"With the Computer You Never Have to be Alone"
By Allison Blass, 18, Oregon
I've never had any major problems at school because I've always been open with my diabetes. I avoid confrontations and a lot of stares and strange looks by explaining what I am doing and why.
Still, having diabetes has not been easy. I didn't have mentors when I was newly diagnosed. I quickly found that the Internet could provide that for me. With the Internet, there are so many different ways of finding support and friends, it's almost impossible to feel alone.
You can get a diabetes pen pal at JDRF Kids Online and meet kids on boards and in chat rooms like the ones at Children With Diabetes. I spend a lot of time on-line with kids talking about diabetes and other things, like school, sports, friends, and parents.
Since November 2002, I have been hosting a weekly chat program at Diabetes Station called Teen Talk. The Web site reads: "Living with diabetes can be really hard, but living with diabetes while being a teenager can be even worse. At Teen Talk, teens with diabetes are invited to come and chat, hang out, and relax with other teens with diabetes." This is basically the driving force behind Teen Talk. But another major part of it is the special guests. We've had a wide range of guests, from a researcher (Dr. James Shapiro) to celebrities (Zippora Karz, former NYC prima ballerina) to people with diabetes who have a story to tell (Clare Rosenfeld, a diabetes advocate, and Christina Hanford, a college student with an eating disorder).
It's important to me to have people come in from whom teens can learn and apply the lessons to their own life. I have lots of role models now, but it was very lonely when I was diagnosed at age 8 because I really didn't have anyone to talk to. I want to give teens different opportunities to connect to each other from the very beginning, which is something I didn't have until I was much older and had several years of diabetes experience. Teen Talk helps me with my mission, which is to cure diabetes and educate those with the disease until we are all cured.
Photograph by Chijo Takeda
Published in C.F.K. Magazine Fall 2002
Posted August 2002; updated August 2003