As a person who's lived with type 1 diabetes for two decades, Julia Flaherty's career goal is to combine her professional skills and personal passions to effect meaningful change in service to communities in need. Flaherty's work with her "Rosie Becomes a Warrior" children's book series was originally inspired by a challenging time—the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic—and backed by a lifelong dream to write a book.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, several media outlets shared that people with conditions like diabetes were likely to suffer the most if they were to catch the virus. Feeling the heaviness of these statements, Flaherty, like many people with diabetes, felt vulnerable, afraid, and disconcerted. But this wasn't the first time the fear of the unknown threatened to bring her mental agility down.
JULIA'S STORY: SHIFTING EYES OF EMPOWERMENT ONTO TYPE 1 DIABETES
Months before her tenth birthday, Flaherty began losing weight, frequently getting up in the middle of the night to pee, having weird cravings, and acting unlike herself. These character shifts worried those around her, especially her childhood friend, school guidance counselor, and mother. This wasn't just a cold. When things weren't getting better, it was time to bring her to a doctor, where Flaherty was quickly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and her life changed forever.
Flaherty remembers being a small child, lying in a hospital bed with an IV stuck to her hand, feeling overwhelmed by the doctors and nurses who explained everything her life would become. Mourning the loss of a reality she once knew, her post-diagnosis shift in reality truly happened when her then 8-year-old sister asked her father, "Why is Julia acting like a baby?"
Understandably, Flaherty spent weeks after being in the hospital feeling sad and confused. She wished she didn't have to deal with type 1 diabetes and was worried about her future. Though the comfort of her family surrounded her, she still felt alone, disconnected, and misunderstood.
PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING
Though Flaherty's original motivation to turn her attitude around was to prove to her sister that she wasn't a baby, she later looked back on the question as a young adult with gratitude. It was the honest question she needed to face that helped her live a happier life with type 1 diabetes earlier in her journey and start the process of finding a community that truly does understand while leaning on her loving support system—her sister and parents.
The childish motivation to prove her sister wrong shifted into motivation to prove herself wrong and to discover how to live a joyful life with diabetes. This question was the wake-up call and inspiration Flaherty needed to shift from feeling sorry for herself to being empowered to manage diabetes and live the life she envisioned.
Though Flaherty, like most people impacted by diabetes, has experienced diabetes burnout and ebbs and flows in her management and feelings towards the disease, at her core, she carries this same attitude today—waking up intentionally with joy and purpose. Flaherty lives with the understanding that there are always challenges in life, no matter the path you decide and those you're routed down—how you manage life's problems and perceive your problems matter most.
Though the original driving factor that inspired this attitude was childish, developing a true mantra of turning challenges into opportunities grew stronger in Flaherty as she grew up.
Flaherty believes in facing and working through life's everyday challenges with honesty, grace, understanding, and kindness to oneself. In the case of living with diabetes, she knows this ranges from airing one's frustrations to binging Netflix to taking a hike to simply fueling your daily routine and beyond. The approach to diabetes is individual, but the common experiences the diabetes community shares are well-known and felt.
18 YEARS LATER
Ever a survivor, Flaherty tapped into her ability to turn a challenging situation into an opportunity to reach out with the words she observed others like her needed to hear in 2020. "Rosie Becomes a Warrior" was designed to deliver empathy, understanding, and encouragement in challenging times. Though meant for children with type 1 diabetes and their families and friends, anyone reading this book series can learn its deep lessons of shifting perception and creating empowerment from life's big challenges. Adults living with type 1 diabetes can also use "Rosie" to heal with words they might not have been offered as a child.
Committed to being vulnerable to serve the diabetes community, Flaherty reflected many of her own experiences into Rosie, shaping the character for a young audience—delivering stories with realism, positivity, and leadership. Flaherty wants nothing more than to give children the confidence, support, and understanding they need to thrive with diabetes as early as possible. She hopes the love children and their families feel through Rosie is the same supportive love she gets as an adult when her sister texts her after seeing CGM low alerts. Care like this means everything in a life with diabetes!
Flaherty's ultimate goals with Rosie are to help children know they are never alone when facing life's big challenges and are mentally stronger than they ever believed possible. No one is alone. Community is everywhere, waiting to embrace you and help you realize your best self.
After feeling hopeless during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, author and illustrator Julia Flaherty turned isolation into inspiration with the creation of "Rosie Becomes a Warrior." Drawing on her experiences growing up with type 1 diabetes, Flaherty offers parents and children connection, understanding, and hope in this charming children's book series.