March 2, 2012

A Moment with the "You Can Do This Project"

Kim Vlasnik, author of the popular blog, "Texting My Pancreas" is an avid user of social media. She also finds and gives support to people with diabetes through several other social media outlets. The strong bonds she creates through social media sparked her desire to start another initiative: The "You Can Do This Project" is a growing community of videos, created by and for people with diabetes, with the aim of providing validation, hope, and encouragement through honest talk for those who struggle with the disease. The response rate has been nothing short of extraordinary. Through her blog and other initiatives, Kim exemplifies CallingAllTypes' core mission of creating an online health movement. We reached out to Kim to share her story with us. Here's our conversation.

CallingAllTypes: When were you first diagnosed with diabetes? Can you talk about some of the emotions you had when you first found out?

Kim: I was diagnosed at the age of six, in 1986. I don’t know if one can use a word like "luckily" when talking about developing diabetes, but because I was so young at the time, I don't remember much. I do remember being admitted to the hospital and learning how to inject into oranges for practice. I remember feeling scared and pretty confused about what was going on. 

CallingAllTypes: What made you decide to start the blog, "Texting My Pancreas"?

Kim: I had been an active user on (JDRF's social networking site for T1) for a few months and started noticing how long-winded my responses were getting. I had found such great help, relief and encouragement in the diabetes patient blogs I had been reading, and I hoped I could provide the same sort of things for someone else by starting my own thing.

CallingAllTypes: Aside from your blog, what other social media outlets do you use to connect with people who have diabetes?

Kim: I’m not sure I can go a full 24 hours without Twitter – it's my favorite way to connect with people! Searching hashtags like #dsma (which is also a weekly Twitter chat – check out for more information), #bgnow, and #dblog helps me find other people with diabetes who tweet. I also use Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Skype, Spotify (I'm serious... someone has sent me a playlist with songs about insulin), and the list goes on. People with diabetes are everywhere; you just have to know how to look for them!

CallingAllTypes: What is the most helpful aspect of social media for managing diabetes?

Kim: The most beneficial aspect to me is that social media can be there for you exactly when you need it. Real-life support groups usually don’t have that kind of flexibility. If I'm up at 3:00 a.m., recovering from a bad low, there is always someone awake and ready with a sympathetic tweet or message. If I have a question, there’s always someone there to offer insight on what they do – and then I can take that information and decide what to do for myself.

CallingAllTypes: The "You Can Do This Project" is a great initiative. How did it start?

Kim: After seeing a Google Chrome commercial that featured It Gets Better, I felt very inspired. It touched me to see how a community could come together to support those who were facing obstacles that seemed bigger than they were. And just as soon as I had that thought, I had another one: the diabetes community faces a lot of struggles and despair, too. Could we lift each other up in the same way? Could we use videos, as an organized group, to tell our stories and let each other know that we aren’t alone when it comes to the hard parts of living with diabetes? As it turns out, we're doing just that – there are nearly a hundred entries to date, and the list keeps growing. There has been such a great diversity of videos submitted that I think just about anyone can find someone they can connect with. It's been so fun and rewarding to watch how it's grown, and continues to grow.

CallingAllTypes: You recently wrote a blog called, "Feedback = Action." In the blog you show the results of a survey for the "You Can Do This Project" What was the goal of your survey and were you surprised by the amount of responses you got?

Kim: The goal was to get a look into what the diabetes community wants from "You Can Do This Project", and gather some fresh ideas on how it can reach (and help) more people. I was pleasantly surprised at how many people not only took the survey, but also gave very thoughtful and detailed feedback. In response to the desire to bring things "offline" to a wider audience, "You Can Do This Project" will have a table at the exhibit hall at the Friends For Life conference this July, which is really exciting. I'm also hoping to secure some space at TCOYD in Des Moines this September. This step really wouldn't have happened if it weren't for the feedback I received and the subsequent funds the community helped me raise to cover the registration and setup fees. It just goes to show that when a community can rally around something with passion and purpose, great things can happen.

Calling All Types would like to thank Kim for sharing her story with us. To learn more about the "You Can Do This Project" and how to participate, click here.

The decision to participate is always yours and your feedback is always wanted. At CallingAllTypes, we believe finding the right online resources to better manage your diabetes should be a whole lot easier! So sign up and be a part of our growing online health movement. Once you've joined, stay connected with us through Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and YouTube.

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