Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court drew cheers Tuesday from fellow diabetics and advocacy groups, who hailed her as a historic role model for those struggling with the disease.
The American Diabetes Association said in a statement that her nomination showed how "each person with diabetes should be judged based on his or her merits, not on stereotypes or misinformation about diabetes."
If confirmed by the Senate, the 54-year-old federal appeals court judge would be the first Hispanic to sit on the highest US court, the third woman, and the first justice known to have Type-1 diabetes.
"We're excited. In our community there's a lot of buzz," said Amy Tenderich, who blogs about diabetes -- including her experiences with the illness -- at www.diabetesmine.com. "This is a happy day for people with this illness."
Sotomayor has said that a Type-1 or "juvenile" diabetes diagnosis when she was eight years old dashed her dreams of becoming a police detective, helping to steer her instead towards a career in the legal profession.
"If I couldn't do detective work as a police officer, I could do it as a lawyer," the federal judge told the New York Daily News.
The ailment occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys certain cells in the pancreas, preventing the body from adequately producing the hormone insulin that helps break down sugar for energy.
Diabetes can bring on severe heart, kidney, eye and nerve problems, and reduces life expectancy by an estimated 7-10 years -- though growing knowledge about treatment has helped people live longer and better.
"She's been a successful judge for many, many years, so I'd love to know what her routine is, how she gets her exercise in," said Tenderich. "I'd love to know what model (insulin) pump this woman uses."
Half of the 30,000-40,000 Americans diagnosed each year with Type 1 diabetes are under 18, and about 1.5-3 million Americans have the disease, said Bill Ahearn, communications director for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Sotomayor's nomination "is a teachable moment to a great degree" because it helps explain the disease to the broader US public and "an exemplary moment" for showing those who have it that with careful treatment they can achieve great things, Ahearn told AFP by telephone.
"This is important particularly for those kids who have the disease and are looking at a life of very strenuous management of that disease," including frequent insulin injections, blood-sugar monitoring, and dietary restrictions, he said.
The nomination is "a great example moment for those kids" who can see that their illness "is not the barrier that some would think it might be to achieving what you want in life," said Ahearn.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Internet site lists diabetes sufferers who have gone on to great things, including musicians Miles Davis, BB King, and Johnny Cash and political leaders like former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
But perish the thought of special treatment, said the American Diabetes Association, which demanded Sotomayor "be evaluated based on her qualifications and years of experience -- and not her diabetes."
"To evaluate her in any other way would be a disservice to the United States," the association said.
Tenderich said she hopes Sotomayor will be confirmed "and ends up being good," she added with a laugh.