A few days ago, I was mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed (a habitual pastime of mine) when a photo reappeared once, twice, and three-plus times. At first, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it because it was just a smiling girl wearing a bathing suit. Since it’s summer time and all, pictures like that crop up several times a week – nothing unusual.
But I started to wonder who the girl was when I saw that same picture flash on my screen multiple times throughout the day. So I did a little detective work and immediately realized that my Facebook friends who shared the photo all had one thing in common: diabetes. I examined the picture more closely and I saw what looked like an insulin pump clipped onto the girl’s swimsuit. Moreover, it looked like she was walking on some sort of stage. What is this, I thought. A diabetes beauty pageant or something?
I was close enough! Some more investigation revealed that the girl in the picture is Sierra Sandison, a.k.a. the newly crowned Miss Idaho 2014. In the swimsuit portion of the pageant, Sierra walked onstage wearing more than just her bikini. When audience members and judges saw that she was attached to a small device with tubing, they had questions as to what its function was and why she was wearing it. Sierra bravely explained that she has type-one diabetes and that it was her insulin pump. Those with a background in diabetes care and management know how important an insulin pump is. It’s not something that can simply be removed whenever it needs to be hidden, so Sierra decided to showcase it with dignity, not shame or embarrassment, in her competition for the crown.
Sierra’s admirable fearlessness caused an internet sensation. I’m a member of multiple social media websites including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Across all three, the hashtag #showmeyourpump was trending on my newsfeeds. When I clicked the hashtag, a plethora of pictures and statuses showed up featuring people with diabetes and their insulin pumps. I was scrolling through so many of them that I’m sure I only saw a sampling of the ones posted, but I could practically feel the pride each person felt when taking those pictures as I viewed them.
Not only does #showmeyourpump bring a greater sense of unity to the diabetes online community, but it spreads diabetes awareness during what I think is a critical time. Despite the many resources available today, there still seems to be a great deal of confusion among the general public when it comes to differences between type one and type two diabetes, let alone how both are treated. Sierra’s simple choice to stride out wearing her pump has generated a buzz that will help clear up some of the questions people have, as well as provide tangibility to an otherwise invisible condition.
Moreover, I think it’s wonderful that the outlet for this is a beauty pageant. Generally, the word I think of when I hear “beauty pageant” is “perfect”. To some, any sort of flaw an individual may have (whether they can help it or not) makes them less beautiful. In my opinion, and I’m sure others would agree, I think any sort of “imperfection” is what makes someone special; therefore, beautiful. So there might be some people out there who see diabetes as a flaw, something that you can’t take pride in. But Sierra, other people with diabetes, and I know that isn’t true. It’s something to embrace, something that we can use to help make the world a better place by continuing to share personal stories to offer support and knowledge to others.
I’m grateful for Sierra and her story for symbolizing all of these things. And I may not be on the pump yet, but when I am, I can’t wait to post a picture of me wearing it without hesitation or concern that I’ll be judged for it.