Miss Idaho Sierra Sanderson Wears Insulin Pump on Stage
07/18/2014 AT 05:50 PM EDT
On Monday, the 20-year-old posted a picture of herself on the pageant stage with her insulin pump clipped to her bikini bottom. The photo went viral, inspiring other diabetes patients to share their own pictures of their insulin pumps using the hashtag #showmeyourpump.
"There it is," Sandison wrote on Instagram of the pic taken by photographer Susan Hessing. "I would never have dreamt of posting a swimsuit picture on social media, but diabetics from all over the country have been asking to see me and my insulin pump on the #MissIdaho2014 stage."
She added: "Honestly, it is terrifying walking out on stage in a swimsuit, let alone attached to a medical device … Diabetes turned my life upside down when I was first diagnosed. Don't let your challenge hold you back or slow you down. Use it to, not only empower yourself and grow as an individual, but to serve and influence other people as well."
Sandison, who was crowned Miss Idaho on July 12, initially struggled with her diagnosis of Type I diabetes. "For a while, I pretended that I didn't have diabetes, hoping it would go away. That led to crazy blood sugars, of course, and a very sick, grumpy, and discouraged Sierra," she wrote on her blog.
But then she heard about Miss America 1999, Nicole Johnson, who wore a pump while competing, and her perspective changed. "The media often tells us this lie: if your appearance deviates in any way from cover girls, movie stars, super models, etc., it is a flaw and something is wrong with you," Sandison added. "Well, guess what? Miss America 1999 has an insulin pump, and it doesn't make her any less beautiful … So, a year after I was diagnosed, I got a pump. It helped me get even better control of my diabetes, and made my life SO much easier."
Sandison looks forward to using her influence as Miss Idaho to educate the public about diabetes. "I have had a million new opportunities to spread the word about diabetes and overcoming obstacles!" she wrote. "I am overwhelmed with hearing how many lives have been touched by me simply wearing my pump on stage. It means so much to me, and I hope I can touch many more during my year as Miss Idaho."