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Ten-year-old Mia Allen of Needham is a multi-talented fourth grader at Lexington Montessori School who juggles a heavy schedule of activities – including community theater, soccer, dance and choir – and doesn’t let her type 1 diabetes hold her back. Mia is a patient at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, where her mom, Gretchen, also receives her type 1 care. Mia, alongside her 12-year-old sister, Olivia, will be honored with the Frank and Jean Ring Memorial Award in the Fight Against Diabetes at Joslin Diabetes Center’s 32nd annual Evening at Pops event at Boston Symphony Hall on Friday, May 11.
Gretchen Lanka Allen has had diabetes since she was seven years old and has been a patient at Joslin since she was pregnant with Olivia. When Mia began displaying the classic signs of diabetes during a family outing at the Museum of Fine Arts two years ago, Gretchen tested her youngest daughter’s blood sugar, and knew she likely had diabetes. Later that day in the hospital, older sister Olivia understood what was happening, stayed by Mia’s side and set out to sew her a stuffed animal to make her feel better. On August 31, 2016, doctors at Joslin Diabetes Center officially diagnosed Mia with type 1 diabetes. Olivia was determined to remain a support system for her sister and to accompany Mia to every single one of her appointments for the first year.
“There was never a question when Mia was first diagnosed of where we would seek her treatment,” said Gretchen. “The professionalism and knowledge of the entire staff at Joslin is unparalleled. I have traveled the world and had dozens of different doctors for my diabetes care, and the level of attention you receive as a patient at Joslin is just incredible.”
Mia uses an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to manage her blood sugar levels which helps her to stay active; the 10-year-old attends Joanne Langione Dance Center in West Newton and will be starring in two plays this spring,
"Beauty and the Beast" and "Sleeping Beauty," with the LINX Theater in Wellesley. Mia keeps her diabetes kit in the wings with another stage crew member who also has diabetes so she can easily check her blood sugar levels and ensure that the show will go on.
Ever the advocate, big sister Olivia continues to encourage Mia to be a kid and live her normal life as much as possible, and not let diabetes hold her back from achieving her dreams and following her passions.
“I feel so close to Mia ever since she was diagnosed with diabetes because my role as a big sister is even more important,” said Olivia. “It can be challenging because she gets a certain level of attention, but I am always there to support her and make sure she continues to do ‘kid stuff’ like go on sleepovers and eat ice cream. To be honored with this award is amazing, like I’m being recognized for just being a good big sister.”
Even at such a young age, Mia is an outspoken advocate for diabetes awareness, educating her peers in school and in her extracurricular activities, even asking to present to the class after she was diagnosed to ensure her classmates were informed about the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes and what they could expect if her blood sugar went high or low.
“Diabetes is not something I’m embarrassed about – it’s actually something I like to share with people,” said Mia. “Being honored with the Frank and Jean Ring Memorial Award in the Fight Against Diabetes is so exciting and I’m grateful to share the honor with my older sister, who has always been there to support me even when it’s challenging.”
Mia, Olivia and their family will attend the 32nd annual Evening at Pops event at Boston Symphony Hall on Friday, May 11, at 6 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.joslin.org/pops.