindset before all other things, though her diabetes is new to her life, she has totally embraced it, and included it in her life. The speed with which she accepted this change is something that we could all be inspired by.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the women that have impacted me the most in the last year are all over-the-top hungry to succeed, focused,
compassionate, and funny. They love life, they’re beautiful inside and out, and they’re exactly who I want to be when I grow up.
There’s no denying that women in the diabetes community have a special charm to them that allow them to be this way. When you know that a part of your body has given up on you, it’s even more important to make a commitment to fight WITH it, not against it, and to fight FOR all the things that matter most to you.
2. Sam Talbot Was Back on Top Chef
Ok, this might not seem like a that big of a deal, but it is in my book. One of the founders of Beyond Type 1 was back on this season of Top Chef, and, and he wore his Drop Hat the whole time. Sam has been a pretty big deal in the culinary world for a few decades now, not to mention he’s the nicest dude ever, and a major hunkasaurus, and I’d do just about anything to snag a table at his new gig in Williamsburg, Pretty Southern. As one of the founders of Beyond Type 1, he naturally has a huge influence on the awareness of type 1 around the country (and world!), but there was something about seeing that drop hat on national television that made me cry every time I saw it. He even got other cast members to wear a drop hat. Seeing diabetes subtly make a splash on major networks and in a more glamorous, professional capacity really helps push the stigma out, and let the curiosity in. Sorry, Wilfred Brimley, Sam Talbot’s diabetic face is the only one I want to see on TV.
3. Poppy Medical Got Funded
Finally, a bracelet we can wear, and love, and cherish, and share, and flaunt, and help people understand wtf diabetes really is. FINALLY, there is a greater movement to embrace technology and fashion, reinforcing that the effect of those two when combined correctly is confidence. Sarah, the founder, shares a lot of my sentiments towards the diabetes world. Why can’t diabetes be sexy at least sometimes? And thank god she had the talent and drive to make it happen. When I learned about Poppy Medical, I was thrilled. I’ve really never worn an alert bracelet consistently, and I feel like I’m playing with fire by dodging them, but I just…I hate them so much. Lauren’s Hope is a wonderful, lovely, brilliant company, and their designs are perfect for many people. And some of the other customizable metal bracelets are totally fine. This part of having diabetes has just been another experience where I felt like the odd-man out with big opinions and aspirations, but nowhere to turn until Poppy jumped into the mix. To me, this is so much more than a medical ID bracelet. It’s a step in the direction of normalizing chronic illnesses, educating others on what to do with us if an emergency were to strike, and empowering us to all take better care of ourselves in the long run. Congratulations, Sarah.
4. Mental Health Awareness Got A Makeover
This year, the world lost some incredible musicians, actors, and artists… many of whom struggled with mental health issues. But that’s the extent of what we’re told about mental health, right? The news is always like, “Blah blah blah, they were into drugs, and they suffered from depression. Isn’t it all so sad?” But that explanation of mental health is simply not good enough for me…for a couple of reasons. Namely, I am not a famous musician that was plagued by the pressures of fame and fortune. What about the average joe shmos that work in advertising or real estate? Those of us who aren’t in the spotlight but still find ourselves trapped in our own minds by the likes of anxiety, depression, or maniacal mood swings that severely impact our day to day? I’ve always been an anxious person, but diabetes has influenced that to the bazillionth degree. However, I think that this year finally shed a healthier, more approachable light on this issue. You don’t have to be a high profile person, or someone with a dark past, or a someone with a rough family situation, to suffer from mental health problems. It can be as simple as being someone who a bad low in a scary place (me, always.) that can send you into a skiddish tailspin. It can be as simple as after years of a healthy road, grasping the permanence of this routine, and not having the energy to process it. Not to say that these feelings are always technically a diagnosable mental health disorder, but there is absolutely no denying that chronic illness takes a significant toll on our mental health. When our body’s betray our trust (aka our Pancreases going “Bloop, I’m dead now”), we start to resent them, and thus…the feelings of anxiety and depression come a’ flooding in. Before this year, I didn’t feel like there was a lot of comfortable chatter about this, and there certainly wasn’t an appropriate network of support or resources for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, but I don’t think, I know that’s changing. And that’s a damn good thing. It’s not scary or embarrassing anymore to prioritize mental health, it’s actually quite hip. So if you’re currently struggling with (and trust me, I’m right there with ya!), check out some of these preliminary resources, and bring it up to your doc at your next check-in, it’s 100% worth it to see if they can help, and I’m willing to bet…they are.
5. Drug Companies Are Feeling The Bern
I’m not a politically scientific person, but I truly appreciate the exposure of the INSANE increases in Insulin and EpiPen (and a bunch of other 100% necessary medications) prices over the last few years. And in just one tweet, Bernie impacted Lilly’s stock prices significantly. In less than 140 characters, Lilly took a 2.4% hit from their opening stock price, lowering them to $72.02 per share by lunchtime. That was the stock’s lowest price since March of 2016. Yes, shares quickly rebounded, but I look at this like a punch in the gut. The more we speak up (and punch), the more we’ll knock these things down, expose the real problems, and improve them going forward. Healthcare is a mess in this country, but I’m hopeful that people’s voices are just going to keep getting louder, and the reality of our insulin and EpiPen needs will be better understood by the douchey insurance companies who’s CEO’s sleep under down comforters stuffed with $100’s, and the ivory tower executives of the drug companies that eat cold coins for breakfast. I wonder if those gold coins have any carbs…?
5. Sexy Technology Is Double Arrows Up
Ha…ha…get it? Like that it’s on the rise? It’s a Dexcom joke, okay? Anywho, this year, some big stuff happened and some big stuff is still brewing heading in to 2017. For the first year EVER, I found myself looking at other people’s diabetes doodads and thinking, “Woah, what’s that fancy new thing, I want that!” Think about it, in January of 2015, Dexcom launched the G4 system with Share, and by September of 2015, we had the G5 mobile app, putting Dexcom graphs, alerts, and readings right in our phones and Apple watches. A lot has happened since then, and to me, even that still feels like super new technology. By the end of 2016, the readings were FDA approved as being accurate enough to inform dosing (which is still a bit sketchy, but it’s still huge progress).
Medtronic launched and the FDA approved a slightly more seamless “closed-loop” system. The sensor will now speak more directly to the insulin pump, so we humans no longer need to be the middle man mediating between mommy and daddy who are not speaking to one another. I still don’t quite understand or buy how this will make my life easier at the moment, but for now I will accept the progress, and shut my mouth until he proof is in the pudding. Tandem Diabetes Care is also working towards a similar system. They are integrated with Dexcom, however, so their angle and approach is slightly different than Medtronic’s. All good things! Just…still too early to call.
Other companies swooped in and addressed the seriously archaic vibes of diabetes care, re: test kits and data tracking. Check out the OneDrop test kit and tracking/education system. This thing reminds me of like, a fancy flask combined with a bullet, and it has all sorts of tech-y nerdy shit integrated into their app that actually makes me want to be a data nerd and do diabetes right.
Times, man, they are a-changin’.
6. The Cubs Won The World Series
Ok, this one might feel random to end on, but let’s all agree that this was the happiest thing that happened all year. I’m not from Chicago, nor am I a Cubs fan, but I am now. This is such a magical story that most of you know, and probably followed along on TV. But the Cubs winning the World Series meant so much more than just that epic final throw to Anthony Rizzo on first base to end it all. This series gave so many people in Chicago, and beyond, hope. It proved that if you believe hard enough and you are loyal to your dreams (and you don’t ditch them because they’re not coming true fast enough for you), ANYTHING can happen. I got so emotionally attached to this series on the night they beat Los Angeles to advance to the finals because I was at a Chicago fan bar with my Red Sox fan friends. The Chicago fans were incredible. So kind, so passionate, so overjoyed to be reaching a chapter that provided an opportunity for their grandparents to actually fly the ultimate W in their lifetime. I was so moved by these guys. I loved seeing devout fans who had never actually experienced the highest feeling of victory, rejoice, and pop bottles, and tackle each other, and sing “Hey Chicago, whaddaya say…” over and over. This is why sports are dope.
The entire World Series reminded me of my relationship with diabetes.
Craig Stubing from the Beta Cell Podcast even decked out his Omnipod.
Diabetes is unpredictable, often disappointing, not always good news, and something that I am committed to nurturing and caring for, but I’m not always super proud of or excited with the final result. But at the end of the day, if we just keep our hearts in it, a smile on our faces, accept the defeats, freak out over the victories, and let the energy of support move through us, maybe, just maybe, everything will turn out ok and someday diabetes will be a thing of the past.
Heading in to 2017, let’s just remember, we’re not alone. We have each other. Patterns change. People change. Accidents happen. Mistakes are made. Victories should be celebrated. I have oodles and oodles of goals for this year, but I won’t go there now. Let’s just reflect on the good, learn from the bad, and keep bolusing our way to the good life. Thank you all for being a part of such a pivotal growth year for me, and the entire diabetes community.