It is now in year 13 that 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. 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.
Also, just over two years ago, I lost one of the most influential people in not only my world, but the diabetes world as well, and a dear, dear friend. Paula Ford-Martin is the reason I have the mantra Diabetes-Dad. She was a writer, editor, and all-around genius-with-the-word whether in print or broadcast media. She was a book author, a blogger, and to me; is the main reason the dLife TV show on CNBC was as good as it was. Paula passed just over two years ago in the same battle Lisa had, and she also is the only one who I bestowed the Lisa Award to twice because she not only understood the meaning of the Power of One, she lived it as an open book right to her less breath to teach others, not only in her own illness, (www.livingwithstageIV.com), but in the real life of her own children’s transition, she became a voice to be heard in the LGBTQIA community as well. This year, each recipient of the Lisa Award-Power of One is awarded to those who used the written (or/and spoken) word in making a difference; in honor of Paula as well.
My first Lisa Award this year is given to a young woman (pictured above) who when you see her ‘do her thing’, is as breathtaking as the Top Gun/Maverick movie I just saw very recently. Katie Bone is 16 and has T1D. Katie Bone is 5’2″ and 110 lbs. This week on American Ninja Warrior, it was just Katie, by herself and the Power of One, against the terror of the course in front of her. The Albuquerque, New Mexico native not only beat it; she mastered it and she now moves on in the competition. I gasped, I screamed, I yelled, and when she was done…….I cried. An insulin pump attached to one arm, a CGM to her other arm and her absolutely uncompromised strength and determination. She had a message for young people (which I find so wonderful coming from a sixteen-year-old) both with and without diabetes, “do what I do, I don’t need easy, I just need possible.”
Power of One, indeed, dear Katie, my new hero…..and many others too.
Like most people who make this list, the next recipient will tell you that it was much more than his Power of One that made any difference whatsoever. He would be modest and he would also be wrong. Because way back, when, before anyone else thought that stem cells would be as earth shattering and changing as they have become, it was Bernie Siegel, an attorney from Florida who felt that this powerful research tool, stem cells, would change the world. They would need nurturing. They would need protocols, They would need looking after. As Founder and Chair of the World Stem Cell Summit Bernie and his colleagues have pioneered and promoted policy and advocacy in the field of stem cell and regenerative medicine from its earliest phases of research to present day potential. All to drive their efforts to bring safe, effective, and healthy treatments and cures to patients worldwide. The world is on board now, but before that, it was the Power of One person, and that person is Bernie Siegel.
Susan Fong immediately took to the climate and creative mastery of Pixar Studios. Starting as a software developer, Susan was the type of person who loves art and math, which also came easy to her. She came to the point where she crossed over to taking her loves and adding them to movie making. In the past she has worked on Finding Nemo, The Good Dinosaur and Coco, but it was a little addition she added to the movie Turning Red that caught the attention of the diabetes world. When Susan approached the artistic team to add an insulin pump to the arm of one of the characters, it was met with an out loud and definitive, ‘yes’. But as is Pixar’s style, if it is in the film, it’s going to be correct. This attention to detail allowed Susan to explain what it is like being a person with diabetes as she was diagnosed at age four. They went through every step what it should look like on the characters, and why. It did not take long for the diabetes community to see and react to the Pixar character. For Susan, it was all in a day’s work but to us, it was the Power of One person to get the largest and most successful animation studio of all time to say, “why not?” Nice job Susan……and thank you.
And that rounds out this incredible year of Lisa Award Recipients. Hard to believe that it’s 13 years since Lisa left us, and just over two years since Paula did. If there is one thing I have learned doing these awards each year, it’s just how magnificent people can be. The Power of One, is Power enough………to change the world…….even if it’s just one person at a time.
I am a diabetes dad.
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