I’m Noah and I’m 15 years old. I’m known worldwide as “The Diabetes Dude” because of a diabetes awareness campaign that I started when I was just 8 years old, using blue plastic lawn flamingos, which went viral in just about two weeks. Since then, I’ve become an advocate for people living with diabetes. I’ve talked to corporations and with congress about better healthcare for people living with diabetes. I regularly meet with kids who are newly diagnosed with diabetes. I’ve toured the country visiting diabetes camps across the United States to encourage other kids to raise awareness of diabetes in their communities. I regularly give speeches at diabetes-related events around the country and if an organization asks me to pitch in on their diabetes awareness campaigns, I’m always willing to join in to help encourage others to do the same!
What is the weirdest question you’ve been asked about your diabetes, and how did you respond?
Do you have the bad kind of diabetes?
My response was, “Well, if there is a “good diabetes”, I’d definitely prefer that one! I have type 1 diabetes and I will take insulin through my insulin pump every single day for the rest of my life until there is a cure. I have good days and I have bad days, but I never let diabetes get the best of me. I may have diabetes, but diabetes doesn’t have me”.
Has anyone told you that you couldn’t do something due to your diabetes, and you proved them wrong?
Kids at school, when I was first diagnosed, would tell me that I couldn’t come to their birthday parties because I couldn’t eat cake. They would tell me that I couldn’t play soccer or karate because of my diabetes.
The way I proved them wrong was by starting a diabetes awareness campaign in my community to help them understand that I can do anything that I put my mind to and that people with diabetes can certainly eat cake!
How do you inspire others?
I inspire others by speaking at diabetes-related events and at diabetes camps all over the country encouraging people to get out and raise awareness in their own communities. I also use social media to my advantage by encouraging people there as well. I also have a diabetes awareness campaign using blue plastic lawn flamingos. I ask people to take a picture doing something cool or fun with diabetes (diabetes being my flamingos, all named with a D name for diabetes, of course) and I post those pics on my website as well as on social media to help inspire people living with diabetes to get out and experience everything the world has to offer because they can do all of it, with diabetes!
Tell us a story about how diabetes has affected you.
I used to have a lot of friends before I was diagnosed with T1D. Once I was diagnosed, kids would tease me and tell me I’m “not normal” because of my diabetes. They didn’t understand why I wore these funky gadgets on my arms (my cgm and insulin pump) and why they would beep all the time. Eventually, the invitations to birthday parties and play dates stopped coming in. It was hard for me because I already felt different, but hearing others tell me I’m not normal hurt. That was one of my reasons for starting my diabetes awareness campaign. I didn’t want another kid with diabetes to feel the way I had. I wanted them to know that if they needed a friend, I would be there for them. I wanted them to know that there were people out there who support them. Advocating for people living with diabetes has become my passion. I do it, not just for me, but for the others living with this disease.
How has diabetes contributed to forming you into the person you are today? Mentally, physically, or emotionally?
I’ve become stronger emotionally with my diabetes. I really had no choice. Because of the fact that I was sort of an outcast in school, I have found it easier to talk with adults instead of kids my own age over the years. I’ve had to grow up much faster than most kids my age because of my diabetes. Now that I’m a sophomore in high school, things have gotten a little bit easier in terms of people understanding my disease. It’s probably because I’m in a technical high school studying biomedical technology and the people I hang around with now are more understanding of medical conditions. I decided that I want to be a biomedical researcher when I get older. Most kids my age don’t understand why I would make that decision at 15 years old, but they also don’t understand how important it is to me that a cure is found for my disease.
Would you rather fight one horse sized duck or 100 regular sized ducks?
Hmmm, that’s a tough question! I feel like I fight 100 regular sized ducks on a daily basis! My life is so different with diabetes and every single day is a challenge. I’m constantly challenged by my blood sugar numbers and by the foods I have to choose from. I’m also challenged by the people that don’t understand this disease, so like I said, I feel like I’m already being challenged by 100 regular sized ducks anyway. So, I guess fighting one horse-sized duck might be a little easier to handle! You’re also asking a science geek that question so I’ll leave it at this: Where in the world do you find a horse-sized duck?