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Dancing Teen: Interview with Jill and Alyssa.

I first heard about Alyssa through the Johnson & Johnson YouTube channel, where I caught a video of this irish step-dancing 11 year old ... who had type 1 diabetes.  I reached out to Alyssa, and her mom Jill, for a little mom-daughter perspective on being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and moving forward.

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Kerri:  Jill and Alyssa, I know you're both dealing with diabetes, one from the perspective as the daughter with diabetes and one as the mom. Can you tell me about the diagnosis, and how you both managed?

Jill: When Alyssa was first diagnosed, we were devastated, overwhelmed, sad, and scared. We spent three days with Alyssa in the hospital where they educated us on how to manage her diabetes. We knew we could tackle this as a family and we all jumped right in to learn as much as we could.

Alyssa: At first I didn't understand what was going on. The first thing I figured out about diabetes was that I had to take the most responsibility. I made diabetes part of who I am, not something that would change who I was or what I did.

Kerri:  Jill, what's the biggest challenge, in your opinion, of diabetes?
  Alyssa, how about for you?

Jill:  Trying to give Alyssa the freedom that any other preteen has and to not let her diabetes interfere with her life. We need to plan ahead now and be prepared for any emergency.

Alyssa:  Having to stop what I'm doing to test my blood sugar or take insulin. It's hard when I'm with friends and I don't want to stop doing something with them or hold them up.

Kerri:  Alyssa, I learned about you and your talent as an Irish step dancer through a video on the Johnson & Johnson YouTube channel. Can you tell me a little bit about the experience of sharing your story with their team?

Alyssa:  It was so much fun! I hope he message people get is that diabetes doesn't change you, or stop you from doing the things you love. I'm a competitive Irish dancer and diabetes doesn't change how I dance or how well I dance.

Kerri:  How do you hope to use dance as a way of inspiring other kids with diabetes?

Alyssa:  I hope that when other kids see that I can still compete at a high level and continue to advance in Irish dance, that anything is possible even though I have diabetes. I hope I encourage kids with diabetes to keep doing what they love to do.

Kerri:  What words of advice would you both have for parents and kids who are dealing with diabetes as a team?

Jill: Managing diabetes is a team effort. The most important player is the child, who should be involved with managing their diabetes starting from the first day of diagnosis. Second, have family and friends involved. People are willing to help and should be encouraged to be part of the team.

Alyssa: It’s important for the child to know that their parents are ready to tackle diabetes along with them. If it feels like you’re alone, it seems a lot scarier. You have to hold your head high and put your best foot forward and work together.

Alyssa and Jill!

Kerri:  I really appreciate the time you've taken to share some thoughts with us.  Anything else you'd like to include?  The floor's yours!

Jill: Children with diabetes can do everything their friends do. The key is to manage your diabetes as best you can to stay healthy.

Alyssa: Diabetes doesn’t change who you are. I like to think of diabetes as a part of me. It just adds to me, without changing me.

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Thanks for hanging out with me today, Jill and Alyssa!!


it is great you are coping well jill and alyssa. as a mom with a 16 yr old dx'd at 8, i am sorry to say fasten your seatbelts for puberty. i recommend a good therapist so alyssa has someone other than family to vent with and work things through. good luck and good love.

The same way that Kerri has created a DOC so that people know they are not alone, it's fantastic and important for T1 kids to have the same experience. Your video and your interview are a wonderful beginning! My daughter is also 11 years old; she was diagnosed at age 7. I think she's an amazing kid, too, and I bet she would love to have contact with you in some way. She just started a blog last month if you are inclined to say hello there. Or, if you prefer another way you can let us know. Best wishes!!

Christian (Kaleigh's mom)

Every family and child with diabetes is different. I think diabetes allowed our daughter (Briley) to establish her own identity younger than her peers. IE, because of her diabetes, that difference about her was known and accepted. Her choices for activities, sports, clothes, friends, etc early on were distinctly hers. Not necessarily what was popular in our area, but what she enjoyed and liked. And of course therefore what interested her. She seemed to have less pressure to conform because her major difference from others was well known and accepted. As time consuming, constant and difficult diabetes can be, it has brought some very interesting people and events to our lives. Some having to do with diabetes, and some not. Everytime I read or hear about a young person like Alyssa, it makes me smile. She has found a sport/activity she loves and is quite succesful at, while maintaining her health. More importantly her parents have supported her with their encouragement and attitude regarding diabetes and life. How lucky they all are.

My family and I went through this also. We were devestated and my son (age 13) spent a week in the hospital. Once he was diagnosed, we all in a sense was diagnosed with diabetes. Our support for our child meant our exercise and diet also changes. God Bless. Good Luck in all you do!

Inspiring interview! Alyssa looks like such a brave girl! Hopefully, through her dancing she will influence other girls with that condition!

Great job, Kerri! I'm glad you 2 connected.

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