Anđela Pantelić, from Belgrade, Serbia, has been living with type 1 diabetes for 15 years. Anđela is a 23-year-old student in her final year studying Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Management at Singidunum University. Earlier this year, she started to work in Etihad Airways as Contact Center Agent for Spanish-speaking clients. Anđela has visited 30 countries so far – half of them more than once!
Diabetes has taught me to love myself and those who surround me and make me happy. I learned to become more responsible, more independent, and more organized – also, thanks to diabetes, I get to meet wonderful people from all over the world who are struggling with similar problems.
Hypos in Istanbul
In August 2004, one year after I was diagnosed with type 1, I went on my first trip to Istanbul, Turkey, with my folk dance group, Talija Art Company, from Belgrade. We took a bus there! The tour was organized by the International Folklore Festival of Istanbul. During the festival, we had a couple of days off, and one day we went on a boat trip excursion to see beautiful Istanbul from the sea. When we came back to our bus, I went to take a nap. Later that afternoon, my father – who is director and choreographer of Talija Art Company and who is always with me on the tours – suddenly found that he could not wake me up. He took me to the nearest hospital, where, after two hours, I finally woke up and they provided me with some nice food to bring my blood sugar up from the hypoglycaemia.
Since then, I have visited many European countries with my dance group, and I have also travelled to Taiwan, China, Dubai, Ecuador, Peru, Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Cuba. These overseas trips can last several months, and I need to think about how the climate, air, weather conditions, and change of lifestyle can all affect my blood sugar levels on each trip.
Stolen insulin in Ecuador
In February 2012, I went on a tour to Ecuador and Peru. This was my first trip to South America. We flew to Ecuador and then took a bus from Ecuador all the way to Peru. During this tour, I visited one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the famous Machu Picchu and the incredible Nazca Lines.
In Ecuador, we participated in an international festival of fruits and flowers in the city of Ambato, which is 158 km (98 miles) from Quito. During the festival, we participated in many festival activities like parades, church ceremonies etc.
One day, we visited the cathedral of Ambato. While we were singing our song in front of altar, someone stole my personal bag, which had my blood glucose meter, a couple of insulin pens, and some of my other personal belongings in it. The festival organizers found a new BG meter for me, and thankfully I had more insulin at the hostel, so I was easily able to manage my diabetes for the rest of my trip.
Where am I today?
Starting in December 2012, I started using an insulin pump and it has really changed my daily life by significantly reducing the risk of serious hypos and lost insulin pens, thus allowing me to have a more “normal” life.
Unlike people who don’t have diabetes, I have to behave more responsibly each day. For instance, going out for a drink with friends and considering whether I will drink water, juice, or Coke, or whether I’ll eat ice cream and how much insulin I will need, or whether I will do any physical activity and for how long, and all of the other things that people don’t usually have to think about. I face a lot of pressure, yet, after 15 years of living with diabetes (more than half of my life!) I just could not imagine living my life any differently.
One day I would like to have children, continue to preserve folk culture and tradition, travel, and lead a completely normal life with diabetes, just as I have without it. My family, boyfriend, relatives, and friends are my biggest supporters. They give me the strength to fight every day!
Anđela is a folk dancer, dancing teacher, and choreographer of “TALIJA Art Company.” Since 2012, she has been active with the Belgrade Diabetes Association “Plavi Krug – Blue Circle” and “Plavi Kruzic” and she is also an IDF Young Leader in Diabetes. Feel free to reach out to Anđela for more: firstname.lastname@example.org