Catching Up with Miss America

DIABETES HEALTH: Chelsea Smith, a 6-year-old reader from Sidney, Maine, was just diagnosed a few weeks ago. First, she wants to know if she can get a poster of you. And, she wants to ask you, do you still take shots?

Nicole Johnson: Hi Chelsea. The best thing to do to get a poster of me is either contact the Miss America Organization on the Web at, or call MiniMed at (800) 440-7867 and ask them if you can get a poster of me with my pump. It just came out and it’s a great education tool for young people with diabetes.

You also ask if I still take shots. I took four to five insulin shots a day for more than three years and then decided to start using an insulin pump. Today, because of my pump, I take only one shot every two to three days. (The shot is to insert the tubing under my skin.) It has been a wonderful change for me, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new form of therapy.

DI: Another reader, Stephanie, from Raleigh, North Carolina, wonders how you attach the pump to your leg while you’re wearing a dress. Also, with summer around the corner, Stephanie is curious about whether you wear the pump while swimming or lying in the sun. She has always heard that you’re not supposed to get your pump too hot.

NJ: Well, many times I just put the pump inside my stockings, or, if you want to, wear a light girdle, which can also help hold it in place. There is also a product specifically designed for this purpose produced by a company that specializes in pump accessories. In addition, I’ve heard of ladies using a garter or garter belt to keep the pump in place. It is all up to personal preference and what makes you feel comfortable. Just remember to be creative, and you can make it work in any situation.

About swimming and sunbathing, I disconnect the pump while swimming. You can also choose to put it in a waterproof case, whatever works best for you. When sunbathing, just put your pump under a towel or clothing to protect it from the sun and heat. I tend to wrap mine in a towel or t-shirt and then I place it under my beach chair. Remember, again, creativity is the key.

DI: Kathleen Soper of Hanford, California, wants to know more about the bill that you helped pass in the Virginia legislature.

NJ: The bill that was passed in Virginia provides coverage for diabetes education and supplies, similar to legislation also passed in many other states. Although they are all very similar, there are differences, and I encourage you to get involved in California’s fight for this coverage.

DI: Have you always exercised? Did you play sports as a child, or is exercise something that came because of your diabetes diagnosis? Can you tell us why you enjoy being active, and how it feels to exercise regularly?

NJ: I have always been very active. However, I was not blessed with speed and coordination. I tried many sports as a child, but most of my participation was limited to my neighborhood and back yard. In middle school, I was a cheerleader and in high school I was on the track team. My events were the high jump and the hurdles.

Exercise is vital for any individual. It not only affects your body, but also your mind and spirit. Today, I use exercise as a form of stress relief. Exercise has also been proven to help in brain function and neurological connections-definite musts.

I think the best way to convince people to exercise is to participate with them. People always need motivation and moral support. You can use physical activity as a time to communicate, strengthen, and even build relationships. It also makes a great date.

DI: Do you have any close friends or family members with diabetes? And, do you think that loved ones who do not have diabetes sometimes find it hard to understand your struggles?

NJ: I don’t have any family members that can relate to my struggle with diabetes, but my parents and brother are my biggest sources of support and strength.

Since I was diagnosed, and especially this year, I have formed many relationships with people my age that have diabetes and can understand what I am going through. It is so helpful for young people in particular to find someone to share their feelings, frustrations, hopes, and dreams. Someone who has diabetes is a perfect choice.

I strongly advocate diabetes summer camps for young people and support groups for the entire family. Everyone needs a willing ear and kind heart, from the person with diabetes to that person’s family.

God bless you and see you next month.

From the Miss America Organization:

In her quest for the Miss America crown, Nicole was awarded more than $65,000 in scholarship assistance.

The Miss America Organization is the single largest provider of scholarships for women in the world with scholarship assistance totaling more than $30 million in 1998. It is a nonprofit corporation based in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

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