CEO/Founder of The SugarCube, Johnnie Refvik (also a Type 1 Diabetic), sits down with Brittany Wagner – better known as Miss California 2015 – who’s been an official spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association since 2010, to discuss her close ties to the diabetic community, her outlook on the future of the disease, and the number one thing diabetics need to know to lead a healthy lifestyle.
- Johnnie: What made you choose diabetes as the cause you wanted to show support for and get behind?
Brittany: My father was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was 21 years old. He suffered with this disease, not seeking out any help and was in complete denial. Complications of this disease took his life at 55 years old. In utter shock of the effects of Diabetes and how it ended my father’s life, I was drawn to find out more about it. At the same time, I was competing for Miss California International, which is a pageant where you have to choose a platform/organization that you champion throughout the year as your personal cause. Although choosing to advocate for the American Diabetes Association was one of the hardest choices I’ve ever made, I knew it was the right and only thing to do. Choosing to work with the ADA, telling my story, and championing this cause has helped me grieve my father, as well as feel closer to him.
- Johnnie: What do you think could’ve helped your father lead a longer, healthier life as a diabetic?
Brittany: The number one thing I think that would’ve helped my father was not being in denial and not being embarrassed about his diagnosis. Simply seeking help, regularly consulting his doctor, getting involved with organizations like the ADA who are there to help you, and not being afraid to take control of the disease. I know now that Diabetes is something that you can manage and live a happy, healthy life with, as long as you’re willing to do your part.
My dad wasn’t aware of the resources available and was afraid to ask anyone for help. He always felt like it was an inconvenience and didn’t want to bother anyone with it. My mom wasn’t even aware he had it until their wedding day when someone else in his family mentioned it to her!
If he had found out about support groups and all of the tools offered, then maybe he would’ve been open to using them. I tried to remind him with notes all around his house to test his blood sugar and asking him to please stay healthy for me. I just didn’t have enough knowledge on what he really needed or the severity of the disease when it’s not properly managed, until it was too late. Education for diabetics is key!
- Johnnie: Since being involved with the ADA for the past 5 years, what have you learned that you’d like to share with diabetics?
Brittany: Being involved with the ADA has completely opened up my eyes to this whole diabetic world. I mean it is incredible how many people out there are suffering and how many people at the same time are working so hard to find a cure and raise more money for awareness and education. I see now that diabetics are not alone and that there are endless resources, people ready to help, and a lot of diabetics are living very impressive and successful lives because they are taking care of themselves, making health their number one priority. I was shattered when this disease took over my father’s life and I am still so saddened to know that it didn’t have to be that way. My mission now is to continue informing everyone with diabetes that it is manageable and you can live a healthy life, it doesn’t have to end the way my fathers did, as long as you take care of it!
- Johnnie: For a newly diagnosed diabetic, what do you think are the most important things for them to be aware of/learn about?
Brittany: For a newly diagnosed diabetic, I for sure say that acknowledgment is number one because you have to properly deal with the reality that your life is different. For a Type 1, life will always be this way and it needs to be their mission to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle like they would if they didn’t have diabetes. For Type 2, things could change. If a Type 2 diabetic is determined to beat it, I believe they can. Exercise, discipline and healthy eating need to be priority. I can’t imagine being newly diagnosed, but I do know that there are way more people than we realize fighting the same or worse battles and that diabetes is one of the most manageable diseases to have. So I would hope to encourage them to get on board fast to take control and make a positive change in their lifestyle.
- Johnnie: What kind of medical advances would you like to see for diabetics in the future?
Brittany: With all of the fundraising and diabetes awareness events that I am involved in, I KNOW that there are many advances that have already been done and plenty more to come. I have been to conferences discussing stem cell research and listened to doctors say that a cure is in the near future.
We have to be hopeful and do our part to continue raising money, spreading awareness and educating as much as we can. At this point, tools for diabetics to maintain their lifestyles without the burden of diabetes is what we can hope for.
I really am excited about and like this new tool called The Sugar Cube. What I like most about this tool is how convenient it is! It makes it really easy to be accountable for your diabetes– not a daunting task — and it offers an incredible support system with a community of other diabetics!
I think it makes such a difference when diabetics no longer have to feel alone in their diseases when they have others that are checking in on them, and can feel safe that they have a handy tool to access at any time of need. The diabetic community needs more resources like this one to make the Disease as manageable as possible until we find a cure.