Express Yourself Art Contest – Written Submissions

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Art has the ability to give us insight, to help us see the world through a new lens. It also can heal and allow us to process what it means to be human. During Diabetes Awareness Month, Beyond Type 1 asked community members to create and submit artwork inspired by their experience living with Type 1 diabetes. Here are some of our written submissions in poetry or essay form. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did; perhaps they will inspire you to create something of your own.

Check out our Pinterest board to see the visual artwork.

See our winners of the competition.

Abigail Eccleston

“Eyes to Seeing the Blessing”  a personal essay

Artist Statement: I am a 34-year-old mom of 3 from Oswego, Illinois. I was diagnosed in college in 2001 and have fought every day to live my life “in spite of and not because of” T1D. This piece is just a little glimpse of my story, how I try to look at my life and how I’ve grown because diabetes is a part of my life. I really hope it can be an encouragement and blessing to someone else, which is what makes this all worth while!

Through deep, sorrowful sobs from a man I had never even seen cry, I heard the scared and honest words: “This is the worst thing that could ever happen to you and it’s my fault.”

It was the phone call I’d been avoiding all day, 15 years ago this October. I was frantically running through my college campus to take an electronic Political Science test when my cell phone rang. I picked it up and heard the words I knew we’re coming. The words that changed my life poured into my ear and bounced around my head like that little metal pinball hitting one target and then bouncing around to the next, over and over again. My blood-work had confirmed Type 1 diabetes. I knew what it meant because I grew up with a diabetic grandpa. I knew the main characters: needles, insulin, finger pokes. I had no idea how this sharp turn in my storyline would change my life.

As the tears started rolling, I remember calling my dad, searching for assurance that I’d still be able to have kids and everything would be okay. The rest of the day was doctors, calls from friends, a lot of tears and my first shot of insulin. Exhausted I made it over to a friend’s apartment to stay the night where I finally accepted a phone call I had been letting go to voicemail since I got the news. I answered to sobs and heard those words: “This is the worst thing that could ever happen to you and it’s my fault.” 

It was my grandpa, the late, great Rusty Richard. Diabetic since his 30s, the disease had caused significant erosion to the life that he saw in front of him as a young man, and faced with the idea of a grandchild with a lifetime of diabetes ahead was a nightmare he’d all too often expressed a fear of. When I heard his words and took in his deep sorrow for a fate we now shared, I had this gracious moment from God where I saw a fork in the road. I could take these words and live in them, wear them on my sleeve and spew out a destructive vision of unfair doom over my life. Or I could take these words as a jumping point and go forward. I was flooded with the feeling that I had the choice to turn these words untrue, if I turned that direction. I breathed as far down as I could go and, with a confidence not my own, I assured him of just that. We hung up through soggy “I love you’s”, and I closed my eyes as I buried my head into my pillow, the first night carrying this new title of “diabetic.”

I sit here typing this, now at 34 years old and I’m wishing that I could hug that scared, clueless 19-year-old. Of course I would tell her it’s really, really hard. I wouldn’t lie about the lost sleep, the scary big moments, the daily feelings of sickness and blood sugar swings, the struggles physically and financially on top of everything. It’s all true. But, that choice she made on that first night, the challenge her grandpa presented and God revealed was a choice to see beauty in the broken, and my, oh my, would there be beauty.

The remarkable beauty in the people that would surround her in each stage of her life. She’d seal a budding relationship with the girl who became her college best friend over tacos and prayers about what these test results held. There would be calls and prayers, discussions, and getting old M&Ms from a candy machine the first time her sugar went low. There would be friends who asked about blood sugars and check in during the day even though they had no idea what “high” or “low” means and find her test kit on Facebook after her husband accidentally drove off with it on the top of their van (a story that deserves its own essay). And speaking of her husband, she would meet him just three months after diagnosis and he would take on this disease with her from the first day they met. She could not imagine the depth of his love and commitment to her through each up and down of this journey. There will never be a night where he doesn’t spring out of bed to get juice or a day where he’s not checking her sugar on his phone at work. There won’t even be frustration spoken about how draining the supplies would be on their finances. The absolutely precious depth of his servant’s heart would not be known to her without this condition.

And her parents. Her parents’ response would still blow her away years after diagnosis. They would never give away even a scent of fear. They would never offer for her to come home from school and figure this out under their eye and cautiously proceed. They would ooze confidence in her living life just as she had before, forcing her to believe she could and should take charge of her new normal, the good and the bad. There will be times that somehow finances will just show up and she will be provided for, out of nowhere just when it felt like she was ready to crack. There will be technology to help, doctors who will go above and beyond, studies that will change life’s trajectory, medications that will make the unbearable bearable. The mere fact that she was born at a time in history where diabetes wasn’t a certain death sentence will give her confidence that there is a plan for her. She will fight each day of three pregnancies to have three absolutely huge (but so darn beautiful) babies and see the fears of that first day fall like ashes to the ground. And she’ll see her faith increase as she leans into the hard and finds a faithful God who carries her through when she’s sure she can’t continue.

Even if I could go back and provide this neatly wrapped encouragement to a younger me, I wouldn’t. Living it, not knowing what would happen and seeing all the bounty that has sprung out of the difficult, has been the joy of my life. I know for certain the large and looming gaps in my path will be met with a bridge if I put one foot in front of the other in faith. The worst thing in my life has brought me the best gifts: deep relationships, confidence, faith, dreams — hard-fought and realized. I hope my grandpa is proud as punch as he watches from heaven, all of the strides made in fighting diabetes and the way it has changed my life for the better. I understand his devastation on the phone that day because I have now lived every day for the last 15 years with this disease that never quits, never stops, never takes a day off. Having lived just one day with this disease, I know that sharing this fate with a loved one, also carrying this cross would be so incredibly painful. I am thankful for his true honesty and for the way it set in motion my approach to this journey. Diabetes has absolutely changed my life, but I want to be sure that it isn’t all bad. My posture is and will continue to be unceasing and expectant prayers for a cure, and eyes to see the blessing in the struggle until then!

Brittany Hines

“Am I Still Beautiful?” a poem

Artist Statement: I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 20 on March 9, 2010 in Port Washington, New York. I am currently working as a second grade teacher, but I was also selected to represent myself as Miss Nassau County International and will be competing in a pageant to represent Miss New York with my platform of health and fitness with Type 1 diabetes. I have competed in two fitness competitions in which I wore my insulin pump and sensor for all of the world to see, without shame — tape, tubing, needle and all. I chose, as a goal for myself, to not let fear dictate the things I do or not do, to remove my pump and use insulin shots in my second competition. I was very proud of myself for doing this, as I had not been off of the pump in seven years. I now have proved to myself, I can go surfing, kayaking or do any other sport without fear of “not being connected.” I am now living a flexible lifestyle with controlling my diabetes, and I wrote this poem one night after feeling overwhelmed with diabetes and all that it encompasses. I hope that my words can speak volumes to those who live this life, with a smile, and say nothing at all. I don’t typically express how I feel on the inside, but my words do.

Am I still beautiful, with my tubing and tape? Glued to my body, wish I could escape.
Am I still beautiful, with my computer-like device? Swung around my hip, jolting left and right.
Do you think I’m still beautiful, despite glassy eyes? I’m sorry, don’t mind me, I was up all night.

My sensor is beeping, vibrating with such size … Please don’t laugh, and poke jokes, as it saves my life. “Can you take off your machinery?”

I can’t believe he just said that to me! “Sure,” I say … put my heartbeat on hold,

Ignoring intuition, just to feel like gold.

As I plug and unplug, paving my way …
I’ve learned who I’ll trust: Myself—every day.
I will not ask you to console my shattered heart,
for I know I am strong, though once broken; I’ve pressed “Start.”

Watch me , as I stride through my life,

Striking happiness by bringing others to light.

I will not give up; not once; never again
My soul runs deep, and I’ll prove it fervent!

Watch me fall to my knees, embracing my creator,
And his purpose for me.
Rising above, standing tall, pancreas on hip, needles and all…

I AM beautiful, so she said…
…she finally listened, breathed deeply,
“I won’t surrender to You, Diabetes … ever again.”

Kevin S. Moore

“T1D You Can’t Stop Me” a poem

Artist Statement: My name is Kevin S. Moore. AKA #Type1guy4life. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1971 at the age of 6. Now I’m 51, almost 52 and live in San Diego, CA. It is and has been my goal before I expire to do anything and everything in my power to make Type 1 Type None before I’m done. Type 1 diabetes has never kept me from accomplishing anything in life with the exception of flying F-15s. I am an endurance athlete, entrepreneur and small business owner. In addition, I am a writer, T1D public speaker and the proud father of two amazing children Justin 27, Lindsey 24 and my amazing wife Helene of 29 years. She is my rescue alert and has saved me from dying from low blood sugars on multiple occasions.  Therefore, she is my Angel of all Angels. If not for this amazing woman, I would not be writing this. My mother Marilyn and my father Murry have also had a very instrumental role in my raising and education of living through T1D with no obstacles. I Love them all dearly.

I have been a T1D advocate from many years and I can’t wait to say I used to have Type 1 diabetes. I find it very disturbing that we are still losing infants, children, teens and adults from misdiagnosis from T1D. As a T1D I also nearly lost my life from poor diagnosis almost 50 years ago. I believe we must do a better job of informing the world of T1D and what the disease truly is. Furthermore, I can’t thank you enough for what Beyond Type 1 is currently doing for the T1D World. I am a firm believer in the TEAM concept. Together everyone achieves more. For National Diabetes Awareness Month I wrote this article/poem for all T1Ds across the globe.

T1D You Can’t Stop Me!!!

T1D unfortunately looks like me since 1971.  But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

Found me in 1971 and you still can’t kill me.  You attempt to daily, But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

Testing, testing, testing, I would so rather be resting.  But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

You interrupt my sleep often and it’s never forgotten.  But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

Pharma keeps me healthy as they become wealthy.  But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

Pharma robs my bank account blind and that is not so kind.  But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

No vacations, or breaks, just wild heartaches.  But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

Pricks and pokes folks, 300,000 life to date and that’s no joke.  But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

I’m a winner not a whiner, but a cure would so be finer.  But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

I truly do hate you, but unfortunately I am forced to still date you.  But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

You have taken many friends, and I pray that will end.  But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

Life is not always fair, but I am still breathing air.  But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

Dex is my new best friend; however I can’t wait for the drama to end.  But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

As I stumble through the jungle, I will continue to rumble and I will attempt to never stumble.

But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

I learned long ago, that I wish you would go.  But you see, T1D can’t stop me.

So if you are reading please don’t be seething.  Go yell out loud so we can all be proud.  Yell to your neighbors, yell to your friends and family and yell to your representatives in DC.

T1D must be cured and our voice must be heard!!!!

So please, go yell like hell and help spread the word so we can be heard.

T1D you will never stop me!!!!

Lisa Anderson Sooley

“Beneath the Skin” a poem

Artist Statement: Being a T1D for 25 years I have seen many changes and been through many changes in diabetes care. I am a fairly positive and easy going person, but sometimes get at the end of my tether dealing with this disease. Everybody has challenges, and I for the most part keep my problems to myself. Not even my closest family members know or understand what’s involved in the daily, weekly, yearly or lifelong struggles a diabetic like myself has to endure. For the most part I am up beat and happy-go-lucky. Then there have been the odd times dealing with this disease has made me feel lonely, misunderstood and isolated. I use writing and creating music as my release. I’m self-taught and play many instruments, guitar, bass and even the drums, which I have to say is my favourite instrument. I record my own songs, write my own lyrics, play all the instruments and do all the vocals. Just like diabetes care I am a one man (lady, actually) band. Along with music, I also use Karate to keep mind and body healthy. Being a Black Belt in Shotokan Karate gives me another outlet to release frustrations. Punching and kicking something always helps. The song lyrics for Beneath the Skin are a small view into a darker time when I was struggling with T1D. I felt no one understood or cared. I felt alone and frustrated, but tried to maintain inner strength and get out the other side. I always get out the other side. I currently reside in Baden, Ontario.

The stars above are faded
Inside I feel the same
Hidden by the polluted skies

Standing behind these walls of me

At times I feel less human
But you’ll never see me cry

Sustained life a bleeding heart

Everybody just gets by

I push a little harder
Just beneath the skin
I’m wounded by the ugliness
I turn another cheek
I push a little louder
Just beneath the skin
Silent screams of wanting
The way I used to be
It will only make you stronger

They say the words I cannot hear

I hang my head in shyness
You shy away in fear
At times you seem less human

We all need someone to blame

Standing at the edge of me
In silence I do not complain
I push a little harder

Just beneath the skin
I’m wounded by the ugliness
I turn another cheek
I push a little louder
Just beneath the skin
Silent screams of wanting
The way I used to be
As long as I can remember
This weight rains down on me

Seducing my every decision
High and low they romance me
I can hear them whisper
Their voices bouncing off the walls

Empty of imperfections
They wait for me to fall

I push a little harder Just beneath the skin

I’m wounded by the ugliness

I turn another cheek
I push a little louder
Just beneath the skin

Silent screams of knowing this is all i’ll ever be