It’s up to you how you take on the challenge of living with diabetes and it’s your perception that matters more than the condition.
How long have you been living with diabetes?
I have been living with type 1 diabetes for almost 25 years.
How were you diagnosed?
The first five years of my life were like those of any child of similar age. I was care-free, healthy and having lots of fun. I loved everything sweet, like chocolate, ice cream, cake and cola. Things changed quickly when I turned five. I started feeling ill, weak and losing weight. Visits to doctors became routine and I was treated for an undiagnosed problem for months. Instead of treating the condition that my symptoms pointed to, I was prescribed lots of irrelevant medicines to alleviate the symptoms. My condition remained a mystery until I went into DKA. My mother found me unconscious in the middle of the night and rushed me to the hospital, where the doctors finally diagnosed type 1 diabetes.
Did your diagnosis come as a surprise to you?
I was too young to understand what happened to me, but the news came as a shock to my family. I was an only child at the time and the eldest grandchild of a loving family that had never heard of diabetes when I was diagnosed.
How did your diagnosis affect your family or loved ones?
Although I came from a well-educated background, it was hard for my family to accept that a young child could face a condition like diabetes. Besides the treatment, the most difficult was dealing with the comments made by other people. My parents were told that there was a good chance that I would not reach the age of ten and therefore advised by others to stop my education and refrain from spending large amounts of money on treatment.
What has living with diabetes taught you the most?
Challenges are backed by opportunities. I believe it's possible to live your life the way you want; diabetes can’t stop you! I know it’s easier said than done and you will always have people around you who, because of their misconceptions about diabetes, will keep confusing you. If you are a woman, you are confronted with false beliefs that you can’t marry or have kids. But in the end, it all depends on you - how you deal with people and yourself. If you choose to take control of your life, success will definitely be yours. It’s up to you how you take on the challenge and it’s your perception that matters more than the condition.
Diabetes has become a cause for me. It has given me the chance to meet so many people across the world trying to deal with the same condition in the best way possible. It has inspired me to work more and strengthened my will to show that peer support can do wonders for people with diabetes.
What has been your lowest point with diabetes?
I've lived with diabetes for a long time so there have been many low points. I developed hypo unawareness and experienced critically low blood glucose levels. Just before I got married, I was told, for the first time, to keep my diabetes a secret from my extended family and not be open about it to everyone. This was emotionally challenging to accept. I've done my best to be strong and pursue my dreams, but diabetes can make things complicated, so low points are inevitable.
Have you ever experienced issues accessing diabetes medicines, supplies and care?
I come from a small city and, during childhood, faced many difficulties accessing regular treatment and advice from health professionals. Accessing and affording insulin was a bit of a challenge for my family at the time. Things improved as I grew up and now I battle between affordability of diabetes technology and quality lifestyle. Diabetes supplies, in particular, are not easily available everywhere in my country.
What would you like to see change in diabetes over the next 100 years?
I don't think I'll be around when it happens, but like everyone, I would like to see a cure for diabetes. In the meantime, there should be better access to insulin and greater availability of affordable, user-friendly diabetes management technologies.
What do you think needs to change to improve the lives of people living with diabetes in your country?
Awareness among health professionals is extremely important as they are the ones who have to diagnose and take care of people living with diabetes. The health industry needs good capacity-building to accommodate the requirements of diabetes care. Pharmaceutical companies need to work out strategies to provide affordable and easily accessible insulin and diabetes medicines in countries like mine, particularly in remote, rural areas.
What does the centenary of insulin mean to you?
A lifesaving drug, initially patented for USD1 so that it could be accessible for everyone, that has allowed people like me to stay alive. However, it's sad that 100 years later many people with diabetes are still unable to afford it.