My favorite thing about Instagram is seeing a constant stream of creativity. Whether it’s men hating shopping or the hipster barbie one, I love scrolling through my feed and seeing people’s stories. When I stumbled upon Danielle’s account a few weeks ago, I was immediately intrigued by her unique and highly stylized expressions of life with diabetes. Today, artist Danielle Newett is visiting Six Until Me to share her story and some of her advocacy art work.

Kerri: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Danielle!  Could you share a little bit about your experience with diabetes for folks reading?

Danielle: I have just started really joining more diabetes groups and sharing recently and I am so glad I have.  I’m a reader so I have a firm grasp on the medical aspects of diabetes but I have found it trying not having anyone around who REALLY gets it (but super grateful they don’t have to).  Anyway, I found that, aside from a few loose cannons, the type one diabetes communities on social media are extremely supportive and helpful.

A little about me… I am a 33 year old who lives in a smallish town outside of Philadelphia, PA with my husband and two kids.  I love walking in the woods, reading, running, biking, making stuff, and gardening.

I was diagnosed in 2009 with type 1 diabetes.  At the time my kids were 3 and 6 months old and we had just moved into a new home so being fatigued wasn’t too out of the ordinary.  But the classic symptoms just kept coming from having to go to the bathroom A LOT to weight loss.  I would stand at the kitchen sink and just drink glass after glass of water but still be thirsty.  Like many people who deal with delayed or missed diagnosis I basically had to demand a blood test from my doctor.  I believe the blood test came back with a fasting glucose that was in the high 300s.  The endocrinologist I ended up seeing was AMAZING.  Not only did she get me right to the hospital for insulin training but she found a few lumps on my thyroid that turned out to be a problem, eventually leading to a total thyroidectomy.  I also feel she was such a blessing because I had been suffering from terrible stomach/digestive issues since I was a kid, I had visited multiple doctors but never received a diagnosis, but this endocrinologist sent me to a great GI doctor for celiac testing.  Finding out I had diabetes, celiac disease, and needed a thyroidectomy was a lot at one time but I was grateful for the team of doctors who really made me feel safe, educated, and well cared for.

Kerri: I first saw your diabetes art work on Instagram a few weeks ago.  What made you want to dabble in diabetes artwork?

Danielle: I’ve always loved art and making things but last year I had my leg operated on and I was not allowed to run or bike for a while after the surgery.  Running and biking are very much my go to hobbies and stress relievers.  I was feeling pretty trapped with my bum leg so I started making little cartoons.  Drawing helped me to sort of give my mind an escape.  I also found cartoons helpful for not letting people’s rude or uneducated comments get to me.  I draw all the ridiculous things that people have said about type one diabetes and when you are drawing it out like that it does just seem more silly and easier to disregard.

As for the Omnipod art that just sort of happened randomly.  After starting on the Omnipod I was pretty curious about how it worked and what was in there so I took one apart.  Much later my daughter and I were painting and the pieces were there so we started incorporating them into our art.  I shared one of the Omnipod pieces on a Facebook group and people responded positively.  They thought it was interesting and it seemed to make people feel something besides dread about diabetes & devices so I made some more Omnipod pieces.

Kerri: What sort of stories are you looking to tell? 

Danielle: The story I am looking to tell is basically a story of acceptance.  The little cartoons I make with the Omnipod pieces integrated into them are cute.  I don’t always feel “cute” when I have my CGM and my Omnipod on.  I happen to have a super awesome husband and family but maybe some people don’t and maybe that leaves them buying into those negative thoughts or feelings.  I would obviously rather not have devices on my body but if I have to then I am not going to be ashamed or feel weird about it.  I also struggle with the amount of trash I personally make with my diabetes supplies.  In a perfect world everything would be reusable and eco-friendly but the reality is we have these needles, devices, batteries even that are simply necessary for our existence so why not reimagine some of them as something new.

Kerri: What’s your favorite diabetes piece you’ve created so far, and what’s the story behind it?

Danielle: My favorite thing I have made is this cure type 1 diabetes cartoon.  She is shining a light, maybe for herself… maybe for others who have diabetes, and she is demanding a cure.  I have times where I want a cure so badly for myself but most of the time I can accept my fate but I can’t accept this for children.  It is such a burden, I cannot image how annoying and disruptive it is for a child who just wants to learn and play and live.  I see the heartbreaking stories of missed diagnoses and parents who have lost their children and it makes me so sad but also so upset with the medical community.  I think we have to be each other’s light and really support the scientists, universities, and organizations who are researching real cures and better technologies.  We have to take it upon ourselves to remind people of the warning signs, that it might not just be the flu, and to be proactive in our own health care management.

Kerri: What’s next in terms of sharing your art, and your story?

Danielle: I suppose what is next for me is to keep reaching out and getting more involved with the diabetic community.  I have been looking for a group near my home to maybe do things like hiking, book clubs, maybe even art, together so we can feel less alone in our day to day diabetes care.  For me it’s just about making things.  I am passionate about people really living their lives to the fullest and doing what makes them happy.  I figure the more people we see out there doing what they love the better.

Kerri: How can SixUntilMe readers find out more about you and your work?

Danielle: I have two Instagram accounts: @danielle.newett, where I share my art and personal photos, and @jandcsoapco2.0 where I share soap projects (making soap is super therapeutic and FUN). I also have an Etsy store: Jack and Cole Soap Company.

Thanks so much for taking the time to learn about me and my journey with diabetes.  I really feel super grateful to be able to connect with other type 1 diabetics.  My grandfather was a type one and things were so much different back then, before glucometers, before people really felt comfortable talking about their health issues with relative strangers.  Hopeful for a cure and until then banking on this great T1 community to keep each other lifted up.

Oh by the way, Frida Kahlo is such an inspiration to me.   She suffered many health issues and rather than be dismayed at not being able to finish her schooling – I believe she wanted to be a doctor – she took to art as a way to deal with, among other things, being trapped in bed with a broken body.

Thanks for sharing your story, Danielle.  I love your multi-media style and can’t wait to see what you create next!  Be sure to visit Danielle’s Instagram account and check out her work.