Voices of JDRF’s #OneWalk T1D-Strong

We were excited to have guest contributor Julia Flaherty experience the JDRF One Walks through fresh eyes last month.  She had the opportunity to attend the Fox Valley One Walk and reflect about the community and her experience.

This year’s JDRF #OneWalk held at Riverside Park in Neenah, WI, on Saturday, May 18, 2019, was a great success, not only in terms of fundraising efforts but for building connections, increasing awareness, and advocating under an umbrella of genuine support, love, and acceptance.

Type 1 diabetes is certainly a difficult disease to manage day-in and day-out, but members of the community are some of the strongest and most resilient I know. As a person managing type 1 diabetes myself, I was proud to be a part of the mix. As I engaged with various crowd members, this sentiment echoed among those with and without the condition.

Parents, partners, extended family, and friends “go through it” with their loved ones. I was seriously impressed seeing this, reflecting on my own experiences. As a kid, I couldn’t help but wish I would’ve had the same massive rallying behind me. As I grew older, however, I realized it wasn’t the quantity of people you had rallying behind you that made the difference in terms of support, care, and management, but the quality of the care you receive, whether from yourself, a few, or large sum.

This was only my second time completing the walk since my original diagnosis in January 2004. I walked with a group of 2nd grade students at the time as a 5th grader myself to support a former teacher  at Little Chute Elementary School’s daughter who is also managing the condition.

Before partaking in this experience with the class, at the time, I had spoken to them about what type 1 diabetes is and what managing it is like. In my second experience a decade and a half later, I saw the evolution of #OneWalk come to life, and was overjoyed. I felt grateful for the support I received this year from my boyfriend who walked with and supported me during this experience.

Before the 2019 walk began, Otis Day, WIXX radio host and person managing type 1 diabetes, showcased different walk groups by their t-shirts. As part of JDRF’s t-shirt contest, teams got up to the microphone, explained what their t-shirts symbolized, and said who they were there with.

A group of young girls wearing pink t-shirts, called Bridget’s Believers, especially stood out. When Otis asked the little girl managing type 1 diabetes about who supported her, she proudly turned back and looked at her older sister with a smile on her face.

Her older sister returned the smile and expressed the ways she helps and supports her sister in managing type 1 diabetes.

I glowed with happiness. This genuine love and care between two sisters was so evident. While I’m sure, like any pair of siblings, they have their differences, when I see families like this who approach each other with genuine acceptance and compassion, I can’t help but feel soft-hearted.

We can also be reminded about the essentialness of laughter in managing the condition, exemplified in team “Sugar Daddies”.

#OneWalk hits home and is a breath of fresh air as a person with type 1 diabetes.

“These are my people,” I thought. I felt empowered.

To everyone managing type 1 diabetes in the world, I hope you live outside of self-pity and within self-empowerment not only because of the support you receive from loved ones, but from within. The sooner we accept ourselves, the better we are at managing our difficulty and perceiving life with positivity. Be kind to yourself and your management. Bad numbers don’t equal bad management or a bad life or a bad self. They can be a result of so much. There are so many factors that shape the way we manage. We need to use positive descriptors and problem-solving language when we fall. We always get back up, type 1 strong.

I could go on, but it all comes down to this: the way you speak to people managing type 1 diabetes matters, especially when they’re young. The way you speak to anyone and how you treat them matters. What you do matters!

The voices of the JDRF #OneWalk crowd did exactly this. In both muted and boisterous conversation, I heard many people saying:

“We’re doing this for them!” (with smiles on their faces)

“Way to go!”

“Great job!”

“We’re that much closer to a cure – wa-hoo!”

Type 1 diabetes doesn’t control this community. JDRF’s #OneWalk proves this. It shows how much we rock it, how fully we live, and how capable we are – how capable we ALL are at tackling life’s many challenges.

Julia Flaherty

Professional Writer, Editor, and Marketer, Brand Developer, and Digital and Social Media Strategist with a special passion for Health Advocacy, helping to spread awareness for Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) and advocate for lower insulin costs. #insulin4all

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