CWD: Jay Hewitt.
Role models are crucial when dealing with a chronic illness, and the CWD conference wasn't short on it's share of role models. From session leaders like Nicole Johnson to the parents who take care of their children with diabetes, heroes were everywhere. The keynote speaker at the banquet was Jay Hewitt, and he was diagnosed with type 1 when he was 24 years old.
His speech was nothing short of inspirational. Aside from the fact that he is in top physical condition (not to mention pretty damn handsome) and well-spoken, Jay said some things that resonated to my very core.
"You are not alone," he said, striding across the stage and smiling down at the group of kids who were looking up at him. "All of your friends here are doing the same thing. I checked my blood sugar before I walked out here on stage so I wouldn't forget my own name."
He talked about his Ironman competitions, saying "I don't forget that I have diabetes, but I forget that other athletes don't." This struck a chord in me, and made me value this diabetes community even more. I have the comfort of people who really understand, both in my personal life and on the Internet, and sometimes I forget that other people don't have a good grasp on how diabetes really affects our lives. (I wrote about this very concept in last month's Generation D.)
Jay encouraged the kids to set goals and take control of their lives. "Make the bad things that happen to you the best thing that happened to you. Seek failure. Think about failing. Set goals that have failure potential. Failure is not a bad thing. If you've never failed, you aren't trying hard enough."
"People ask me, 'Why do you do this?' I do this for the finish line. You have to earn your finish line. You don't earn your finish line on race day - you earn it when no one's watching."
I thought about what we, as people with diabetes, do every day. We test when we aren't reminded. We take our insulin not because we're nagged but because we want to be healthy. We seek out information and talk with our doctors and do the best we damn can, even when no one's watching. This journey with diabetes isn't for show and isn't for accolades. It's for life.
Role models are important for kids with diabetes. They're important for adults with diabetes, too. Thank you, Jay Hewitt, for being someone I can look up to.