My diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes came with an action plan attached that would allow me (if disciplined) to live the life I'd always intended. That day 7 years ago I was introduced to insulin and two weeks later I was back to a normal weight. I could get back to living the active life I loved, and beginning my journey into educating myself on the seemingly endless information, theories, advice, and instruction attached to Type 1 Diabetes. I have it easy. The reality is that living with Type 1 Diabetes in Canada, while of course challenging at times, presents me with an opportunity to do just that: LIVE. We have the financial support from our medical systems to allow us access to great tools like the insulin pump, blood sugar monitors, test strips, and even simple insulin needles.
In Canada, I will not die because I have Type 1 Diabetes.
I was blindsided when I learned that in a lot of the world, Type 1 Diabetes is a terminal disease. How can this be so, when in Canada I would never have even considered the condition to be deadly?
Every time I test my blood sugar, that tiny strip which I put a tiny drop of blood onto, costs $1. My insulin pump? Several thousand. The reality that blew me away was that without these tools , people with Type 1 Diabetes cannot and do not live. I found out that when a parent in Jamaica has a child diagnosed with this disease (exactly the same as my parents did), they have a choice to make:
Best case scenario? They downgrade their quality of life, don't send their other children to school, and hopefully save enough money to allow their child with Diabetes to live some quality of life.
Their other choice? To make a conscious decision that they need to let that child with Diabetes die so the rest of the family may sustain their lifestyle, achieve their hopes and dreams.
If I were to describe my relationship with Diabetes as a story, my story began that year I lived undiagnosed. That year was far from my best overall; it was uncomfortable, I didn't feel like myself. I was definitely judged for being so thin-being shot dirty looks in my yoga classes by girls who figured I was probably there to lose more weight, avoiding run groups and soccer teams I grew up loving, shying away from social events which I'd usually be organizing, but that was as bad as it got for me. And to this day I don't hold that year as a black spot in my story. Because I wouldn't be the person I am today without experiencing that drastic disconnection from the Katie I knew myself to be. I wouldn't have ever had to experience being the only person in my own court (well... there were a handful on my team who deserve recognition and I will never forget the strength those people gave me) who KNEW, without a hint of a doubt that something was physically wrong.
The great part is that being diagnosed was only the first chapter of my story. The rest is yet to come (I mean, I'm only 29 after all).
Because I happened to NOT be born as my Jamaican counterpart, I get a story; I get a life. These kids and young adults in other parts of the world whose early lives are a mirror image of mine; their stories end upon diagnosis. This gap needs to close.
This initiative is my effort to do my piece in narrowing the gulf of a difference that is Canadian Type 1 Diabetes versus Jamaican Type 1 Diabetes. Anyone who's been in a room with me knows that I am nothing if not loud. I am embarking on this journey to use my (some may say obnoxiously loud) voice to help people who today are silenced. Please follow along on my journey, join in if you can, learn a little something (hopefully), and help me bring a touch of magic to another family… or three hundred other families…