Her Last-Minute Competition Entry Nets This Playwright Professor a $100,000 Grant

Wendy Coleman wins $100,000

| Apr 10, 2008

It’s late October, 2007, and Prof. Wendy Coleman has just learned about a competition called the Bayer Dream Fund. Coleman, a type 2 who was diagnosed in 2005, has been told that the fund grants a large cash award to the competition winner – money the winner can use to fund a personal project designed to spread the word about managing and living successfully with diabetes.

One day before the deadline, Coleman submits her quickly assembled entry, then returns to her hectic routine as the Director of Theater Ensemble and Speech at Albany State University in Georgia. Weeks pass and Coleman almost forgets about the competition.

In late March, during a regular day at work, “The phones were ringing off the hook, as usual,” she recalls, “and I was thinking, ‘Who wants what now?’” That’s when she found out that the only thing the person at the other end of the line wanted was to give her some good news: “I’d won $100,000 as the winner of the 2007 Bayer Dream Fund.”

Suddenly, her life became complicated, “but in a tremendously wonderful way,” she says. “This was a sweet, sweet, sweet addition to my life.”

Coleman, a PhD who was a dramaturgy major at Florida State, will use the money to help her produce and stage a two-act play, “This Is Our Story – Learning, Loving and Living Well With Diabetes.”

“The Dream Fund frees up your time and finances. It puts you in a position of not having to talk about something anymore – now you can go out and do it. The money will allow me to not have to teach next summer. Instead, I’ll be able to devote my full time and attention to getting the play ready for tour.”

Based on Her Own Denial

The play’s inspiration goes back three years ago to when Coleman underwent surgery and blood tests revealed her elevated glucose levels. “The play, whose main character is based on me, recounts how afraid I felt after the diagnosis. I went into denial and didn’t monitor myself or begin treatment. I had always heard that your life ends with diabetes, and that there was this endless testing and taking of insulin.”

But after three months of denial, Coleman says, “I began thinking of my family – past, present and future – and what I owed them, so I decided to monitor and take control.”

Her doctor first outfitted her with a Bayer blood glucose meter, telling her that formal treatment of her diabetes couldn’t begin until they knew what her daily levels were. “I could see what the device was doing for me – it gave me a sense of control, and it was the lack of a sense of control that was the source of my fear.”

With the meter to get her started, Coleman increased her exercise and began watching what she ate. “All of this before my doctor, Sterling Barrett, would put me on any medication. He also didn’t want to overwhelm me – he knew of my fear of having too many medications in my life. Nine months later, when my levels had come down considerably, thanks to diet and exercise, he put me on Januvia. Later, as my weight dropped more, I was weaned off Januvia. Now it’s diet and exercise alone.”

Coleman says that the other turning point for her, after controlling her fears, was how can she, as an individual and an artist, could help people get over the initial shock, fear and denial after a diagnosis of diabetes. “The best thing seemed to be to write a play that shows people all the great things they can do despite diabetes and that it doesn’t have to turn their lives upside down.”

Aunt Bessie to the Rescue

The two-hour play will present six or seven main characters and a similar number of subsidiary characters. “The main character, based on me, is a successful woman leading a great life when in the middle of everything comes this diagnosis of diabetes. Her response is to think that she really doesn’t have to change anything about her life, that she can just ignore the diagnosis and carry on as before. But then her dead Aunt Bessie comes to visit – ‘Wait a minute, you’re not with us anymore!’ Aunt Bessie takes her back in time, to the Roaring Twenties and the Sixties, to visit other family members who have lived with diabetes.”

The play will launch in Albany, Ga, in August; then tour Montgomery, Ala., in September; Jackson, Miss., in October; Daytona Beach and Orlando, Fla., in November: and Dallas in December. (Proceeds from the play’s ticket sales will be donated to local diabetes organizations dedicated to increasing awareness and education.)

Coleman says her drama students, sensing a rare chance to go on tour, are clamoring to be among the actors she picks for the play. “Suddenly I’m seeing them paying a lot more attention and being extra studious,” she chuckles.

She also notes that news of her Dream Fund grant and project has inspired several friends and colleagues to reveal that they, too, have diabetes.

Given that her last-minute submission was the ultimate winner among a field of 300 entrants, Coleman looks at her victory as a godsend.  “I truly believe that this was divinely orchestrated.”

For more information on Coleman and her upcoming productions, please visit http://www.BayerDreamFund.com or http://www.bayerdiabetes.com/us.

About the Dream Fund

The Bayer Dream Fund is a contest for people with diabetes who want to achieve a special dream that might not have been possible without control of their diabetes: “Supporting the achievements of exemplary individuals who optimally monitor and self-manage their diabetes.”

The inspiration for the fund came from John Dennis, who approached Bayer to fund his dream, which was to be the first and only person with diabetes to successfully compete in the historic “Around Alone” global yacht race.

Bayer believed that helping Dennis achieve his dream would help to inspire others with diabetes. The company, seeing an opportunity to recognize people with diabetes who have inspirational dreams, established the Dream Fund to recognize inspirational people and to help them accomplish their extraordinary goals.

Previous winners include:

  • Peter Hoogenboom, who raised awareness of diabetes management by completing a 10,000-mile bicycle tour of the 48 contiguous United States
  • Kassie Palmer, who authored a book titled, “When You’re a Parent With Diabetes: A Real Life Guide to Staying Healthy While Raising a Family
  • Colleen McCarthy LaPierre, who created a challenge-based adventure camp for teens with diabetes called “Dream Big
  • Jennifer Scarsi, who toured the country with a grassroots program she created called “Lights, Camera, Cure” to increase diabetes awareness and education and to empower young people with diabetes.

(Editor’s Note: Diabetes Health Editor-in-Chief Scott King was one of three panelists who judged the Bayer Dream Fund competition entries.)

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Categories: Bayer, Bayer Diabetes Dream Fund, Blood Glucose Meter, Colleen McCarthy LaPierre, Diabetes, Diabetes, Diet, Exercise, Insulin, Januvia, Jennifer Scarsi, Kassie Palmer, Personal Stories, Peter Hoogenboom, Type 2 Issues, Weight Loss, Wendy Coleman

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Posted by Anonymous on 22 April 2008

I put my user name as "anonymous", but I'm really not wanting to be called this. I didn't know if I could just use my name since I don't have diabetes or not. Anyway, my name is Mamie Woulard and Wendy Coleman, the 2007 winner is my sister! Myself and the whole family is so proud aof her and we thank God each and everyday that he"s blessed us with her presence. When Wendy was diagnoised wtih Diabetes, i thought it was the mose unfair thing that could happen to her. But I knew I had to put my faith in God because I knew he would put no more on her than she could bear. And to this day, she is living her life to the fullest and if you didn't know she had Diabetes, you wouldn't. I'm glad she has been given this great opportunity to pass on her experiences and to help someone elses who just needs to know, God is in control! Thank you, Bayer, for giving her this wonderful time to do one more outstanding and glorious thing in her life because you just would not believe all the things she has already done. Always loving her and thanking God, your sister, Mamie Woulard, Tupelo, Ms.

Posted by Anonymous on 6 July 2008

Congratulations Wendy !!May more healthy years to you and your family ....

I sent my Bayer Dream Fund story to Canadian side of Bayer Dream Fund ...I have lived with type 1 diabetes for over 25 years , am an insulin pumper and very involved with the Canadian Diabetes Association through advocacy , Team Diabetes, our branch etc.. In Jan 2009 I will participate for my 7 th event ...in DISNEY WORLD , USA ...I am 68 years , no side effects due to diabetes , love walking , cycling ,have a most supportive Husband , who has lived with me and the diabetes ( 1983 ) for same years. In 1984 I was diagnosed with breast cancer .
I pray to be as succesful as Wendy Coleman was in 2007 ...If I win you will see me on the Team Diabetes court ...maybe in Easter Island ??
Regards, Nel from Salmon Arm , BC , Canada

Posted by Anonymous on 11 September 2008

Wendy, you are doing such great work. I'm very proud of you. I don't know you personally but I'm a friend of your sister and I've heard so much about you. You're such a great person and I know that your family is very proud of you as well.

I love the message that you're sending and the way you're sending it. I work with young children. Some have been diagnosed with Diabetes and I tell them just like I tell asthma sufferers. "Don't let IT control YOU, you control IT". You're bringing awareness to the forefront, through a whole different line of communication and that's great.

Keep it up, Janice from Texas

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