Sheila Vasconcellos

I learned from the good times with diabetes that the effort is worth it.

How long have you been living with diabetes?

I have been living with diabetes for 36 years.

How were you diagnosed?

I discovered I had type 1 diabetes when I was preparing for a trip to Disney World when I was 15. I started to urinate a lot, feel very hungry and lose weight. A general practitioner measured my blood glucose and the result was scary: 498 mg/dl . I was referred to an endocrinologist and began treatment with insulin, blood glucose monitoring, diet and regular exercise.

Did your diagnosis come as a surprise to you?

We were very surprised because what we knew about diabetes was that it was the condition that my grandmother had before she died. It was hard to imagine that diabetes would show up in someone as young as me. We read and studied and found out that there is a big difference between the two types of diabetes.

How did your diagnosis affect your family or loved ones?

I'm the middle child, and after my diagnosis my health really became the focus of my family's attention. The habits of the house changed and we started to pay special attention to the discipline of my schedule. I received a lot of support from my parents who were always by my side to face each phase of my new sweet life.

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

What has always helped me with my diabetes care is my determination to achieve my dreams. After adolescence, when I became a little rebellious with the condition, I soon realized that to work, study, enjoy life and have children, I would need to take care of my diabetes. When I got pregnant, my daughter was my biggest motivator in keeping diabetes under control.

What has living with diabetes taught you the most?

I learned from the good times with diabetes that the effort is worth it. My children were born and they make me a very proud mother. The health I have today allows me to enjoy the best things in life like independence to travel and explore the world. The bad phases also helped me to consider important changes in my treatment. After a severe episode of hypoglycemia that caused me to fall and break my leg, I started to use analogue insulins, which reduced the peaks of action. A few years later, a car accident led me to adopt the insulin pump with a continuous glucose monitoring sensor so that I wouldn't be surprised again by symptom-free hypoglycaemia.

What has been your lowest point with diabetes?

Thinking I couldn't have children because of diabetes made me suffer when I was younger. However, with information, knowledge and doing your best, it is possible to dream of what you want because diabetes does not limit you.

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

My current treatment with insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring would be unfeasible without the health system guaranteeing what is necessary for my health. The cost of supplies in my adult life, when I needed to contribute to the family budget, has been a big obstacle to optimal diabetes control.

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

I wish people with diabetes could have their emotional burden and attention to diabetes reduced. A cure would also be amazing as no one deserves to live a life with a chronic condition.

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

I think Brazil needs to invest in diabetes education for people with diabetes and updating the diabetes knowledge of health professionals.

What does the centenary of insulin mean to you?

The centenary of insulin symbolizes a date of hope and victory for all people diagnosed with diabetes. Without insulin we wouldn't survive.

The Insulin at 100 campaign is supported by