No person with diabetes should die because of lack of care and no one should ever feel alone. We need to work harder as a community so that we all feel included and supported.
How were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes over 30 years ago in Mexico City. I was seven years old. I had been feeling very unwell for about a month. I was losing weight, drinking a lot of water, my vision was blurry, I lacked energy and didn’t want to play. As I had always been extremely active and alert, my parents knew immediately that something was wrong. They took me to my paediatrician and then to different hospitals, where I was prescribed treatments. But I did not get better.
My health deteriorated until, one morning, I felt strong abdominal pain and could not raise my head nor open my eyes. I was taken back to hospital, where no one knew what was wrong with me. One of the doctors noticed a fruity odour on my breath. He asked my parents for permission to run a blood glucose test. I remember being out on an IV drip. I felt tired and confused. I fell asleep.
Five days later, I woke up. My grandfather was sitting at my bedside. My mother soon joined him. As soon as I saw her, I started to feel safe. She always made things better. A few weeks later, I was able to go back home, but my life had changed.
How did your diagnosis affect your family or loved ones?
My diagnosis came as a complete surprise to my parents. There was no history of type 1 diabetes in the family and they knew nothing about the condition. The cost of the equipment and supplies that I would require to ensure a good quality of life was a shock for them. I had no health insurance and my family could not get insurance coverage for me. This was the start of a long, difficult period for our family, without sufficient resources to manage my condition. However, my parents adapted. They learned whatever they could. Soon, they became my diabetes educators. My father is a scientist and his colleagues from all over the world sent him magazines with the latest information on diabetes.
What are the most important things that have supported your diabetes care?
Diabetes education has been key. Reading and studying about my condition has empowered me to help not just myself, but others as well. My family has also been a huge support, along with the diabetes community that is always there to provide help and advice.
What has been your lowest point with diabetes?
My lowest point was when my husband and I had to decide whether to buy blood glucose test strips or food. Despite the difficulties, I see myself as privileged since I can survive and have options. This is not the case for everyone with diabetes in my country. For some families, affording diabetes care is just not an option. This stark reality is what motivates me to advocate for myself and all people with diabetes.
Have you ever experienced issues accessing diabetes medicines, supplies and care?
In Mexico, all people with diabetes have had issues accessing insulin at some point. Insulin is perhaps cheaper than in other countries, but only around one in three Mexicans with diabetes earn enough to afford everything required to manage their condition. Those of us who can afford our treatment cannot simply stand by and do nothing. We know what is needed and have tried for many years to influence decision-makers to allocate the required resources. However, we also acknowledge that we require training to strengthen our advocacy efforts.
What would you like to see change in diabetes over the next 100 years?
Hoping for a cure might be too ambitious. I would like to see every person affected by diabetes able to access the care they need. No person with diabetes should die because of lack of care and no one should ever feel alone. We need to work harder as a community so that we all feel included and supported.
What does the centenary of insulin mean to you?
Without the discovery, I would not be giving this testimonial. The centenary means there was a group of people with a shared vision who collaborated to save lives. We need the scientific community and people with diabetes to work together to bring health and happiness to everyone affected by the condition.