There should be better education and awareness on diabetes, particularly type 1 diabetes
How long have you been living with diabetes?
I have been living with type 1 diabetes for 7 years.
How were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was living in Austria as an exchange student. I felt very exhausted and had no appetite. I couldn't even walk to the supermarket, my heartbeat was so fast that I needed to sit down and take a breath. After a week, my situation got worse so I went to a nearby clinic for a diagnosis. They found I was in ketoacidosis and immediately sent me to hospital.
Did your diagnosis come as a surprise to you?
Yes, I was just 22 and never thought I could get diabetes. I didn’t notice I was losing weight because I was slim all the time. I was also occupied with school activities so ignored that I felt exhausted.
How did your diagnosis affect your family or loved ones?
My mother was very upset and blamed herself, thinking it was all her fault. She couldn't even be with me when I was in the hospital. Fortunately, I wasn't a little child when I was diagnosed. Even if I was in a foreign country, I learned how to count carbohydrates in food and handle high and low blood glucose step by step. My mother learned about nutrition and the food that is healthiest for me. When I went back to Taiwan after a month, my family was ready to deal with diabetes with me.
What are the most important things that have supported your diabetes care?
My family and friends are the biggest support. I don't want them to worry about me so I keep learning how to manage my blood glucose levels through education, social media and other people with type 1 diabetes. My doctors also help and teach me how to take better care of my condition.
What has living with diabetes taught you the most?
Living with diabetes has changed the way I live. No matter how well I control my blood glucose levels, I still feel a little different from others. I know that type 1 diabetes makes my life more challenging in many situations, such as outdoor activities, work, having a family, becoming a mother. But it doesn’t mean my life should be restricted. Type 1 diabetes teaches me to become strong, optimistic and ready for anything.
What has been your lowest point with diabetes?
When I had an inflammatory response, my blood glucose remained high for at least two weeks. I couldn’t get it lower with insulin, even after injecting with new insulin from the fridge. This situation made me anxious and doubt whether I could take good care of myself.
Have you ever experienced issues accessing diabetes medicines, supplies and care?
Diabetes medicines, supplies and care are not a big problem in my country. The government provides financial support to access insulin and test strips for type 1 diabetes.
What would you like to see change in diabetes over the next 100 years?
A cure for all types of diabetes.
What do you think needs to change to improve the lives of people living with diabetes in your country?
There should be better education and awareness on diabetes, particularly type 1. There is not enough awareness of type 1 diabetes among parents. When I was in high school, a doctor told me that my HbA1c was a bit higher than normal. Unfortunately, no one in my family took this seriously.
What does the centenary of insulin mean to you?
It is the most wonderful thing in the whole world. Insulin gives me a chance to live and enjoy my life.