World diabetes day...

I know this is a bit of a heavy topic but diabetes is something I am really passionate about. I have written about diabetes on the blog before but I thought that 'World Diabetes Day' was as good a time as any to share this. I originally wrote this article for the Elle writing competition back in August but as I never heard back from them I thought it may be interesting to share it here. 

I was seven when it happened. I left the doctors surgery with a feeling of dread but without truly knowing what it would mean. On 5th August 1997 I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and nothing was ever the same again. Now I realise this all sounds completely over-dramatic, I mean there are people in much worse states all over the world, but adjusting to being diabetic has been an ongoing process and has led to more than a few ups and downs over the years. To be honest, I don’t know how my parents coped. I am the oldest of five children and my youngest brother had been born only a couple of weeks before, yet my parents (and my mother especially) just took it in their stride. For the first few years after diagnosis I refused to tell anyone, including my friends at school, because I felt that if I ignored it then it would disappear. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case at all and I was in hospital more often than I was in school. A yoyo is a fitting metaphor for me and my diabetes; I have swung from high to low (quite literally with my blood sugars!) over the years and at one point I was given only a few months to live if I continued at the same rate. After some horrific teenage years where I refused to take my injections, again thinking that denial would be the best policy, I realised the horrific impact I was having on both my body and my family. I also suffered from low self esteem and depression for a long time and I think this is a direct result of these actions. It wasn’t fair to keep putting my family through this, so I really tried to get it all under control but once again my body wasn’t co-operating. When I was 15 I had 50% attendance at school due to my hospital stays and my diabetes was spiralling out of control, despite the 4 injections I was taking every day. It is no joke to say that I felt like a pincushion for most of my teens... luckily this ensured that I would never ever try drugs as I failed to comprehend why people would choose to stick needles into their body. I’m sure this is one thing that my parents are grateful for!

Just before I took my GCSEs I started insulin pump therapy and started dating my current boyfriend Mark, two other huge milestones in my life. The insulin pump meant that I was able to fulfil my potential at school and eventually college and the support of my boyfriend has ensured that I never gave up on my dream to go to university. My parents weren’t keen, after all everyone has heard the horror stories about the binge drinking and wild parties that go on at uni and diabetes has never coped well with either . Determination, and more than a hint of stubbornness, meant that I started at the University of Warwick in 2008 and I can honestly say that they were the best three years of my life. Of course it was difficult, I didn’t have the safety net of my family and I actually missed my first week because my diabetes decided to play up the night before I was due to move into halls. Luckily though, Mark ended up at the same uni and this reassured my parents that I wasn’t going to be completely thrown in at the deep end. University taught me a lot of things but most importantly it taught me that I can do anything I want to. 

For years, my diabetes seemed like a punishment; who was going to want to employ someone who wasn’t always capable of looking after themselves? Who would want to date someone who has ‘hypolipotrophy’ or as I fondly named it, a ‘salami sausage’ ring around their stomach as a result of insulin injections? Who would want to be friends with someone who has to be more careful when going out, who may have to leave the party early to go home? The answer is lots of people. I have been lucky enough to have amazing family, friends and workmates. My diabetes is not the thing people remember me for but rather my love of floral dresses and bright colours, cheesy pop music and yummy food. Being a diabetic has made me stronger, more determined to succeed and made me appreciate the ‘smaller things’ in life. It also means that I am completely unfazed by hospitals or anything involving needles. Once you have spent hours waiting around for hospital appointments, any fear you may have is quickly replaced with boredom. I still don’t have my diabetes completely under control but I am trying and surely that’s the most important thing. My diabetes has shaped me but it doesn't define me and I wear my ‘salami sausage’ as a trophy, proof that things can get better and that it doesn't have to be the end of your plans. I graduated from university, I have a wonderful boyfriend, lovely family and amazing friends. I am also diabetic and living proof that there is no such thing as a lost cause. A lot of things have changed since 1997, and I for one, am glad. 

What has made you the person you are today? 

P.S. If you have any questions then I will be more than happy to answer them !  


Alexandra said...

Such an inspiring post. One of my best friends has diabeties and she's one of the most active people I know. At first when she used to ask me for something with sugar I used to get really worried but half the time I forget she has it. not because i'm being ignorant but because it's part of our everyday life!


Lil said...

This, obviously, is very close to home for me.
Thank you for posting it.
As you know, I'm always here for support whenever you need it <3 xx

daisychain said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it are amazing. You should probably come speak to some people at my place of work, ignorance all round!

Alex said...

What a wonderful post. My dad has diabetes and I know how hard it can be to manage so I've got all the more respect for you for working through it at such a difficult age.

Winnie said...

Such an inspirational post Maria. I can imagine just how tough it has been through the years. A good friend of mine has diabetes too and has been in and out of hospital countless times and sometimes, it's been quite scary. Great post Maria.

Chloe said...

Have I mentioned lately, I absolutely LOVE you.

What an amazing post to have written to highlight that although diabetes is a frighteningly commonplace disease, that doesn't make it any easier for those who suffer from it, particularly those of a young age.

I think it's particularly admirable of you to share your experiences- the good and the bad with people, as it's obviously been a tough journey.

What I love most about this, is that you haven't let it stop you doign all sorts of things, which is the true inspiration. And even as someone who doesn't *actually* know you, I'd want to be friends with someone who is brave, who faces up to responsibilities that come with life and with not always being 100% and who learns from what she does and chooses to share that with others. That's pretty much my kind of person and some of the qulaities I aspire to myself.

Kat said...

Great post hun, my dad has type 2 diabetes and I just find it incredible what people can deal with when pushed. Thank you for highlighting such an important issue :)