Fighting T1D on the Steps of Capitol Hill
5/18/17
WRITTEN BY: Basma Adams
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On March 30 my mom and I walked from our hotel to the steps of Capitol Hill in a swarm of advocates. It was a big day for all of us. There were more than 180 advocates from 34 different states, including kids, adults, researchers, scientists, physicians, educators, and NFL players. We were linked by the fact that we were all living with diabetes. And we were all there to urge our members of Congress to address the current diabetes epidemic facing our country. I was on spring break from college, had been living with Type 1 diabetes for 17 years, and couldn’t imagine spending a week doing anything else in the world.

Every other year, the American Diabetes Association holds is “Call to Congress.” But don’t mistake this for an “event.” It’s a true movement where we raise our voices as advocates and constituents in Congress. I started out as an advocate 10 years ago in middle school. Since then, I have had the opportunity to advocate and raise my voice at various events, fundraisers, Father of the Year galas, camps, and more. In 2014, I was the American Diabetes Association’s National Youth Advocate (NYA) and traveled the United States speaking on behalf of the 29 million Americans living with diabetes. I’m used to putting myself up in front of crowds ranging from 500 to thousands of people. But Call to Congress was unlike any event I’ve ever attended.

I spent the day attending seven meetings with all of my state representatives. I had the chance of a lifetime to meet them in person, tell them my personal story, and explain how the current legislation they have a say in voting for or against will affect my livelihood. It was a tremendous responsibility, and seeing my fellow advocates from all over the country share their stories was inspiring!

I will never forget the feeling of watching my representatives listen to what I had to share, of seeing them understand my concern, or of hearing them voice their support. Representatives and senators hear or read about people living with diabetes all the time, but we were able to put a face on those stories. With more than 180 of us, they couldn’t ignore our legislative requests:

  1. Make insulin affordable and increase transparency around the rising cost of insulin prices.
  2. Protect health insurance for people with and at risk for diabetes by not repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a simultaneous replacement that give people at least the same or more coverage as the ACA provided.
  3. Increase federal funding for diabetes research and programs, including the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the Division of Diabetes Translation (DDT), and the National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP)

We spent our couple days in Washington making diabetes a priority. Now every one has to do their part to advocate and rally for change. We cannot sit and wait for change to come. We must fight for it! Diabetes needs to be at the front of the stage so the rest of the world can understand what an impact it has on the lives of so many. Call to Congress inspired all of us advocates to do more when we got home. We have attended tow hall meetings, sought out our representatives again, reached out to the media for follow up stories, and worked with our fellow advocates to generate more attention for our cause.

Personally, I came home with more fire and vigor to do more for my diabetes community by making appointments for congressional follow-up meetings and calling the Senate office to ask for their support against the current bill passed by the House of Representatives to repeal the ACA. I also started my own blog, Voice for Champions, as an online diabetes community to document my advocacy work, discuss modern news related to diabetes, and be a source of support and encouragement for people affected by diabetes in any way.

Before I left, I told myself that when I got to Capitol Hill I would do everything in my power to fight on behalf of everyone who is affected by the burdens of diabetes. I feel that I accomplished that, but I refuse to stop there. In every one of my speeches, I always tell the crowd that I don’t do this for myself. Who do I advocate for then? I advocate every day for the millions of people who don’t have a voice but who are in need of someone to fight for them. I advocate for the unheard. The moms who sleep by their child every night for years after diagnosis like my mom did. The fathers that worry about their child going low during a simple game of tag like my dad did. The young girl who wonders why she has diabetes but her friends don’t. The teenager who feels annoyed by having to stop and check his blood sugar during a school dance. These are the people I rally for every day. These are the people I will continue to fight for until we find a cure.

As I always say, together we’ll go from Type 1 to type none!

 

Basma Adams

Basma Adams is a diabetes advocate who started volunteering in middle school and never plans to stop. She is the creator of Voice For Champions, an online diabetes community where she documents her advocacy work. You can find her at www.basmaadms.wixsite.com/voiceforchampions and follow her on Instagram (@bastheboss) and Twitter (@bastheboss_). Other than raising her voice for a cure, she loves writing, reading, walks on the beach, spending time with her family and friends, and snuggling with her dog, Chloe.