Grassroots advocates, we love you! That’s why we recently launched a new series to showcase these oft-overlooked activists working so hard out “in the trenches” to raise awareness and help fellow patients.
Today, we’re talking with Canadian Barbara Wagstaff (aka Barb Marche), founder of the community website aptly named
By D’Mine Columnist / Correspondent Wil Dubois
Canadian Barbara Wagstaff created the site Diabetes Advocacy following what can only be described as the harrowing, and near-fatal diagnosis experience of her two-year-old son in 2000. She created the site because she “could not find enough info and support” for persons affected by diabetes at the time.
DM) You’ve done some pretty amazing things, among them successfully taking on the Canadian tax code to the benefit of PWDs; raising diabetes awareness through calendars and booklets; and creating a web portal with news feeds, research updates, diabetes product news, expert answers, a ton of informative content, and even a personal blog! What do you regard as your greatest contribution to the diabetes community?
BW) Difficult question! I think probably the greatest contribution would have to be the website and the blog, because from there everything else flows. Over the years it has grown I have reached so many people worldwide. It has given me a platform to share ideas, offer support, share misery, and be a launching pad for change.
How big a crew do you have helping you run Diabetes Advocacy?
This is a one-woman show. Besides acting as my son’s pancreas, dealing with the site and the blog, I also help with various aspects of a heavy equipment business run by my fiancé.
Your logo includes the diabetes blue circle and a Phoenix. Why the Phoenix?
We all know that the Phoenix is a beautiful bird that rises from the ashes. I began to think about life with diabetes as the same thing. You go through life as a normal person. All is pretty good.
Suddenly diabetes arrives on your doorstep, and life as you know it crashes and burns. Over time, we can and do rise up out of those ashes and learn how to live life with diabetes fully again, but stronger and more beautiful than we thought possible.
You have a diabetes support and awareness tattoo, and a diabetes tattoo gallery on your site. Did you pioneer the idea of diabetes loved-ones getting support and awareness tattoos?
I don’t think I pioneered the idea, but as someone told me, I pioneered the awareness of them. I made the getting a tattoo a media event. I offered a place to display them and to share ideas. It has taken on a life of its own after that.
Where do you think the greatest need for advocacy lies?
For me, awareness is the root of everything. If people learn and understand what diabetes really is and what it entails then, I think, that they are more likely to be empathetic and open their wallets—be these government wallets or private wallets—for cure donations. I want people to understand that we are not neurotic people with no lives. They need to know that diabetes is not about take 1 injection and go on with your day. It’s so much more and does not end when the lights go out at night.
If you had a gazillion dollars to spend on diabetes, where would you put the money?
My head is not holding its breath for a cure. My heart would love a cure! Can I split my gazillion in half? I would put half my money into diabetes supplies for those who need them. I would want everyone to have access to the best supplies and devices available regardless of address or income. I would want the rest to go to the DRI (Diabetes Research Institute in Florida).
Your son is almost grown up and will be off to college in a few years. Which is harder, preparing him or preparing yourself?
ME!!!! I am working on breathing each day. I am terrified of him being away from me and having his own life, not because I don’t want him to be independent, but for fear of all that I know. My son is very laid back. He does not like to be reminded about diabetes in his daily life. I am trying to teach him as best as I can. It’s a challenge. He will rise to it, but the amount of grey hair and wine involved to get me there could be incredible!
If each person touched by diabetes could only do one thing to advance the cause, what do you think it should be?
My favorite reply to this comes from my friend Tom Karlya. He tells people “just don’t do nothing.” I love this! There are many aspects to helping with diabetes. I know some amazing fundraisers who create incredible events and raise staggering amounts of money. I am not one of those people. There are other people who take up the challenges of various causes and work to educate people. I am that type of person. Each person must find their niche. The biggest thing is to find your “thing,” and don’t do nothing.
Hear, Hear, Barb! Thank you for that.