T1International Releases Important Statement on #insulin4all

This was originally published on the T1International blog on August 21, 2020. I am sharing it here today because it is incredibly important to me that you, readers of this blog, and the entire diabetes online community collectively understand how serious this matter is to me. I firmly believe that there is no place for bullying, hate speech, or disrespect in any type of interaction, regardless of when or where it takes place. It truly sickens me to think that anyone has tainted this hashtag with ugly personal attacks and I implore anyone using this hashtag to use it with the utmost respect and kindness – anyone who chooses not to do so diminishes the message behind this movement and harms the diabetes community as a whole. As for myself, I can promise you that as both the creator/writer behind Hugging the Cactus and as a T1International digital advocate, you can always expect me to interact with others in an open-minded, respectful, compassionate manner, no matter what.

T1International Statement on #insulin4all

T1International has been made aware of a recent increase in hateful speech, as well as disrespectful and non-collaborative behavior on the #insulin4all hashtag. While hashtags cannot be owned by anyone, T1International’s global work is tied to #insulin4all. As one of the creators of the hashtag, we want to acknowledge our concerns over these issues and set clear lines about what we stand for as an organization, and what we do not. We do not stand for or tolerate bullying, hate speech, abusive language, or words or actions that are intended to demoralize others.

The History of #insulin4all
The #insulin4all campaign was launched in the lead up to World Diabetes Day in 2014 by T1International and other organizations. Although World Diabetes Day began in 1991 in order to “draw attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world”, the organizations felt that the true spirit of the day had been lost. The campaign was an effort to emphasize that people living with diabetes struggle to survive or face extreme difficulties because they cannot afford or access their life-saving insulin, blood glucose test strips, or basic healthcare. Others are caught in conflict or living in countries where there is little humanitarian assistance for people with diabetes. Many suffer complications and premature death without affordable or sustainable access.

The #insulin4all hashtag caught on quickly, and, in many ways it took on a life of its own. Advocates across the globe use the hashtag on various online platforms and in-person as a rallying cry to support their efforts to improve the lives of people with diabetes.

T1International’s #insulin4all Chapters
T1International’s USA Chapters and some of our Global Chapters have #insulin4all in their names, which reflects the grassroots nature of the movement and the volunteer efforts, though the Chapters are supported by the T1International Team. All Chapter Leaders and Leads sign an agreement to abide by our policies and values. Through this agreement, they are specifically required to act in a way that is respectful and that represents T1International in a professional manner, honouring T1International’s values and upholding the charity’s reputation. Chapter Leaders and Leads are also provided with guidance and tools for engaging in-person and digitally in ways that reflect the respectful, inclusive, and intersectional movement that we are collectively building.

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What #insulin4all Means to T1International
T1International sees #insulin4all as a community-led effort that is not solely focused on one person, entity, or country, but is a collaborative effort to bring equality to all people living with diabetes. This involves not only a fight for equality through affordable access to insulin, supplies and healthcare, but equity and inclusion when it comes to people with all types of diabetes, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, races and ethnicities, gender identities, countries of origin, and more. There is a lot of work to be done, and we believe in doing that work together wherever possible. We believe in doing it respectfully, transparently, and in a way that upholds our values.

The #insulin4all movement has built significant power, and there is a great need to use that power responsibly to advance the cause. When that collective power is focused on those responsible for the problem that have the power to fix it – that means Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi, along with other actors that want to profit on insulin even if it means people die because of its price – it is unifying for the community, and serves as a force for driving change.

When that power is focused on people who aren’t in a position to make change themselves as individuals – and especially when that focus intersects with other sources of power like white privilege, economic privilege, hetero/cis privilege, and other types of privilege – it ends up being a source of division and moves us further from our end goal of affordable insulin. Holding the Big Three and their executives accountable is categorically different from attacking individuals who aren’t in positions of power.

What #insulin4all Does Not Mean to T1International
As a small team of staff that are deeply committed to the values outlined, it pains us to see the hashtag and, thus, the affiliation with T1International’s name being used in harmful ways. It is worth reiterating: we do not stand for or tolerate bullying, hate speech, abusive language, or words or actions that are intended to demoralize others. Using the #insulin4all hashtag to attack people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, any marginalized group – or any person or group for that matter – is actively harmful to the movement. We do not believe in meeting problematic behavior with problematic behavior. We believe in calling out unhealthy or damaging behaviors – like the pharmaceutical industry’s price-gouging – in ways that are bold and that ignite change to improve the lives of patients, but are not vicious.

We hope that the #insulin4all community, and whatever it means to each member of that community, can come together over the shared aim of improving the lives of people with diabetes, starting with making insulin affordable and accessible to everyone who needs it. As the fight continues, we ask that our volunteers and supporters approach these issues with the same outstanding passion and commitment we see every day, while being open-minded and respectful in their approach.

27 Acts of Kindness: Days 3 and 4

One of the best parts about doing this kindness challenge during an, um…pandemic is that it requires me to think creatively.

I’m trying to avoid doing acts of kindness that prevents direct contact with others, because hello, social distancing!

So this means a lot of my efforts aren’t exactly tangible. But I’ve already started to feel that warm-‘n-fuzzy feeling that often comes with doing good for others, and it’s truly lovely.

More specifically…

Wednesday, 4/8 – Act of Kindness #3: I had an incredibly frustrating and mostly nonproductive work day – and to make it even more maddening, it wasn’t my fault; rather, there were various technological issues going on with my machine. I had to seek the help of my company’s IT person in order to resolve it. We spent a full hour on the phone, and during our call, I couldn’t help but notice that she wasn’t only juggling her job responsibilities, but she was also doing what she could to take care of her three young children. I was in awe of her ability to stay cool, calm, and collected throughout the entire troubleshooting period, so I decided to express my gratitude for her via email. I sent her a note in which I thanked her for her efforts, and also told her that I know I’m not the only one in our company who recognizes her hard work (in a meeting earlier in the day, the entire group on the call was singing her praise). She responded to my email and let me know that she really appreciated my kind words after a tough day, which put a huge smile on my face.

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“This is the best way we know how to bring a little respite to those fighting to keep us safe and healthy and remind them that we are thinking about them.” -New City Microcreamery

Thursday, 4/9 – Act of Kindness #4: So I had noooo idea what I should try to do for my fourth act of kindness. I have a list of ideas, but I’m also open to spur-of-the-moment acts inspired by the events of my day or observations that I make. And wouldn’t you know it, I had a major stroke of inspiration when I opened my personal Instagram profile.

I was scrolling through my feed when I noticed a post from a local ice cream shop that I adore. They were announcing a fundraiser called “Scoops for Heroes”. In the post, the team explained that the purpose of this program is to deliver pints of ice cream to our heroes on the front lines; specifically, individuals who work in hospitals and first responders. The goal was to raise $2,000 to start deliveries next week, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to employing team members and purchasing the goods needed to provide pints of ice cream to our hometown heroes.

Delicious ice cream and support for a local business, its employees, AND the amazing people who work to keep the community safe…what’s not to love about supporting a fundraiser that involves all of that? I was more than happy to contribute and I have total faith in my community’s ability to come together and meet (and more than likely, surpass) the creamery’s goal.

If you’re interested in contributing, too, here’s the link to the GoFundMe page.

27 Acts of Kindness

I didn’t publish a new blog post on Friday.

This wasn’t accidental. I deliberately neglected my blog because…my heart just wasn’t in it. Contrary to my blog a few weeks ago, I felt…I don’t know…kind of dumb about maintaining my blog through all this? Like, what’s the point of my silly little blog when the world is fighting a massive battle right now?

Maybe it’s foolish to feel that way, maybe it’s not. I don’t know. I moped about it for most of last week, and then spent some time seriously thinking about how and why I was feeling mightily blue about my blog.

And then I realized: I’m feeling a bit helpless. I want to help my loved ones and my community in any way that I can, but how can I possibly do anything productive from home?

I thought about it some more before the perfect idea came to me.

In exactly 27 days, I turn 27 years old. There’s nothing particularly special or exciting about this age, but I do have the power to make it a meaningful birthday celebration by doing 27 acts of kindness each day leading up to May 3rd.

hugging the cactus - a t1d blog
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday than to share a little love with the world.

I don’t know exactly what or how these acts of kindness will unfold over the next several weeks – I think that part of the beauty of the challenge is that I can go with what feels right as each day goes by – but I do know that I’ll document my experiences here. I’ll share what I do each day and I’ll do my best to make sure that each act is unique. And I’ll continue to publish posts regularly (my 3x per week schedule). Daily posts would be ideal, but I know myself and I know my real-world workload wouldn’t exactly accommodate that.

The only other thing you might be wondering about my challenge is…what the heck does it have to do with diabetes? That’s a valid question, considering this IS a blog about my life with type 1 diabetes. And my answer to it is that I will do as many diabetes-specific acts of kindness as possible. I imagine that in the next month or so, plenty of diabetes-related anecdotes will sneak their way into my posts, as they always do.

And finally, a clarification…I hope my challenge isn’t misconstrued as me trying to do something “noble” or “noteworthy”. I want to emphasize that this challenge was born out of pure frustration that I’ve felt over feeling like I’m unable to contribute to society right now when it so desperately needs all of the help that it can get. My heart and my head have been with ALL of the essential employees – my dad and my best friend are just two people in my life who can be counted among them – who are showing up to work each day and dealing with a number of hurdles during this unprecedented time.

All of that combined has really motivated me to take this on and make this upcoming birthday truly meaningful.

Who Inspires Me from the DOC

It’s November 22nd which means that it’s Day 22 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! Today is called #FollowFriday and we’re encouraged to share who inspires us from the diabetes community. Rather than capture the dozens upon dozens of names in a blog post (because truly, there’s practically an endless list of people who inspire me in the DOC), I’m going to write about what I think makes someone in the DOC inspiring…

I’ve lost track of how many years I’ve been involved with the diabetes online community (DOC).

It’s somewhere between five and eight. Regardless of what the true number is, I can tell you this: I’ve “met” and interacted with countless people who’ve shared their stories with me. Each story is unique and marked by different struggles and victories, but the common theme is diabetes.

But what else do these storytellers share that make them so inspiring to me?

Happy Independence Day!
Chances are that if you’re reading this post…you’ve inspired me in some way. Thank you.

Here are three qualities of people with diabetes who inspire me:

  1. Vulnerability. I’ve come to value this more than just about any other trait when it comes to talking about diabetes in an online space. Nothing makes a person more relatable (or more human) than when they speak uninhibited and honestly. In a social media world where everyone is so concerned with capturing and filtering the “perfect” photo with the “flawless” caption to go with it, I find that it’s the stories that are raw and obviously imperfect that pack more of a punch. It’s important to stay grounded, and those who aren’t afraid to share their tribulations as much as they share their successes are truly inspiring to me.

2. Kindness. The Internet can be harsh and judgmental. (Okay, that’s a total understatement). It’s brutal out here in cyberspace, and unfortunately, the DOC isn’t immune to all brands of savagery. In the past, I’ve seen disputes erupt because of hateful comments made about all aspects of life with diabetes. So when I notice thoughtful, supportive, and downright nice comments between perfect strangers in an online space, it restores a bit of my faith in humanity. Those who take the time to send a tweet to another PWD in need or who use their presence online to do some good don’t go unnoticed by me, and I applaud each and every single person who does their best to reduce the negativity in the diabetes online community.

3. Willingness to listen and learn from differing perspectives. Those of us who live with diabetes can be wildly, passionately opinionated. Pumps! No, MDI! Carbs! No, keto diet! Your diabetes is just like mine! No, it’s not! – Those are just a few examples. While some may be quick to judge others for dealing with diabetes in a way that is different or just plain “wrong” to them, I’m far more impressed by those who remain open to having conversations and learning from those who disagree. After all, what matters most is that a person finds what works best for them. It shouldn’t matter that it’s different from what I or anyone else might do. So I really admire those who are able to put aside differences and focus on learning and growing from others.

Thank you to each and every single person out there in the diabetes online community who possesses one or all of these qualities. This means you’ve inspired me in some way, and I am incredibly grateful for you and your willingness to share part of yourself with strangers online. Keep doing what you’re doing and I can guarantee that you’ll continue to inspire many more people.