Becoming A Prince or Princess, Despite Diabetes

In preparing for a week-long annual camping adventure that'll take me away from the online universe to campfire connections of northern Michigan, here's a guest-post from a fellow Indiana Type 1 named Megan Bartholomew. This young woman lives in the same county as I do south of Indianapolis, and earlier this year was selected as one of the Indy 500 Princesses for 2010. Through that role, this 22-year-old Type 1 reached out and touched the Diabetes Community that's so close to her heart. We met up for coffee a month or so ago after the 500 Race Weekend and had a great time talking about any number of topics, and I mentioned that it'd be awesome to have her write here at The D-Corner Booth. She agreed, and so now I'm honored to share her story in what hopefully will be just the first of her entries here. Enjoy!
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Hi everyone! My name is Megan Bartholomew, and Mike asked me to write a guest blog a couple months ago.

I was 12-years old when I was diagnosed, but my older brother had been diagnosed when I was 7, so diabetes wasn’t something that was unfamiliar to me. However, as far as Type 1 diabetics go, we couldn’t be more different. Daniel was only 5 when he was diagnosed, so the slightest amount of excess insulin (regular and NPH then) caused severe hypoglycemia. He had more severe low blood sugars, with seizures and glucagon administrations, than I could begin to recall. I've been very blessed in that I have never had a seizure, never taken glucagon, and never been in DKA.

Now at 22 years old, I'm a triple major (math, biochemisty and biology) at Indiana University. After finishing at IU in May, I plan to pursue a PhD in integrative cell biology, specializing in immunology with an intent to do diabetes research. Aside from that, I was also a 2010 Indianapolis 500 Festival Princess. As ambassadors for our hometowns, the festival, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, each of the 33 princesses selected was required to plan her own outreaches. These activities could involve going to nursing homes, elementary schools, city clean ups, etc. The philanthropic message of the program is without a doubt the most important part, and the responsibility of promoting that goal lies with the girls selected. From nearly 250 girls who applied, only 33 were selected to represent the city during a time that brings so many new people to Indianapolis.

Since diabetes is an issue that is so near to my heart, I choose to do several outreaches with the JDRF and the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana. I talked to parents at support groups, letting them know that it is possible for their children to go away to college and live on their own. I met kids who had never met an adult who had Type 1 diabetes. I encouraged kids to come to camp, to learn more about their own diabetes. And along the way I learned some pretty powerful things about myself.

When Mike asked me to guest blog, I swore that I would not make this a weepy “don’t let diabetes hold you down” and “you can do whatever you set your mind to” generic Hallmark card that anyone who has heard any successful person with diabetes speak about over and over again. What I wanted to do was let all of you see a candid view of my life, regardless of my diabetes. I was blessed enough to get to experience some really awesome things as a 500 Festival Princess. Underneath that sash and tiara, I’m a totally normal college student. I go to classes, I hang out with my roommates, I workout, I go to meetings for student organizations that I’m involved in, I go on dates with my boyfriend, I shop and get pedicures with my friends, I study a lot. Occasionally, I go to the bars and have a drink or two. I make sure that I check my blood sugar a lot, and I won’t go to sleep with a blood sugar that is under 180 if I’ve had any alcohol.

The only difference between me and other college kids? I check my blood sugar and wear an insulin pump. Some people have red hair and freckles.
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So, that is Megan's intro. My personal take is that she's an amazing person, advocate, and role model for the Diabetes Community. She epitomizes the mantra that "Diabetics can do anything they want, regardless of their Diabetes." She proves that, and serves as an example to Children with Diabetes that they can be princes or princesses if they want to be. But don't just take her word or my endorsement of her awesomeness. Listen to what one mom, with a newly-diagnosed daughter, has to say. With permission, I've included this email response from an Indianapolis-area D-Mom about her thoughts on hearing Megan speak at a recent JDRF Support Group meeting:

From the perspective of the newly-diagnosed, it sure is helpful and reassuring to see those who have been dealing with D, taking charge of their lives and health and emerging relatively unscathed. There's certainly no shortage of information about the health ramifications of Highs and Lows and long term consequences, so I can't tell you how much it means to this mother of a 7-year-old girl who's worried about her daughter facing a lifetime of this disease to see examples of people living successfully with D.

I'm glad that T1D has not gotten in the way of Megan being able to become an Indy 500 princess and the advocacy that she's doing is wonderful. Not knowing others with diabetes, I have to imagine that it's reassuring for Kyriana to meet others dealing with the same issues she is. Meeting Megan and getting to wear her crown was the highlight of Kyriana's day. When we arrived home after the (JDRF) support group, she made me upload the pictures I took right away so that she could take them to school to show her friends the next day. I'm sure the fact that Megan, like she, has T1 and can be an Indy 500 Princess made an impression on my daughter. I'm hoping that Kyriana will continue to meet successful and healthy people living with T1 who will inspire and motivate her and serve as a reminder that she can prevail.

As a mother, I was struck by Megan's determination, motivation, and achievements. After talking with her, I'm not surprised that diabetes hasn't interfered with her becoming an Indy 500 princess. What made the biggest impression on me is how Megan is living her life and isn't letting diabetes get in her way. I listened to her talk about living on campus, the hours of paperwork she had to do to take the MCATs, the fact that she is a triple major, her goal to do diabetes research... All while having good A1Cs and Blood Glucose control. my little girl will always be a princess to me but meeting Megan gave me some reassurances that my daughter can (to borrow the phrase) "be all that she can be." It may be harder and she may have to be stronger, but a world of possibilities is still here.


Penny said…
Lovely post and thanks for having Megan share her story. I plan to share with my own 8 year old Grace. She needs role models like this who get on with living with the D. Thanks Michael!
Cherise said…
Mike- thanks for introducing Megan and her mom to us. Such an awesome story and positive attitude.

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