Quinn Nystrom is a Smart Young Woman with Diabetes who is working hard to raise awareness and inspire others living with diabetes. She was recently a finalist in the Glamour Magazine & Sally Hansen’s “Best of You” contest. For the last 12 years they have honored inspirational women who find the best in themselves to bring out the good in others. At the time of our interview she had not heard who the winner was…fingers crossed Quinn!
Tell me what you remember about being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 14 years old?
My younger brother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 5 years old and I remembers my mom asking the doctor what the likelihood was of another sibling being diagnosed, and he said no way. Two years after his diagnosis, I started feeling sick and when my mom used my brother’s meter to test my blood sugar, it read “High.”
All I wanted was to fit in at school so I was devastated to be different. At first, I was in denial because the kids at school bullied me because of their ignorance about diabetes. They would taunt me with cake and move away from me in class because they thought I was contagious. It wasn’t until my parent’s forced me to go to diabetes camp, (Camp Needlepoint in Wisconsin), that I changed my life. It was a regular summer camp, we hardly talked about diabetes, we swam and sailed and I felt socially accepted. Camp showed me that I had a choice-I could live my life being negative and complaining, or I could recommit to diabetes and raise awareness. Camp taught me to live my life despite diabetes.
Tell me about your diabetes advocacy.
When I was 16 years old I was chosen by the ADA to be a National Youth Advocate. It was actually on my 3rd year diabetes anniversary that I got the call of acceptance and it solidified what I want to do with my future. During that year I realized that people would listen to me because I am a “regular person” and I wasn’t sugar-coating anything about living with diabetes. I wanted to be honest about the realities of living with diabetes. I talk in laymans terms in a way that’s accessible. One time a young girl came up to me after my talk and said, “Can a girl with diabetes get a boyfriend?” She was really worried that she might not be able to date as a diabetic. So, I would always tell the story about my prom date (which is also the title of her upcoming book: “If I Kiss You, Will I Get Diabetes?”).
Quinn’s date actually asked her that question. Her book will be filled with personal stories that will help dispel crazy myths like diabetes is contagious.
What are your plans for the future?
I graduated from college in 2008 and recently quit my job with a pharmaceutical distributor because I want to see if I can make a career out of being a diabetes advocate. I wear a Medtronic pump and a CGM because recently I’ve struggled with hypoglycemia unawareness and my CGM has really helped me to see the patterns. Over the years my management has been up and down but now that I have finally accepted the emotional aspect of life with diabetes, my control is so much better. I workout with a trainer 2 times a week and go to hot yoga, this helps me stay healthy. I’m going to be in a closed loop study at the International Diabetes Center and I’m looking forward to that.
Tips from Quinn:
- Everything in moderation. It’s not helpful when people say, “You can’t eat that” because it makes me resentful. In my opinion, it’s about making healthy choices. Diabetes is every minute of every day and it’s okay to have a piece of cake, just don’t eat the whole cake, that’s not good for anyone!
- Don’t play the blame game. Perfectionism need not apply to diabetes!