Gliding on Insulin - A Guest Blog from Crystal Chilcott

I have had the opportunity to travel to 24 counties and detail my adventures on my travel blog, www.strangerinastrangeland.co. Many of these countries were different in language and culture, but no land was as strange as a type 1 diabetes diagnosis.  

After twenty-three and a half years of functioning properly, my pancreas announced its retirement in dramatic fashion.  Suddenly, I was sleeping for seventeen hours straight and basing my whole day around drinking water.  I lost eleven pounds in two weeks, despite eating more than normal. The doctors told me,We think you have diabetes and we think that it is type 1. Your whole life is going to change.”  At the time of my diagnosis, I was temporarily coaching figure skating in Iceland.  Everything is imported to the country, including medication.  My insulin pens were in Danish, glucose meter in German, and log book in Icelandic.  I knew enough of these languages to get by, but suddenly I had a whole new language to learn: diabetes.

Researching the chronic, life-threatening illness that is ravaging through my body exposes some terrifying statistics.  For example, type 1 diabetics live an average of fifteen years shorter than their nondiabetic counterparts, and two out of every three diabetics die of heart disease or stroke.  Luckily, with modern medicine and good control, such complications can be avoided or delayed.  

Well-meaning, but ill-informed friends also told me that I would never be able to travel again and that I should stop pursuing my dream of becoming Miss Colorado.  Suddenly, I had a major flaw, the inability to produce insulin, something that most people take for granted. How could I ever walk across a stage with bruises on my body from insulin injections or attached to an insulin pump?  I realized that I had two choices, I could either give up on my dreams and hide my disability or I could embrace it and use it as an opportunity to inspire other people living with diabetes or other disabilities.  

That is when I published a children's book about a type 1 diabetic figure skater who competes internationally.  When I read this book to children, we also do an art project on how we have type 1, but type 1 does not have us.  One of my favorite aspects of the Miss America Organization is the personal platform requirement.  Each contestant has a cause that she is passionate about.  I titled both my book and platform Gliding on Insulin.  I am gliding on insulin the whole way to the Miss Colorado stage, where the new titleholder will be crowned on June 24.  Miss Colorado will go on to represent her state at Miss America. Everyone, diabetic or not, has something they've had to overcome and being insulin-dependent doesn't mean we have to stumble through life.  Rather, we can embrace our disabilities and turn them into opportunities to live beyond our disease.

- Crystal Chilcott

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