Dancing Teen: Interview with Jill and Alyssa.
I first heard about Alyssa through the Johnson & Johnson YouTube channel, where I caught a video of this irish step-dancing 11 year old ... who had type 1 diabetes. I reached out to Alyssa, and her mom Jill, for a little mom-daughter perspective on being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and moving forward.
Jill: When Alyssa was first diagnosed, we were devastated, overwhelmed, sad, and scared. We spent three days with Alyssa in the hospital where they educated us on how to manage her diabetes. We knew we could tackle this as a family and we all jumped right in to learn as much as we could.
Alyssa: At first I didn't understand what was going on. The first thing I figured out about diabetes was that I had to take the most responsibility. I made diabetes part of who I am, not something that would change who I was or what I did.
Kerri: Jill, what's the biggest challenge, in your opinion, of diabetes? Alyssa, how about for you?
Jill: Trying to give Alyssa the freedom that any other preteen has and to not let her diabetes interfere with her life. We need to plan ahead now and be prepared for any emergency.
Alyssa: Having to stop what I'm doing to test my blood sugar or take insulin. It's hard when I'm with friends and I don't want to stop doing something with them or hold them up.
Kerri: Alyssa, I learned about you and your talent as an Irish step dancer through a video on the Johnson & Johnson YouTube channel. Can you tell me a little bit about the experience of sharing your story with their team?
Alyssa: It was so much fun! I hope he message people get is that diabetes doesn't change you, or stop you from doing the things you love. I'm a competitive Irish dancer and diabetes doesn't change how I dance or how well I dance.
Kerri: How do you hope to use dance as a way of inspiring other kids with diabetes?
Alyssa: I hope that when other kids see that I can still compete at a high level and continue to advance in Irish dance, that anything is possible even though I have diabetes. I hope I encourage kids with diabetes to keep doing what they love to do.
Kerri: What words of advice would you both have for parents and kids who are dealing with diabetes as a team?
Jill: Managing diabetes is a team effort. The most important player is the child, who should be involved with managing their diabetes starting from the first day of diagnosis. Second, have family and friends involved. People are willing to help and should be encouraged to be part of the team.
Alyssa: It’s important for the child to know that their parents are ready to tackle diabetes along with them. If it feels like you’re alone, it seems a lot scarier. You have to hold your head high and put your best foot forward and work together.
Kerri: I really appreciate the time you've taken to share some thoughts with us. Anything else you'd like to include? The floor's yours!
Jill: Children with diabetes can do everything their friends do. The key is to manage your diabetes as best you can to stay healthy.
Alyssa: Diabetes doesn’t change who you are. I like to think of diabetes as a part of me. It just adds to me, without changing me.