Aside from being an advocate, Cooks is also a marathon runner, and the first Black woman with type 1 diabetes to crack the top five in a state pageant.
As a marathon runner living with type 1 diabetes, Cooks faces additional challenges. Leveraging technology like the Dexcom CGM to monitor blood glucose levels has been crucial in managing her condition while training.
“Leveraging the technology that’s available to me has made a difference in my ability to confidently prepare for the marathon or any activity that I’m doing. Living with diabetes makes everything just that much harder,” Cooks says. “You have to make sure that you’re eating appropriately, that you’re getting enough sleep, that you are constantly checking your numbers. I think it’s just incredibly important that we access and utilize what is available to us and for me, that is the Dexcom.”
In 2021, Cooks made history by becoming the first Black woman to lead the Beyond Type Run team. Her goal was to challenge stereotypes and inspire people, particularly those in the Black community, to pursue seemingly unconventional goals like running marathons. Cooks believes that by showcasing diversity in achievements, she encourages others to recognize their limitless potential.
“It was really about showing younger girls that there is no limit when they set their mind to doing anything in life and that’s kind of been a big motivator for me in almost everything that I do. It’s always bigger than me and there’s always more to the story – more people that need to hear your story or see your story to feel like they can do something too,” Cooks shares.
Cooks has also successfully portrayed this message in beauty pageants, where she wore her diabetes devices proudly, sending a powerful message about self-confidence and breaking societal norms. Her achievement of cracking the top five in a state pageant emphasizes the importance of representation, challenging beauty standards, and embracing individuality.
Words of Wisdom
Balancing advocacy, pageantry, marathon running, and other responsibilities may seem daunting, but Cooks emphasizes the importance of setting boundaries and prioritizing self-care.
Her advice to others looking to balance multiple passions is to align actions with personal values, be mindful of boundaries, and say ‘yes’ to purposeful endeavors.
“My message is to not be afraid to be yourself. It’s a simple message, but it’s true. There’s no better person to show up as than to show up as yourself,” Cooks adds. “I would also encourage anybody to keep on striving after every single dream that they have…and then also set those boundaries and take care of yourself while doing it.”
Reflecting on her journey, Cooks advises young individuals with diabetes to appreciate every moment, value relationships, and remain positive despite life’s challenges. She emphasizes the importance of confidence in facing circumstances, disease, or backgrounds and encourages others to find pride in their stories.
“What diabetes has taught me is that life changes quickly. One day I didn’t have diabetes, the next day I did. I’ve learned through this experience how important it is to really appreciate every single moment that’s offered to us in life,” Cooks shares. “I’m more intentional with my interactions and where I put my energy. Diabetes it’s ever-changing – life is ever-changing so just don’t take things for granted. Even through the challenges continue to remain positive because we can do anything and we can get through even the hardest of days.”
Looking ahead, Cooks envisions launching her own clothing line, “Confident Regardless”, aimed at inspiring people to embrace confidence in all aspects of life. Her focus remains on encouraging younger generations, particularly girls, to find confidence amid challenges.
“In the future months and years to come, I just hope to continue leading with my heart and hopefully allowing other people to see that they’re not alone and that there are so many of us like them out there who are ready to embrace them with open arms. I’m excited to see what the future holds,” Cooks concludes.
To learn more about how CGM can help you manage your diabetes, click here.