Local student shares her story to educate others

SPREADING CHEER — Erickson doesn’t allow diabetes to hold her back from participating in various activities. Above, she performs a cheer routine at a Boone Central football game.
Emily changes her pump.

By Gabby Christensen
Boone Central junior Emily Erickson has aspirations of one day becoming a journalist. She hopes to write about others and help tell their remarkable stories.
But, perhaps, one of the most important stories she’s told so far is her own narrative.
As a preschooler, Erickson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition which occurs due to inadequate production of insulin or inability of the cells to make use of or respond to the body’s pancreas-produced insulin.
By telling her story, Erickson hopes to correct some misconceptions regarding the condition.
“I want others to realize I couldn’t control whether I got diabetes or not,” Erickson said. “No one really knows all the official causes of type 1 diabetes, but it’s not because I ate awful foods as a child. I have to live with this for the rest of my life. I want people to know that I didn’t cause this, nor can I fix it.”
Upon finding out that she had type 1 diabetes, Erickson received shots of insulin for the first year. Soon after, she was the first girl in Nebraska to try the OmniPod, which is a tubeless diabetes pump that is controlled by a device that resembles a minuscule TV remote.
Although she’s certainly learned to live with her condition, Erickson said it has changed her life in various ways.
Each day, Erickson must regularly test her blood sugar levels. She also changes her pump up to four times a week and visits her diabetes doctor ever three months.
Not to mention, the medical supplies are not cheap—costing Erickson thousands of dollars.
Additionally, Erickson said diabetes is mentally exhausting.
Sometimes, Erickson said her pump runs out of insulin and makes a prolonged beeping noise, signaling that she needs to change it, which can sometimes be humiliating.
“It is especially embarrassing when it goes off in church, during a movie, or in school where everyone can hear it and stare at me,” Erickson said. “There are some days when I feel like a human pincushion and alarm, and others when I feel like the strongest girl in the world. I feel like if I can conquer this, I can overcome anything.”
In fact, Erickson partially credits the condition for her hardworking, responsible character.
Erickson, a daughter of Joe and Janelle Erickson, is a straight A honor roll student who participates in football and wrestling cheerleading, FBLA, SADD, Stand for the Silent, Student Council, Band, Culture Club and the student advisory committee.
In her spare time, she likes to play guitar, listen to music, spend time with friends, shop and see movies. She also works part time at Albion Thrifty Way.
As for the future, Erickson said she hopes to graduate high school within the top percentile of her class, attend Iowa State University and major in journalism.
In the long run, Erickson said she hopes for a cure, but also hopes that other children who are learning to live with type 1 diabetes understand that they can still live a normal life, despite the struggles.
“People will support you and help you, but in the end, you need to take charge of your illness and not let it ruin your life,” Erickson said. “It is a part of your life, but it isn’t your whole life.”
Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of stories in honor of National Diabetes Awareness Month.