For those who know me personally, you will know that in my professional life I work for Animas Canada, a company that makes insulin pumps for people with insulin-dependent diabetes. As the Marketing Manager, I have been able to do a lot of amazing things over the past 5 years, and the project I'm perhaps most proud of would be the "George Canyon & Friends Diabetes Heroes Tour," celebrating the courage and empowerment it takes to live with Type 1 diabetes and follow your dreams.
The whole idea behind it is to share stories of inspiration with the Type 1 diabetes community - both for diabetes newcomers and for "veterans". We have some laughs together, enjoy a rare occasion where EVERYBODY who is there "gets it," and provide a platform for some extraordinary role models to share their perspectives and experiences in order to make it an uplifting evening filled with hope and possibility for everyone.
It's something I wish I had had back in the day when I was diagnosed over 23 years ago. Back then, the approach toward diabetes education was one of fear-mongering and finger-wagging…"if you don't take care of yourself, bad things will happen", and I was given the "reality check" of statistics in terms of life span and complications. Let's just say it was a less-than-inspiring message for a teenager, and not knowing anyone else with Type 1 diabetes, I felt completely alone in trying to deal mentally and emotionally with this thing. Nobody was openly talking about diabetes, and there was nobody I could look to for guidance or inspiration at the time.
Today, I get to be a part of changing the whole paradigm, and creating a different kind of conversation around having Type 1 diabetes. There are tools and technologies now available that have come a long way in enabling us to take care of our disease, but more than that - there are people willing to speak up and stand out in order to make a difference for all those who are newly diagnosed and wondering what the future may have in store for their lives. George Canyon, a Canadian country music artist, is one of those people passionately committed to making a difference, and who has partnered with Animas over the years on a variety of cool projects. And what's great about George is that his intention is generous and pure - to spread a positive message and to use his voice as a force for good.
For me, and for all of us at Animas, what we know for sure is that while technology is an important part of the equation for managing diabetes, it is nowhere near as important as the individual and their willingness to "stay in the game" mentally and do what is required. So much of what happens in our bodies in spite of our best efforts can feel like a big science experiment, and it can be frustrating and discouraging to try to stay on top of it - every day of our lives.
To not only live, but to THRIVE with diabetes takes a tremendous amount of perseverance and an unstoppable attitude: a decision to be "better, not bitter" in the face of an undeniably challenging diagnosis. There are people who take what they've been given and go on to achieve great things that inspire us all.
These are the people we like to call "heroes". They are people we admire, that we look up to, and who show us all what's possible when we dare to dream and refuse to give up. They give us hope. They let us know that while diabetes is hard, we don't have to be defined by it and can, in fact, be MORE because of it. They inspire us to expand our beliefs around what's possible and help us to realize that we can be heroes, too. My dream and my hope is that through sharing great stories, we inspire each other to see the best in ourselves.
We covered 5 cities, 5 provinces, and 5 time zones in 5 days (an insane schedule, to say the least!), but as exhausted as we all were by the end of it, I know it's a time we will all remember for the message it sent and the impact it had on the lives we were able to touch. I will always be grateful to have had the opportunity to put on an event series like this, and to have shared the adventure with people whom I love, admire and adore. Thank you for being a part of my extended family, and for sharing your time, heart, and inspiration with the world. I love you!!!
Cheers and a smile,
PS. To see photos, behind-the-scenes videos and comments from this year's tour, visit www.facebook.com/gcfheroestour
© 2016 Sandy Struss Enterprises. All rights reserved.