14 Years is a long time. This is year 14 that I have bestowed the Lisa Award on some deserving people in the diabetes world. 14 years ago since my dear friend and wife of my Little Brother (from another mother but just as close as a real brother) Mark, has left this world. You did not know Lisa’s laugh, Lisa’s smile and staring death in the face. You did not know that Lisa was a one-of-a-kind woman who proved to the world that one person, just one, is all it takes to change the world; the Power of One. In memory of that voice that changed the world, I made a promise that I would give Lisa Awards each year to deserving individuals that understand the Power of One.
It’s given to people who, in their own way, change the world just like Lisa did. This is a VERY BIG deal to me because these awards are not given lightly. They are given in honor of a woman who was not satisfied to just feel sorry for herself, she changed many lives and I miss her to this day. My friend Lisa passed away in 2009, at the young age of 36. She battled cancer longer than any doctor thought she would, or even could. Through her life, I learned a hugely powerful phrase that will live inside me forever, along with Lisa’s memory: The power of one person.
Here is a quick summary of Lisa’s story, before we get to the awards. She was diagnosed with cancer. Lisa and Mark shared their writings of her journey, in real-time, with a hundred or so friends and family members, all of whom were inspired by each word. People learned, shared, and were in awe of their strength and dedication.
And then something happened.
People who were not part of the inner circle started reading the blog posts, and those people became inspired. The hundred readers became five hundred. In no time, the number of readers rose to 1,000, then 1,500. Soon 3,500 people were following Lisa’s story at every turn, both the good and the bad. Lisa and Mark were so brave in the face of incredible hardship and they inspired others to do the same with grace and dignity, sprinkled with humor.
And then something else happened.
A TV station found out about Lisa and they ran the story on the evening news of her incredible efforts to teach others. Millions heard her story and were inspired by the magic she possessed — the determination to live life and taste every last drop was shared with millions. So many others now facing trials hit those trial ‘head on’, inspired by this young couple.
Eventually, what Lisa and Mark shared so openly, became a reality and she succumbed to the physical-ness of what cancer can do. Her spirit, though, was never defeated. The war would go on with Lisa and Mark’s teaching. Her “power of one” changes lives to this day.
This column, surrounding Lisa’s birthday month, pays tribute to those who understand Lisa’s philosophy of the power of one person. Because I’m more versed with the happenings inside the diabetes community, my Lisa Awards are given to those people who live Lisa’s determination to make a difference with the “power of one” in the diabetes community. These people don’t do it — whatever ‘it’ is — for only themselves, they do it because they think it will make a difference in the lives of those with diabetes. Lisa’s words live in these special people — they know and understand the power of one.
This year’s first recipient is Bob Parant. Don’t let Bob’s soft-spoken voice and quiet demeanor fool you for one second. At age 70, he is one of the leading voices on the high cost of insulin. If there is a box to stand on or a microphone near-by, there is a good chance that Bob has used it, uses it, and will continue using it shouting from the mountain tops that the cost of insulin is JUST TOO HIGH. Having diabetes for as long as Bob has it makes him an expert like few others. Last year when the President announced the initiatives they were undertaking, highlighting Bob’s efforts, there Bob was at the White House introducing the President and the efforts of the actions. A POWER OF ONE AT ANY AGE! Go Bob………and THANK YOU!
Many people who become diagnosed with a disease are faced with a choice, let it own you……or you own it. My second choice for a Lisa Award this year is Jesse Nagel because Jesse not only own’s his type one diabetes, he pounces on its head, kicks it, and not only does it not stop him from anything, but Jesse owns it to a point where he became a Nurse to help other kids deal with their diabetes just like he has. No there is no room for self-pity in Jesse’s world. When Jesse walks into a room, kids gravitate to him to hear what he has to say. What Jesse has done better than anyone I know is shown the world that one can still be cool when faced with extreme challenges like diabetes and in fact………no one does it better than Jesse Nagel. His Power of one impacts anyone in his world around him. If you are looking for someone to work with kids at your camp, event, or whatever you are doing with kids with diabetes, reach out to me and I will connect you with this magnificent health care worker. How lucky am I to call him friend as well.
I once heard Sarah Loebner say that, “Every moment we spend with each other is an opportunity to share, learn, and explore”. She could not be more correct and living with type 1 diabetes was never going to get in her way, in fact, it gave her the career path she is now involved. She is a strong, soft-spoken woman who deals head on with any situation and as a certified Physician’s Assistant (PA) at University of Washington Medicine’s Diabetes Institute, she empowers her patients to understand their own diabetes as part of their treatment. Sarah is a whirlwind and it is so easy to fall head over heels with her wonderful giving spirit and warm natural smile. Her Power of One is a force to reckon with and anyone who touches her zenith of a world passing by will reap the rewards of one of the truest caring individuals you will ever come across. Oh….and by the way……when she sings, the heavens open up and smile. I only wish Lisa could have met her……she would have loved her.
So another year of wonderful people who just live by the simple philosophy of the Power of One person having the power to do just about anything. One person. One idea. One drive to make a difference. To this day, I miss Lisa’s voice. But you know what…….the world still hears her. And that will have to do.
I am a diabetes dad.
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