Skip to content

The Lemonade Life of: Brandy Barnes, founder of DiabetesSisters.org

February 24, 2010

Brandy Barnes is founder of DiabetesSisters, the first and only social network dedicated solely to women with diabetes. It’s a much needed resource, as women with diabetes face unique challenges with their blood sugar, especially in pregnancy, hormones from menstruation and birth control, and the hormonal changes in menopause. I met Brandy last summer in Indianapolis and she is a doll! Not only is she running a website, but she’s teamed up with my friends at TCOYD to launch Weekend for Women in North Carolina. I invited Brandy to share a bit more about her life and what Diabetes Sisters is all about.

Finding the Purpose for My Diabetes

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1990 as a sophomore in high school near the mountains of North Carolina. Not surprisingly, I was the ONLY person in my small high school with diabetes. Even though I had lots of friends, I felt an enduring sense of loneliness because I knew no one else with diabetes. Like most people, when I was thrust into this crossroads in my life, I was totally oblivious to the enormity of my decisions. I was hospitalized on the day of my diagnosis and remained hospitalized for seven days. I spent the first 24 hours in mourning—worrying about how this diagnosis was going to turn my life upside down. I didn’t really talk to anyone, I just stared blankly. I recall hearing my parents and nurses outside the door whispering their concerns about me. Then something clicked inside me. I realized that I wasn’t accomplishing anything by lying around worrying about the future. I was just stuck! Being a planner by nature, it was only natural for me to come up with a plan of action. First, I decided to learn everything I could about the disease. Then, I vowed to figure out God’s purpose for giving me this disease.

In college, I majored in psychology to feed my interest in how the human spirit overcomes life’s obstacles (such as chronic illnesses). Also, while in college, I began seeing an endocrinologist who taught me a lot about women’s issues in diabetes. He was the first person to explain to me how menstruation and stress affect a woman’s blood sugars and how to prepare my body for pregnancy (as a woman with diabetes). He also encouraged me to pursue a career in the field of diabetes. I also found the friendship I had always been in search of… with the Certified Diabetes Educator in his office who had Type 1 diabetes. I relished every opportunity to meet with her one-on-one and ask the questions that I had always wanted to ask another woman with diabetes.

Over the next ten years, I learned a lot about various aspects of diabetes through jobs in clinical research, marketing, and sales. Amazingly, while driving down the road one autumn day in 2007, the purpose for my diabetes became clear. I suddenly saw how every decision, job, and experience in my life had brought me to this specific place in my life for an important reason. Just as I longed for the support, knowledge, and wisdom of other women who were living with diabetes, I was certain there were lots of other women who felt the same as me. I also saw how powerful our voice could be if we all joined together.

In January 2008, I founded DiabetesSisters and launched the organization’s website with one volunteer in place. My vision was to create a centralized location where women with diabetes could find answers to their questions (related to menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, body image, nutrition, and any other issue that related to women and diabetes), get support from other women who are living with the disease, learn new tactics for managing diabetes, and become aware of the health risks faced by women with diabetes. Within the first two years of existence, we received our first $10,000 grant, recruited over 75 volunteers, grew the membership to more than 1800 members through word-of-mouth advertising, saw visitors from 142 different countries on the website, and recruited a strong Board of Directors– that includes my influential college endocrinologist, John Buse, MD, PhD, and the CDE in his clinic who answered all of my questions- Camille Izlar, RD, CDE. On January 21, 2009 (exactly 19 years to the date of my diagnosis), DiabetesSisters received its official nonprofit status from the IRS.

In 2010, DiabetesSisters will co-host the first-ever overnight educational conference for women with diabetes. The Weekend for Women Conference hosted by DiabetesSisters and TCOYD will be held May 22-23, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina immediately following the Raleigh TCOYD Conference. Participation is open to the first 100 registrants and the cost is $100. This registration fee includes one single room at the Marriott City Center, attendance at all 9 gender-specific educational sessions on diabetes care, dinner on Saturday night, breakfast and lunch on Sunday, snacks, a Weekend for Women t-shirt, tote bag, and travel mug, and free massage! For more information, please visit: http://www.diabetessisters.org/weekend-for-women-conference.

Thanks, Brandy! Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to North Carolina for the Weekend for Women conference as I will be in Las Vegas for Bloggers in Sin City, but hopefully some of you out there will attend and report back on how it went and what you learned!

Also, I am looking for more guest bloggers! If you are embracing your lemons and making some lemonade, please email me to share your story. It does not have to be about diabetes! It doesn’t even have to be about a chronic illness! Lemons come in all shapes and sizes. Email me at amblass {@} gmail.com.

Comments are closed.