T1D Advocate Justin Wright on Living Boldly
We have another refreshing wave of inspiration for you, and this one may particularly resonate with those people with diabetes (PWDs) who are preparing to go off to college!
When asked what career he wants to pursue, Justin Wright gave a unique answer: he wants to be an advocate for kids with type 1 diabetes, and we think he’s doing a pretty great job so far. Justin and his mom, Kimberly, recently visited the Beyond Type 1 office in San Francisco to catch up with the team through a live Facebook interview geared toward young men with type 1. Justin fielded questions from the community about living his life with type 1, and he answered our questions about his goals as an advocate and more.
As a young athlete growing up in Kansas, Justin was a wrestler, a football player and a javelin thrower; he’d play any sport he could. His participation in team activities gave him a better sense of what he was capable of accomplishing with determination and hard work, despite being diagnosed with type 1 when he was a freshman in high school. He also learned a few tricks for keeping his site in during contact sports.
“Wrestling was the biggest deal because wrestling is the hardest workout I’ve ever had to do,” he said, “I never stopped wrestling: I did wrestling freshman year, was diagnosed that summer, and ended up doing wrestling again that winter. [My diagnosis] didn’t change my high school plans or anything—I just talked to the coach and he worked with me with it.”
(Check out our coach’s guide to type 1 here!)
He also learned a few tricks for keeping his site under wraps during contact sports (pun intended): “I had this fat burner brace and I had my sites on my stomach, and it was the best protection I could find, only once was my site ripped out.”
On just being himself
“I was considering using pens for a while, but ended up not,” Justin said, “I felt more comfortable with a pump.” Justin, who also has celiac disease, currently wears a Minimed pump and uses a Freestyle Libre Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to manage his diabetes.
“I’m not going to walk up to someone and ask if they want to see [my pump], but if someone asks, I’ll gladly show them. I think it’s good for other people to see a diabetic’s stuff,” Justin said.
“I was working at this frozen yogurt place called Orange Leaf and a girl came in. I saw her site and saw the wire going to her pocket. I kind of leaned over and said, “It’s about 60 carbs.’ She was like, ‘Oh, thank you!’”
Justin also wants his peers to know that having type 1 diabetes shouldn’t change their self-perceptions. His mom shared a funny anecdote about her family’s support of Justin after his diagnosis, saying, “When Justin was diagnosed, at first he thought he wouldn’t date or girls wouldn’t be interested in him, and his father said, ‘Dude, you got diabetes, you didn’t get ugly!’”
The Dream Factory
Along with managing his everyday life with diabetes, Justin has also managed the challenging task of working with what he has to achieve his long-term goals. “Type 1 is not a life-ruiner. It’s a life-changer,” he said. The Dream Factory of Greater Kansas City is a volunteer organization serving children ages 3-18 who are living with serious or chronic conditions. A grant from The Dream Factory helped send Justin to the Beyond Type 1 headquarters, where he participated in a Facebook live broadcast with the team and his mom.
“My dream became being an advocate for kids with type 1. I wanted to achieve my goals and give them hope,” Justin said, “I haven’t stopped anything I was doing before my diagnosis—I have actually done more than what I was doing before.”
In addition to continuing to playing sports, Justin is also interested in exploring the world around him. “I’ve always wanted to travel. I have worked my way through the airport with a pump, wiping my hands and it doesn’t throw me off-course.”
“Type 1 is unlocking new pathways for me—that’s how I got this dream,” he continued, “My dream is to become an advocate for kids and teens. I want to be a role model for ‘Type Ones.’ I want to achieve everything I’ve always wanted to do and have them see that and go, Oh, he’s also a type 1!
The list of Justin’s activities continues with college this fall: Justin is looking forward to starting his freshman year at Kansas State.
“I got a new backpack and it has this compartment in it where I plan to keep all my snacks, emergency lows and stuff,” he said, “I want to get the Dexcom CGM so it alarms and connects to my phone—since I’m always on my phone.”
Although he isn’t yet entirely certain of the specifics, Justin’s college experience will guide him on his path toward advocacy work. During the live broadcast, he spoke about the hacks he learned from other kids with diabetes in his high school class, right up until graduation. What advice would he give to other people his age who are living with Type 1?
Justin believes that “they don’t have to stop doing their activities. There is a way to manage it. It doesn’t have to be for the worst. You can keep going after what you want.”