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Ice cream or yogurt? Regular or diet soda? These may not be critical decisions at your dinner table - unless you're one of nearly 18 million Americans living with diabetes today.

People with diabetes face daily challenges. To remain healthy, they must monitor their blood sugar levels, eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Some people also need to take insulin to stay alive.

In an effort to recognize champions of these challenges, Eli Lilly and Co. established the LillyforLife Achievement Award in 2002. The award celebrates the inspiring achievements of people of all ages who live with diabetes.

Those recognized do not have to be well known or famous for their achievements but can be everyday people who have accomplished or are working toward exceptional personal success.

This year, Lilly has expanded the award program to include not only people with diabetes but also anyone impacted by the condition or involved with the diabetes community.

Categories of submission include: patients age 18 or over; patients age 17 or under; professionals; caretakers or spouses; and journalists.

One person from each category will be selected by a panel of judges to receive this special award. Applicants are eligible to apply for one category. Peer or self-nominations are accepted from the public through Aug. 30, 2004.

Last year, Rick Largent was honored with the first ever LillyforLife Achievement Award. Largent has been living with type 1, or insulin-dependent, diabetes for 25 years. He has faced extraordinary challenges during his life beyond diabetes. An unfortunate accident left him quadriplegic, and he later lost his 19-year-old daughter to cancer.

Largent neglected to control his blood sugar, putting himself at risk for diabetes-related complications. It was not until he began using an insulin pump that he started taking control of his health again.

Largent began traveling cross-country sharing his story and teaching others that anything is possible when diabetes is managed well. He also visited Capitol Hill in an effort to educate policymakers on the dual dilemma of diabetes and disabilities.

Largent's resilience to conquer diabetes and quadriplegia represents the kind of spirit the LillyforLife Achievement Award stands for. As many who live with diabetes know, if the disease is managed, there's no reason you can't achieve your goals.

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