Quinn Nystrom: Author and Advocate
Quinn Nystrom became a diabetes advocate even before she had diabetes. At age 10, Nystrom’s 5-year-old brother, Will, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and she began raising money for the ADA. Three years later, Nystrom got her own type 1 diagnosis.
At Camp Needlepoint, an ADA Diabetes Camp in Hudson, Wisconsin, Nystrom heard a speech by Clare Rosenfeld Evans, who was visiting camps during her term as National Youth Advocate. “She inspired me to believe that each and every one of us had a voice and could get involved in the diabetes community,” says Nystrom, who was 14 and attending the camp at the time. “Even though I was a small-town girl from northern Minnesota, I believed I could make a difference by telling my story.”
Two years later, Nystrom became the ADA’s National Youth Advocate. “I long had been frustrated with how people were ignorant about diabetes,” she says. “The truth is, if we didn’t speak up about it, how else were people to know more about it?”
Nystrom, now 28, works as a social media specialist for a hospital in a small town in Minnesota, where she creates health materials about getting the best access to health information and patient services. She earned a masters in communications from Syracuse University in New York.
From her Tour de Cure® participation to her consulting and speaking engagements, Nystrom uses the communication skills she learned as National Youth Advocate to make a difference in the diabetes community. Recently, Nystrom penned her first book, If I Kiss You, Will I Get Diabetes?
“When I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 13, there were no books out on the market that I could relate to,” Nystrom says. “I wanted to know what my life was going to be like with diabetes. Were there going to be hurdles? What was college going to be like? When do I tell a guy that I like that I have diabetes? They were questions that I wasn’t going to ask my doctor, but that I wanted desperately answered as a young woman.”
Public service has also continued to play an important role in Nystrom’s life—she was just elected to the city council of Baxter, Minnesota.
Nystrom hopes to encourage more people to tell their stories. She suggests volunteering to speak about diabetes to your class or at a local service organization, writing a blog post about your life, or fund-raising for a local Step Out®: Walk to Stop Diabetes® or Tour de Cure event.
“I think it is crucial for the general population to hear different stories from people living with the disease so that we can dispel misconceptions that they may have,” Nystrom says. “We can only do this by starting an open dialogue with people.”
There are many ways to get involved with the American Diabetes Association. The first stop: diabetes.org/volunteer. Sign up so your local office can contact you about the full range of volunteer activities.