By: Daniel Trecroci
What does having the words“Miss America” on your resumedo for you in the real world?What doors does it open andwhat difference does it reallymake?
For Nicole Johnson, 27, it hasprobably meant more than itdoes to her fellow formerwinners of the ultimate beauty-queen award. When asked, “What will you do if chosen Miss America?” instead of responding“Fight for world peace,” or “Endworld hunger,” Johnson opted tosay she would use her one-yearreign to raise awareness fordiabetes.
And raise awareness she did.
It can be argued that no onecelebrity has done more to raiseawareness for diabetes thanJohnson. It can also be arguedthat no former Miss America hasheld so steadfastly to herplatform long after her reign hadended.
Since relinquishing the crownin September 2000, Johnson, whowas diagnosed with type 1 in1993, has not let up in hercrusade to educate people aboutdiabetes. She also lobbysgovernment officials forincreased dollars for diabetesresearch. While doing all of this,Johnson also found time to writetwo books and tour the worldtirelessly.
We caught up with the formerMiss America to see what shehas been doing.
What have you been up to in the past few years? Do you find your schedule today to be busier than it waswhen you were Miss America?
This last year has been a year of creation forme. I have written two books: acookbook entitled “Mr. Food’sQuick and Easy Diabetes Cooking…with Nicole Johnson” and “Living with Diabetes…TheNicole Johnson Story.” The latteris my autobiography.
I am also in the process ofsetting up a foundation tobenefit people with diabetes andI am honored to be recognized asan international diabetesspokesperson for a second year.I have visited over a dozencountries to raise diabetesawareness in the past two years,which has been an incredibleexperience. In addition, Icontinue to travel around theUnited States speaking about myexperiences and encouragingpeople with diabetes to beadvocates.
Outside of diabetes, I havebecome very involved in thereligious community, sharingmy testimony both in churchesand on television.
What experience did you take awayfrom your reign of which you aremost proud?
That would have to be raising over $12 million for diabetes research andhelping to pass diabetes-relatedlegislation in nearly a half-dozenstates. I was most touched by thecourage, strength and passionthat lies in the hearts and soulsof those in the diabetescommunity.
I think the children touched methe most. There were numerousoccasions when a child wouldcome up to me and tell me that Iwas their “diabetes hero” or“queen of diabetes.” Those arethe moments that I will neverforget.
I am also grateful for thememory of sharing my MissAmerica crown with thousandsof children that share my lifechallenge. I see their faces eachtime I see that crown sparkle orshine.
How is the task of controlling your BGs different today than when youwere traveling all the time asMiss America?
It is actually more challenging today. Now I travel worldwide on behalf ofraising diabetes awareness.Because of this, I am constantlyevaluating and re-evaluating myBG levels and basal rates on mypump. The difference in timezones is a challenge no matterhow you look at it, but it ispossible to manage it well andaggressively. I am obsessiveabout testing my blood sugarwhen I am on the road.
What are your BGs like today, and to what do you attribute success incontrolling them?
I am in very good control. I am so proud that my HbA1c remains at therecommended levels, despite myhectic travel schedule. Myaverage BG is around 130mg/dl.
Do you still wear a pump and how has it improved your control?
I still wear a pump. Right now, I am wearing the MiniMed 508 and Iabsolutely love it. My controlcontinues to improve and Iattribute much of that to usingthe pump and Humalog insulin. I wouldn’t go back to shots for anything in the world.
What is the message you have for youngpeople today who have diabetes and are afraid or who feeldifferent from other kids?
Diabetes only happens to very specialpeople—I am convinced of that.I hope that young people willalways remember that they havethe strength inside of them tobeat diabetes. They are the oneswho are in charge and who holdthe keys to personal success.
The first step toward realizingthis potential and ability iscommitting yourself to gooddiabetes care.
The second step is remembering that in everysituation there is a positive and anegative. It is your decision onwhich scenario to dwell.
The third step is to realize thatyou are a very special personwith very specific, God-giventalents. Use your talents,intelligence and obstacles to turna difficult situation into anopportunity. You can do itbecause you have the ability. Youare different because of yourstrength. Always remember thatreal friends are supportive andloving in all circumstances andsituations.
A Day in My Life
by Nicole Johnson
I wish I had a typical day. In reality, I have nowbeen sleeping in hotels and eating in restaurants forthree years.
What follows below is a typical day for me:
Get up. I usually eat cereal or oatmeal and raisins. I then go and take a brisk walk or make a trip to the gym. If I go to the gym, I walk on the treadmill or Stairmaster for about a half-hour and then do strength training.
I typically eat a light lunch consisting of fruit, yogurt and salad. Then, around 1 p.m., I go back to work.
6:00 to 9:00 PM
I usually eat dinner somewhere in this time frame. It all depends on what my schedule permits. Dinner typically consists of chicken and veggies. Sometimes I choose to go for another walk in the evening after I eat.
I spend anywhere from two to four hours a day onthe computer, about two hours on the phone and therest of the time is spent working on various projects.I confess to being a news junkie and never go to beduntil I watch the evening news.
How to Cope with Diabetes
by Nicole Johnson
There is really no single method that is a sure-fire way to deal with having diabetes. First, however, it is important to realize that diabetes is very different in each individual.
Some tips that have helped my family and me cope withdiabetes are:
1) Having a Good Relationship with Your MedicalTeam
When I was diagnosed with type 1, we found a physicianthat I could trust. It is so important to have faith in your medical team and to know—deep in your heart—that they are doing all they can to help you.
2) Having a Support Group/Support Team
I don’t have a group that I go visit, but I consider my family and a few close friends as my diabetes support group.I know that I can call them when I am down or having a hardtime with my diabetes control, and they won’t belittle me.Instead, they support and uplift me. I also know that I cancelebrate my successes with them.
3) Living My Life with Lots of Hope
Each day I live with the knowledge that science is advancingduring those few waking hours. Today, we are much furtheralong in the fight against diabetes than we were yesterday.
4) Using Sources of Inspiration to Help Me Along theWay
When I feel down, I sit back and reflect on those people I knowwho have had diabetes for many years. They are my inspiration.I think about the people I have met who have achieved the 50-years-with-diabetes medal. I also think about the kids I have met who live with this day-to-day.
It helps me to remember that, all over the world, we are all facingthe same struggle and we are all working toward the same goal.At any given time, there are many of us testing our BGs together.We are all warriors in the same battle. If we want to win, we can’t give up or let the enemy cross the lines.
5) Relying on My Faith to Help Me Cope with My Diabetes
Prayer is a huge part of my diabetes care and control. I acceptthe fact that I can do nothing on my own. God’s strength reallyhelps pull me through.
6) Playing a Game with My Diabetes
It often helps me to look at diabetes in a different light. I try toturn things around and turn diabetes into a personalcompetition—a game with real rewards and setbacks.
For instance, I will challenge myself to two days with perfectBGs. If I accomplish this, I may grant myself a great dessert or atrip to the ice cream shop. Now, mind you, this is not all the time.