Guest Post: Rachel Gartner Clark - Why I Advocate

In November 2003, my life changed forever at the age of 15 years old. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes which was a complete redirection from my teenage life. As a sophomore in high school my priorities were: homework, hanging out with my friends and going to the mall. I never thought I would end up on this long and windy journey. I am lucky to have a dad who is a pharmacist and could spot the signs and symptoms of type 1 early on, helping lead to my diagnosis. Even though I had a health care savvy dad to help me navigate my new normal, I was still completely overwhelmed by fear, anger and anxiety.

After being diagnosed, I was rushed to a children’s hospital where I had to go through survival lessons learning the ins and outs of a highly complex disease. Being a proactive person, I decided to take matters into my own hands and read as much as I could. I thought that I would be able to learn EVERYTHING as I experienced new medical advancements and navigated the different types of insulin to find out which one worked well for me.

I couldn't do this alone.

As time went on, reality set it and I realized that I couldn’t do this alone. It was difficult for me, but I turned to my support network of family and friends and started researching different organizations who could lend resources. After living with type 1 for 16 years and counting, I’m still learning and becoming familiar with different aspects of this disease, the associated costs, and the policy pieces that impact my access to care.

More than a statistic

As time has passed one thing I’ve taken away from all of this is that everything is a numbers game. While I might be another statistic to some, I’m more than being another person that adds to the more than 30 million people living with diabetes in our nation.I’m more than one of three million Americans to have type 1 diabetes. I’m not just another person adding into the 327 billion dollars in diabetes related health care costs. These numbers alone make me angrier than my diagnosis, but these figures have led me to my advocacy purpose.

I have discovered my voice and I’m ready to use it.

This is why DPAC is so important to me. In a short amount of time, I have learned more about the policy procedures, all of the hidden numbers that sway decisions (like how legislation gets scored), and how to have an effective conversation with our elected officials and their staff.More importantly, DPAC fights hard to ensure the safety and quality of medications, devices and access to care for all Americans living with diabetes. I have been able to hone my story, back it up with facts and figures, while also helping others do that same due to the policy training meetings that DPAC has offered.For me, advocacy is another way to educate those around me. It helps to teach people what it’s like to have to fight to stay alive. Advocacy has also given me the gift of finding a community that understands me in ways others can’t.

Why My Community Needs Advocacy

This community continues to educate me on things that make me a better person in my fight for affordable insulin, common sense legislation, and so much more. It’s important that we not only advocate for ourselves, but for the millions of those that will be forced into our community by a diagnosis at not fault of their own.I believe that the more we all know then the sooner there will be real change.