This week, more than 200 people from around the country will convene in Washington, D.C, for the American Diabetes Association’s biannual Call to Congress. What does it mean to be a Diabetes Advocate? Let’s hear from Association volunteer Mona Huff, who will be joining us from Kentucky.
Who am I? Just a grandma who has lived with type 2 diabetes for 11 years. I was very ill when I was first diagnosed. However, with a complete lifestyle change, I am doing better now than I was at age 50! I am soon to be 68.
My diabetes experience doesn’t end there. My mother had diabetes late in life, but she did not have to take medication. Her aunt also had diabetes, but she did not take care of herself and lived at a time when treatments were less advanced, and died young. I remember my great-aunt dining with us and overeating, then taking additional insulin to bring her blood glucose down. I was young, and it scared me. I think those memories helped me to take the disease very seriously—as we all should.
I’ll do anything I can to increase awareness of diabetes. I have spoken at the Diabetes Advocacy Day in my state capital of Frankfort, Kentucky. I am active in my community and with my local Association office. What first was considered a curse for me has now become my life passion. I am a community organizer for KIPDA (Kentuckiana Regional Planning & Development Agency) Rural Diabetes Grant, which is funded through the CDC. I lead our community diabetes coalition and the “Live Empowered!” program in local churches. I sign up for the local walks. I facilitate Stanford Diabetes Self-Management Classes. I also lead a support group based on the National Diabetes Education Program’s “New Beginnings,” which is for the person living with diabetes AND their family and friends. It really deals with the emotions and stress of diabetes, which are so important to address.
But Call to Congress—and the chance to speak with members of Congress and their staffs about this cause—may be my biggest moment yet in the fight to Stop Diabetes®.
Why am I a Diabetes Advocate? I want to help policymakers realize that diabetes is a serious disease that has reached epidemic levels. They need to understand how important education and resources are to the community, especially rural communities.
When I was diagnosed, we had nothing available in our county (Henry County, Kentucky). Fortunately, I understood the importance of learning about the disease. I had two friends who really encouraged me to learn more and get to know my body. However, I know from my work that many folks do not have that motivation, or that access to information. We need to empower people to believe that THEY are the most important person on their health care team.
My mantra has been:
Diabetes is a personal diagnosis,
Diabetes is a family diagnosis,
Diabetes is a community diagnosis,
And TOGETHER we can win the battle!
(And Congress, we need your help!)
Just because you’re not part of Call to Congress doesn’t mean you can’t help. Anyone who is affected by diabetes—and who isn’t? —can be an advocate. Please learn more and sign our petition to Congress at http://stopdiabetes.com/petition. Together, we can win this battle.
Okay, Capitol Hill, I’m coming for ya!