Nicole Johnson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 19. In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, which is a hormone the body uses to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.
SEMINOLE – At age 19, when she was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, Nicole Johnson was told she could not have a career or a baby.
The now 36-year-old mother of a 4-year-old daughter and Miss America 1999 said she has a wonderful life, which has flown in the face of everything she was told when she was diagnosed with diabetes as a college student.
“Nothing has to limit you. You can have a wonderful life. You can be a mother. You can be accomplished. You can travel. There are no limits if you are willing to work at it,” Johnson said.
Living with diabetes for Johnson means wearing an insulin pump and a continuous glucose sensor. She pricks her finger four to eight times a day. She watches what she eats and she remains active.
Everything Johnson does relates to diabetes, she said. In addition to school Johnson works at the University of South Florida. She writes for various diabetes publications. She serves on the American Diabetes Association board in Tampa Bay. She utilized her year as Miss America as a voice for those living with diabetes.
Johnson is also a single mother. She was divorced when Ava was a baby and she’s thankful to live close to a very supportive family, she said.
Johnson holds masters degrees in journalism and public health, and she is in the doctoral program in Public Health at USF. She’s doing research on diabetes education in the health community. She’s working on, “reframing how we talk about living with a lifelong illness from how we talk about it to how professionals teach about it,” Johnson said.
How does she balance daily life with a lifelong illness, classes, work, and motherhood?
“Its just tenacity. You get up at 2 a.m. and do whatever you need to do,” she said.
Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, which is a hormone the body uses to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.
About 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes have this form of the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.