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Famous People with Diabetes

By David Mendosa

Last Update: October 1, 1998

What do Thomas Alva Edison, Mary Tyler Moore, and Nicole Johnson have in common? As different as they are each of them are famous people with diabetes.

If you don't recognize Nicole Johnson's name, she is the newly crowed Miss America. Diagnosed with diabetes five years ago when she was 19, for the past two years she has been wearing a MiniMed insulin pump that supplies her with insulin 24 hours a day.

Are you soon to be famous?

She plans to spotlight diabetes awareness during the national speaking tour that she will make as Miss America. Her diabetes makes her "the perfect spokesperson for that issue," she told reporters after she was picked in September.

The selection of someone with diabetes "sends a strong message to young people of the world that having diabetes need not hold you back from anything you set your mind to," says Al Mann, MiniMed's founder and chair. Many members of diabetes newsgroups and mailing lists share that feeling.

Earlier, a correspondent in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, wrote me and my friends that she wanted to encourage her nine-year-old niece, who had just been diagnosed with diabetes, "by letting her know that famous athletes and celebrities that she has heard of have had diabetes." She asked for a comprehensive list of celebrities who have diabetes.

That list exists, and Nicole Johnson's name is the newest addition to it. Angela and Rose Goode's Famous Diabetics Web page lists more than 250 well-known living and historical figures who have had diabetes.

The list is divided into some 15 groups and is heavy on musicians, actors and athletes—probably not because people with diabetes go into that sort of work, but because in our society these are the most famous people. The Goode sisters, both of whom have diabetes, describe many of these people and link a Web page about them wherever possible.

"Rose and I started the Famous Diabetics site last year, when we found a list of famous diabetics in a newsgroup," Angela says. She also credits Angela J. Chiffy for posting the original Famous Diabetics list on the Web and helping them. But that is a shorter list and has no annotations or links. Several famous names shown on that list are also misspelled or poorly identified.

"We wish we had more time to devote to our Famous Diabetes page, but lately we have gotten very busy designing other Web sites," Angela says. "We just finished designing a Web site for Bret Michaels, the lead singer of the rock band 'Poison,' who also has diabetes."

After starting the Famous Diabetics site, the Goode sisters created a site that lets people post their names and bios for other people to read. This site is called the Soon To Be Famous Diabetics page.

"Both sites help other diabetics realize they are not alone in their struggles with this disease and that with a little determination and will power they can accomplish anything they desire," Angela says. "Diabetes should not keep anyone from accomplishing their dreams and goals." Thomas Alva Edison, Mary Tyler Moore, and Nicole Johnson would agree. 


The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.


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