Gabby Grozeva

I'm grateful to have been born at a time when a diabetes diagnosis was not a death sentence.

How long have you been living with diabetes?

I have been living with type 1 diabetes for 17 years. I was diagnosed at the age of 9.

How were you diagnosed?

I was diagnosed after going into a diabetic coma. I had been feeling very thirsty, craving sweets all the time and experiencing sharp pain in my lower stomach. I am really thankful that the ambulance arrived on time!

Did your diagnosis come as a surprise to you?

Yes, it was a big shock for a 9 year old! When I woke up in hospital, my first question was "Will I die?". It definitely took me some time to get used to the idea and how I would live my life from that day on.

How did your diagnosis affect your family or loved ones?

It was very stressful for them and they needed a lot of training and preparation to deal with my diabetes on a daily basis. My parents considered moving to another city so that I could be closer to the best hospital in the country. My mother passed away the same year that I was diagnosed, which made it extra hard for my father, sister and me. They definitely needed to adapt a lot in terms of eating habits, shopping, food preparation, nutrition, knowing how to help me when my blood glucose went low or high and what to do in emergency situations.

What are the most important things that have supported your diabetes care?

Insulin, first and my blood glucose meter (CRM) second.

What has living with diabetes taught you the most?

Discipline, perseverance and empathy. Living with diabetes also allowed me to learn a lot about science from a young age, sparked my passion for food and nutrition and taught me to listen to my body.

Have you ever experienced issues accessing diabetes medicines, supplies and care?

Yes, I travelled a lot for my studies and it was so difficult to go to a new country and start all over from nothing, find new doctors and understand how the health care system works. It took me months to get settled and receive insulin through the standard procedures. When I was living in the USA, my insurance didn't fully cover my insulin so I had to pay a lot of money each month out of pocket. I often had to rely on supplies of insulin from goodhearted members of the diabetes community that had extra that they could share. Getting test strips to measure my blood glucose has also been very costly.

What would you like to see change in diabetes over the next 100 years?

I would love to see insulin available for all people with diabetes who need it and, of course, a cure for type 1 diabetes one day.

What do you think needs to change to improve the lives of people living with diabetes in your country?

Easier access to insulin pumps and CRMs. My country is still very far from developed countries in terms of the latest technology available to support people with diabetes. There need to be more education programmes for children and young people who are newly diagnosed and people who have been living with diabetes for many years. We also need to have a more active diabetes community.

What does the centenary of insulin mean to you?

It means the world to me! I'm grateful to have been born at a time when a diabetes diagnosis was not a death sentence.

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