Because Sierra has type 1 diabetes. And she prominently and proudly wore her insulin pump on the Miss Idaho stage!
Sweets and I were both immediately drawn to her story. When I showed Sweets Sierra's picture, I asked her if she noticed anything special. Her eyes got big and she had a huge smile! "She has a pump!" Yes, she does! How cool is that?!?
I reached out to Sierra and she was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her VERY busy schedule (she was waiting on a call from Good Morning, America when we talked! Holy WOW!) to talk to us and answer some of our questions!
Sweets was thrilled! She thought up some questions and SHE did all the interviewing!
Sweets: Can you tell us about when you were diagnosed?
Sierra: It was two months after my 18th birthday. I had just moved out. My dad is a doctor so if I had been living at home I probably would have caught it sooner. I had gotten really thirsty and I was working out about six hours a day because it made me feel better. I was eating a ton but losing lots of weight. I attributed it all to the working out and I didn't think much of it. But then it started getting out of hand. I had to leave class at least three times every period. My teachers were getting so frustrated!
Then I went snowboarding. Usually I would go into the lodge to eat lunch and go to the bathroom once during the entire day. But every time I got done with a run I would have to go into the lodge and get water bottles and go to the bathroom. I would drink the bottles on the way up the lift and at the top I would have to go to the bathroom again. And then I would snowboard down and go through the whole cycle all over again.
Halfway through the day I called my dad and told him I thought I had a serious problem. I told him I thought I was an aquaholic and was addicted to water! He started laughing at me and asked if I was being serious and if it was that big of an issue. I said yes - that it was weird and he said I probably had diabetes.
That was a Saturday. The diabetes educator in my town acutally goes to my church so she brought a glucometer to church with her on Sunday. We checked my blood sugar with all of my friends and pastors around. It was really neat. It obviously was one of the worst moments of my life at the time but it was nice to have it be around people that I love.
Sweets: Have you ever had a time when you felt high or low on stage?
Sierra: Hmmm.... That's a good question! We have interviews earlier in the day when we are competing and I've had a few interviews where I came out and I was really low. I felt awful about my interview but they usually ended up coming out pretty well. Usually lows are the only ones I feel. I don't feel highs as much. This last week at Miss Idaho I was running high. It didn't totally throw me off but I kept measuring and my blood sugar would not come down because I was so stressed out.
Hallie: (I had to interject here!) That has to be scary, too, because you don't want to over correct and end up low!
Sierra: Yeah! That's what happened! But the low didn't come until after the show was over. I was about 250 and I kept giving insulin and giving insulin and giving insulin and it just wouldn't budge. Then I gave a lot and when I got back to my room I was about 65.
Sweets: How do you handle diabetes on stage or during a competition?
Sierra: It is pretty difficult. It's nice when I have my cgm but I'm waiting for insurance to replace it because it broke. So I have to set reminders on my phone to measure my sugar or I'll forget. I also have to remember that if I feel bad it might not be because of stage fright but because of blood sugar.
Hallie: What kind of cgm do you have?
Sierra: I have a Dexcom G4! And it's pink!
Hallie: Just like you, Sweets! (She smiled really big!)
Sweets: Have you ever worried that people might make fun of you because of your diabetes?
Sierra: Yeah. As a college student, I wouldn't say it's as much making fun of as just misunderstanding what the disease is. For example, my friends might tell me that I can't eat this piece of chocolate cake or people telling me I can't do something because I'm diabetic. Or they misunderstand the difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Or what it means to be diabetic in the first place. It's frustrating when people treat me like someone who is sick constantly because I'm totally normal and I can totally do everything that everyone else can do. I do have to monitor myself but I'm very responsible about that. It's frustrating when people undermine my capabilities.
Just wearing an insulin pump in general, in high school or in class around young people, they ask questions like "What is that?" or "Your thing is sticking out." if my tubing is sticking out. I don't really care about that. But people will say that all the time in a tone of voice like it's something embarrassing like my underwear is sticking out or if I had food in my teeth! They kind of whisper it to me! It's just not a big deal!
Sweets: Does diabetes or your pump factor into your decision when deciding what to wear on stage?
Sierra: It does now! Going into Miss Idaho week, I was extremely nervous about wearing my pump and I didn't know whether or not I would do it and go through with it until the last minute. I was so scared. And I kept asking for advice from everyone whether I should wear it. I was so terrified. In the end I decided that it's part of my personal convictions that I don't want girls to think that you have to be skinny or tall or absolutely flawless to be beautiful. That's one of the so called flaws that I have. I wanted to show girls that it can't stop you from being beautiful and it can't stop you from following your dreams. That's why I decided to wear it.
As for planning my wardrobe, I didn't have a way to make it more visible. I actually wore it in more than in just the swimsuit competition. The media has misrepresented that and said that I just wore it in the swimsuit competition. But I wore it almost the whole time except for one night in evening gown it ripped out while I was changing. I wore it the whole time - it just wasn't as visible.
Going into Miss America, we are being very conscious about making sure I have a wardrobe that I can show my pump with, visibly at all times. It's been really fun and challenging! I'm looking forward to it!
Sweets: What is the best part of being Miss Idaho?
Sierra: I think it's being able to reach so many people! We each have a personal platform. My platform actually isn't anything to do with diabetes. My sister and I put on sports camps for kids with special needs. It was diabetes when I was first starting but it was really frustrating because when I didn't have a crown or a title no one really cared to listen to me or my message about being beautiful with a pump or the difference between type 1 and type 2. It was really hard to spread awareness without the voice I now have as Miss Idaho. I did have the power to organize the sports camps for special needs kids. It was really fun to be able to help and impact the kids through that.
Now that I have this voice, it's awesome to basically have a second platform. I can just post a picture on Facebook and reach so many people! It was hard for me to go out on stage with a pump on. But it's such an easy thing to post that picture online. The response I've gotten... The power of social media is incredible! It's been incredible to be able to reach so many people as Miss Idaho. That's what the crown means to me. It's not about having a sparkly thing on my head or being a princess.
Sweets: How do you stay healthy?
Sierra: Working out is one of my favorite things. I also try to eat as low carb as possible. I focus on eating vegetables and chicken and fruits. I try to eat as healthy as possible. To stay active, I like to power lift and do crossfit. I run every day and ride my bike whenever I get the chance. In the winter, I love skiing and snowboarding. A lot of people in each of those sports think that sport is the best way to exercise. I really think that whatever you enjoy most is the best way to exercise because what's important is that you enjoy doing it. If you don't like it, you're not going to get out there and get moving.
Hallie: Has that been challenging since you were diagnosed?
Sierra: Actually it was pretty hard at first! At first I would not adjust insulin for workouts. I would just take the normal amount and then I would start working out and drop really low. I was on an all star cheer team. They were really supportive. I had a hard time with that. We were just getting ready to go to Nationals. That really taught me how to handle my blood sugar in a high pressure situation. Since then I've been really good about making sure I'm a little high before working out and measuring constantly during the workout - especially when I'm riding my bike because I will ride 80-100 miles in one day and I have to constantly eat to keep my blood sugar up. My cgm helps a lot when I have it!
Sweets: What is your advice for kids?
Sierra: My advice is to try to escape the message that the media gives you. The media feeds us this lie that you have to be tall and skinny and blond and have a symmetrical face and young and just flawless in order to be beautiful and if you deviate from that in any way, whether it's having an insulin pump or that you're only five feet tall or you're a little overweight or your hair isn't thick and long or you have acne... Whatever your deviation from supermodels or girls on the cover of magazines is, it doesn't make you less beautiful. Don't be ashamed or think it makes you less beautiful. Whatever your deviation is, you should be proud of it because it's what makes you unique!
We really enjoyed chatting with Sierra! I love her message! As the mother of a young girl - and especially a young girl with type 1 diabetes - I love that she has a role model who is showing her that her pump and cgm are nothing to be ashamed of! I can tell her that until I'm blue in the face. But SEEING it... that is incredibly powerful!
We are so thankful that Sierra had the courage to wear her pump on stage and is now reaching so many with her message!
Sierra also wants to hear from you! She's started a "Show Me Your Pump" campaign! Just post a picture of yourself with your pump (or cgm... or hearing aides... or whatever makes you unique) with the hashtag #showmeyourpump! There's power in numbers and something wonderful about sharing that feeling of "same" with people all over the world!
Here are our #showmeyourpump pics!
This is an oldie but a favorite from when she first started podding!
Now she's a little more shy about showing her tush (Daddy is happy about this! Lol!) so here's a pic of her and one of her favorite D buddies sporting their Dexcoms!
Here's how you can follow Sierra's journey as Miss Idaho and to Miss America!
Twitter: @sierra_anne93, @missidorg
Instagram: missidahoorg, sierra_anne_nicole
Facebook: Miss Idaho Organization
She also loves to get mail! You can find her at:
Sierra Sandison, P.O. Box 6159, Twin Falls, ID 83303.
Thanks again to Sierra for taking the time to talk to us! We wish her the best of luck and can't wait to see her (and her pump) on the Miss America stage this fall!