This week's guest post is from a “one to watch” perspective: Siofra Kelleher from Co. Sligo, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 8 years ago. She’s now 18, doing her leaving cert and very involved in STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in fact, it was my husband, Phil who met Siofra first at the Coolest Projects event in the RDS a number of years ago.
Recently, she has been chosen as an International Delegate of the European Youth Parliament EYP Ireland is a non-profit, non-partisan organisation that runs a number of weekend-long conferences every year for young people.
WORDS FOR FELLOW TEENS WITH TYPE 1 DIABETES
My story begins on the 14th of September 2010. I had turned ten at the end of May and I had been off form all Summer. Cranky, thirsty, a lack of energy gave my parents a reason to worry. Then with the start of fourth class, I was quickly losing weight. Personally, I don't have many memories of this time; I remember not being able to walk up stairs and digging out older clothes to wear since my new ones didn't fit. By the third day of fourth class, I fell during lunch and took the skin off both of my knees. It was a week after that when I was admitted to the hospital and told I had diabetes type one. I had never heard of diabetes and I spent the week in a sort of fantasy that I wouldn't leave the hospital with this mysterious disease. I started on injections, and I was injecting by myself by the second dose. I dreaded the 'orange box', the nurse's blood glucose meter kit. Luckily for me, I had a brilliant diabetes care team and parents who quickly helped me adapt to this new life I was growing into.
It's been 8 years now and now I am on pump therapy and continuous glucose monitoring. To say having diabetes has been a breeze would be an understatement. We found out I developed coeliacs disease a year after my diagnosis and I've been on a strict gluten-free diet for 7 years. As well as that I'm hypo unaware! I don't really remember what it was like to not have diabetes, it feels like such a distant memory. Life feels like it was a lot less busy. But I wish I had a diabetes friend at the beginning of my diagnosis. I knew no one close to my age and I had to struggle alone with a lot of things. However, in the past year, I have met three diabetics my age as well as others who are struggling with chronic illness and I feel blessed to have found so many friends. Being able to have someone understand why your day was bad can mean everything. I would be lying if I didn't struggle every day. My diabetes is unpredictable, and I'm trying to take control as I head to college soon. I also face a lot of diabetes-based discrimination every day. Juggling that, along with being a teenager is no simple task!
But there is a silver lining to every dark cloud. It just takes a while to find it. There hasn't been a day where I've wished I didn't have diabetes, but I've come to live with it. I've grown into a much stronger, mature and wiser person. I don't think I would have such a strong sense of justice if I didn't have diabetes. Diabetes has given me a passion in life. I want to work on the software behind diabetes treatments and I want to advocate for diabetics everywhere. I don't know if I'll live to see a cure for diabetes but I'm definitely going to have worked on it. I also have a passion for rowing and I want to become the first successful type one rower! I feel I have a sense of duty to inspire younger diabetics, those just like 10-year-old me, to be a role model and a friend for them.
I'll be 21 when I reach a decade of diabetes, but already I've had 2,931 days of diabetes, on average I've lost 1,675 hours of sleep, I've taken 23,448 blood tests, spent 4,187 hours with a low blood sugar, and around 20,517 set changes/injections!! I hope if there's one thing you take away from my story is that:
You're never alone,
You owe no one anything and
Cut yourself some slack, living with diabetes is an impossible task and you have to just keep going.
If I can do it, we can do it. I'm so proud of you!