Finding Diabetes Support Through Art & Positivity – by Suzy

Suzy is an artist and painter from Moscow who wrote to us about how she sees her life with diabetes through the lens of her sketches – and how much the diabetes online community means to her! We’re excited to share her postcard in English and Russian. Be sure to check out her work on Instagram here!

Hi, my name is Suzy! I work as an IT computer operator/data processor and I also have a degree in choreography. I was born in Armenia and am currently living in Russia.

My diabetes is 15 years old. I was living in Russia when I was diagnosed. I was in the first grade and my class was supposed to get medical exams for the school and all together we went to the clinic. By that time, my parents had noticed that I lost weight, was drinking more water, and using the bathroom frequently. I often feel nauseous and weak. Shortly after the medical examination, we received a class from the clinic. My mom was told to get me ready, the ambulance is coming to pick us up. I never lost consciousness or needed an IV. They gave me a shot of insulin right away. That was the day when my life started to change drastically.

For a month my normal routine was unstable. After the hospital, I stayed home from school for a while. I had been dancing since I was little, but that had to stop as well while my mom and I learned how to manage my sickness. Most of the time, my mom was more involved in my life with diabetes than I was. I was getting used to it slowly – up until I was 18 years old, I was adapting to my sickness. 

It’s a little hard to live with diabetes in Russia, but the country is trying. In Russia, it is a bit complicated to get the medication in the right quantities. It is hard to get an insulin pump and supplies. But it is getting better here. Here, you can join a waiting list to get a free pump, but supplies for the pump are provided only to those who are on disability. If you didn’t apply for the disability, you have to pay for those supplies out of pocket. Currently I am using insulin pens and I’m not sure if I should switch to a pump. Many suggest switching, saying that a pump would make life easier, but I am used to taking the insulin shots. Here, you need to visit an endocrinologist monthly, they manage your diabetes, help to figure out dosage and write prescriptions for insulin. Sometimes, there is no insulin and test strips, so I buy those on my own. 

As I was getting older and more independent, puberty hit. I stopped taking care of my condition. That is when my health problems started. I wish all diabetics could share their experience with their parents, friends and loved ones, and look for support in moments like this, not be too hard on themselves. We all get tired, but necessary support can help during the complicated times when you feel like giving up. 

In many ways, Instagram helped me to manage my diabetes better. I met many diabloggers and many motivate you to be better. You see that they look great, they have families and children, and everyone is healthy. I decided to become a diablogger and make sketches about diabetes. I want people to understand that they are not alone. Everyone experiences diabetes differently, but there are many moments that make us closer. It doesn’t matter where you live, which corner of the world, if you have a low blood sugar experience, the whole world shakes the same way. 

Social media is very helpful in this period of coronavirus. During this state of idleness, you constantly want to munch on snacks, but then you see other bloggers exercise, come up with challenges, and motivate each other. 

Do not be ashamed of your condition. I used to be afraid to check my blood sugar in public, which I now realize feels wrong to me. Your health is more important. People are not ashamed to smoke, drink alcohol, and kiss in public – therefore we should not be ashamed to give ourselves a shot even if we are in the park or at an important meeting. Always share your problems with the close circle of friends. They need to know how to perform first aid. Love yourself, love life. 

I try to find positivity in everything that surrounds a person with diabetes.  

Through my drawings I try to illustrate all the uncomfortable situations that a person with diabetes goes through. And when diabetes is seen as something bright and colorful, it becomes less frightening.

Читать по русски:

Привет, меня зовут Сюзи! Я работают оператором ПК. А так же есть диплом хореографа. Родилась в Армении, но проживаю в России. 

Моему диабету 15 лет. Я уже жила в России, когда мне поставили диагноз. Я училась тогда в первом классе. Нам всем классом нужно было сдать анализы для школы, и мы дружно пошли в поликлинику. Уже к этому времени мои родители заметили, что я очень похудела, много пила воды, бегала часто в туалет. Часто тошнило меня, не было сил. Через некоторое время после сдачи анализов нам позвонили с поликлиники. Маме сказали собирайте вашего ребенка, за вами едет скорая. В обморок я не падала, капельницу мне не ставили. Сразу вкололи инсулин. С этого дня моя жизнь кардинально начала меняться.

На месяц я выпала из своего привычного режима. После больницы я некоторое время не ходила в школу. Я с детства занималась танцами, но и это пришлось оставить на время. Мы учились с мамой контролировать свою болезнь. Больше всего моя мама была вовлечена в жизнь с диабетом, чем я. Постепенно я начинала привыкать ко всему. До 18 лет я подстраивалась под свою болезнь. 

В России пока немного сложно жить человеку с диабетом, но все же страна старается. В России немного сложнее получать лекарства в нужном количестве. Сложно получить помпу и расходные материалы. Но наша страна постепенно улучшается. Сейчас я на шприц ручках, пока не решила переходить ли на помпу, многие советуют, говорят помпа облегчает жизнь, но я так привыкла к инсулиновым шприцам. У нас нужно каждый месяц посещать эндокринолога, он контролирует диабет, помогает разобраться с дозами и выписывает рецепты на получение инсулина. Иногда бывает что инсулина и тест полосок нет и я покупаю их сама. У нас можно встать в очередь на получение бесплатной помпы, но расходные материалы к помпе выдают только тем кто оформлял инвалидность. Если ты не оформлял инвалидность, то расходные материалы покупаешь сам. Когда я начала становиться более взрослой и самостоятельной, начался переходный возраст. И тут начались проблемы со здоровьем. Желаю всем диабетикам, делиться с родителями, друзьями, любимыми, искать поддержку в такие моменты, чтобы не сделать себе хуже. Мы все устаем, но нужная поддержка может помочь тебе в трудные минуты, когда хочется сдаться.

Во многом Инстаграм помог мне следить лучше за диабетом. Я познакомилась со многими диаблогерами, многие очень мотивируют тебя становится лучше. Ты видишь, что они прекрасно выглядят, у них есть семьи и дети и все здоровы. Я решила начать изображать диаблогеров, делать скетчи на тему диабета. Чтобы люди могли понять, что они не одни такие. Диабет у всех протекает по разному, но много моментов есть, которые нас сближают. И не важно где ты именно живешь, в каком уголке мира, если у тебя гипогликемия, то весь мир трясет так же. 

В период коронавируса соцсети очень помогают. От безделья хочется много кушать, но видишь как другие блогеры занимаются спортом, устраивают челленджи, мотивируют друг-друга. 

Не стесняйтесь никогда своей болезни. Я раньше боялась измерить сахар крови в общественном месте. Это не правильно. Здоровье важнее. Люди не стесняются курить, выпивать алкоголь, целоваться. Так и мы не должны стесняться сделать себе укол, даже если сидим в парке или на каком-то важном совещании. Всегда рассказывайте своему близкому кругу друзей о проблеме. Они должны уметь оказать вам первую помощь. Любите себя, любите жизнь. 

Я пытаюсь найти во всем что окружает диабетика позитивные моменты.

Стараюсь передать через рисунки все неловкие ситуации, которые происходят с диабетиками. И когда видишь таким ярким диабет, он перестает казаться чем-то страшным.

Translation by Lidiya Kan.

Africa Diabetes Alliance: Empowering Advocacy in Africa – by Edith Mukantwari

Edith, co-founder of Africa Diabetes Alliance (ADA), wrote us an inspiring Global Postcard from Kampala, Uganda following our recent Minisode. Read on to learn about how ADA seeks to disarm diabetes myths daily and nurture a vibrant, engaged, informed, and empowered community of young people living with diabetes in Africa.

As a youth-led organisation, Africa Diabetes Alliance recognises the potential of the youth living with diabetes. We strive to move the needle forward in advocating for, championing, and exemplifying better diabetes care and prevention of diabetes and its related complications. Seventy-five percent of Africa’s population is under age 35 and a significant part of these are young adults with abounding energy that can be leveraged for this honourable cause. 

The majority of young people come from disadvantaged backgrounds with no opportunities to get quality education, healthcare, nutrition and well-paying jobs among others. This disadvantage is further exacerbated when they are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes or any other non-communicable disease (NCD) that severely compromises their potential. On top of this, there is a lack of access to information, mental health challenges, poverty that cripples any efforts to seek or get adequate healthcare, necessary medications, education or food, and a devastating lack of supportive systems and policies to aid us from these debilitating conditions. These challenges are quite diverse and often compounded by severe lack of funding for NCDs advocacy, research and service delivery. It is no wonder that many people living with diabetes and other NCDs in Africa are largely resigned to their fates, having little to no power to change anything.

We desperately want to do all we can to improve our lives as people living with diabetes in Africa. Advocacy is an amazing tool that’s often employed in calling for system-wide change and has had rousing success in HIV/AIDS. However, it does take a lot of resources, creativity, sacrifice and bravery. Asking people that are already suffering to take on the extra burden of advocacy, at a huge personal risk, is an uphill task in our developing nations. We seriously admire and respect all NCDs advocates who continue to take on this cause. Especially as advocacy is most effective when people living with the condition are the ones championing it.

These overwhelming circumstances do not take away our desire to better our lives, but they do significantly complicate things. We started Africa Diabetes Alliance (ADA) in 2018 as many of us struggled on our own with nowhere to turn for support or guidance. ADA provides a platform and opportunities to be heard, and come to terms with difficult, often severely compromising circumstances. Together, our efforts are magnified so they can echo and be a light for many more young people living with such difficult odds. We want others to have hope and see that it is possible to be healthy, happy, successful, whole, and fulfil our potential, even while living with diabetes.

At Africa Diabetes Alliance, we recognise that we, as people living with diabetes, are a potent and sustainable, albeit underutilised, solution to our very real challenges. We want to support people living with diabetes and other NCDs to stand up and be counted as real change makers. As our tagline says, disarming diabetes daily, says, change starts with us taking the bull by the horns and fighting back in more ways than one. We want to even the playing field so we, too, and many more in the future, can have a chance at achieving our dreams and chasing our goals.

None of us can take on this fight alone. But together, we can make a real difference – not just for ourselves, but for those that are yet to be diagnosed. We cannot afford to sit idly by and leave all the work of advocacy to our doctors, nurses, politicians and healthcare businesses. If we want things to truly change, we must join the conversation and be active participants in our own healthcare and advocacy. 

We thank our esteemed healthcare practitioners for all they do for us. In the same breath, we also urge them to inspire more patients to speak up, to teach them and empower them to do better, to encourage them to take education seriously. As a result, they can join healthcare, legal, economics and education professions that can uniquely position them to advocate better. We urge healthcare practitioners to include patients in conversations and decisions about their healthcare and to involve them in projects and training opportunities that they can actively lead. I also urge fellow people living with diabetes to do our part; to listen to instruction, to report back, to challenge ourselves to do better, to have a higher purpose and ambition for better service delivery, attend advocacy events, participate in our communities, ask questions, engage with other actors in advocacy. We need to speak up when things work out, and especially when things go terribly wrong, for so many of us can learn from one another’s stories while also creating awareness in communities.It is of utmost urgency that we join the conversation, empower ourselves and hold our leaders accountable. Our healthcare service providers are doing their part and have fought for us remarkably. But their efforts fall short if we do not do our part too. As patients, if we stand aside and leave this fight to others, we only have ourselves to blame if things continue to be gloomy. We shall continue to advocate, inspire, empower and equip people in Africa to disarm diabetes daily and we hope that more people will join us in this enormous undertaking. We cannot thank the changemakers at Beta Change enough for the opportunity to share our story in a recent Minisode and their May newsletter. Thank you and be blessed.

The Diabetes Online Community, COVID-19 and Ramadan – by Heba Ismail

How does being a pharmacist impact your own diabetes management? Heba Ismail who is a pharmacist living with type 1 diabetes in the UAE shares her story. During this time of COVID-19 and Ramadan, Heba also reminds us that we are never alone in our diabetes management, especially with the diabetes online community.

We are not perfect. For more than ten years, I was not in perfect control of my blood sugars. I felt alone, especially in the Arab world where some people are not really familiar with how important it is to manage diabetes and how to actually do it. Ironically, most of the time they think it’s easy and a piece of cake, while it’s really not. 

The diabetes online community plays a HUGE role in how I manage my diabetes. Without this community, I felt depressed when facing some of the challenges I’ve encountered with diabetes since I was diagnosed in 2003: feeling bored, getting down, the honeymoon phase, developing discipline with managing my diabetes. I was almost 12 when I was diagnosed, so I learned that it’s important for me to try to keep remembering that this is all for my own health. At the end of the day no one can take care of yourself except you. 

As a pharmacist, I need to keep my health in the best place for me and for my job. In the UAE, not everyone has good health insurance, and the price of insulin is really high. From my perspective, we should never take life for granted. We honestly have to be careful about monitoring our diabetes, especially during Ramadan. If people choose to fast, they need to be more vigilant about their insulin doses and checking their blood sugar levels more frequently. I don’t think people should push themselves or their health. If you’re fasting and you get tired or don’t feel well, just break your fast!! In the end, this is your body and your life. Don’t sacrifice your life for fasting.

During this scary time of COVID-19, we in the diabetes community need to take care of ourselves. I was terrified and am still, especially with those in my profession facing more cases and more risks. I’m focusing on keeping my blood sugar readings in range for my immunity and my overall health. Most importantly, we should all remain calm and not panic! One thing I have learned about diabetes from being a pharmacist, is to never underestimate the things that can happen to our bodies. Have a relationship with your body and understand it. From my experiences, I can better understand my patients and the struggles they face. 

I definitely aim to use my profession to understand how to manage my situation better, as well to help others move forward. We always face struggles, but we’re not ALONE in this! If people are struggling mentally or physically with diabetes, I would encourage them to talk, or even scream and and express all your frustrations if you need to. We can fall down a little, but we need to rise up again. Your health is your most important thing now, and we can help each other. Please know we’re here for you! We’re all in this together.

Diabetes: Recognising the LGBTQIA+ experience – by Edwin Pascoe

Edwin is a registered nurse and credentialed diabetes educator who is focusing on diabetes care in LGBTQIA+ communities. In this Global Postcards, he shares where the passion for this topic came about and why research into this area is so important.

I don’t have diabetes but describe myself as a person running away from type 2 diabetes. There was the constant struggle to lost weight, for my health and to fit in with the community as a gay man. Not only was I rejected by the wider community in the 80s and 90s for being gay, but that my worth as a person was calculated by the way I looked; creating a sense of loneliness. 

In 2014 I decided to start a PhD looking at the experiences of gay men and type 2 diabetes management. We know that up to 50% of the impact on diabetes care is related to what occurs in the psychosocial space. Yet, there has only been one study that has looked at this very question. Type 1 and 2 are very different, and so too are the experiences of each group within the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Traditionally, our community has had a focus on sexually transmitted diseases and mental health rather than chronic conditions. Evidence suggests that members of the LGBTQIA+ community disengage from healthcare due to discomfort around what was said, poor knowledge and outright homophobia. This has also been reflected in my research where gay men were found to use multidisciplinary teams up to 50% less, resulting in higher diabetes-related complication rates.

This year, I participated in the 2020 Pride March to help share my research findings and also to make diabetes visible to the LGBTQIA+ community. The crowd response was mixed: there were the cheers, smirks, surprised looks, and people showing us their diabetes devices. I believe that it is important there is continued research to refine knowledge in this space and to raise awareness around diabetes within the LGBTQIA+ community.

Small business serves diabetes community in Lithuania – by Aušra Gaudiesiene

Diabetes can be a blessing in disguise. For Aušra, she never thought that her son’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis would lead to a small business that brings hope and positivity to the diabetes community. Read her story in English and Lithuanian.

Hello everyone! I am from Klaipeda, Lithuania. My family’s journey with type 1 diabetes started two years ago when our eldest son, Germantas, was diagnosed in 2017, when he was three and a half. 

The first few months were difficult for our family. It took time for us to accept life with diabetes, but at the same time we knew we had to stay strong and not give up. We came to realize that it’s just a way of life, even if neither our son nor our family chose it. Since we are pushed to deal with type 1 diabetes and the struggles related to it, we made a choice to make an impact on this condition that affects all of our lives.

Germantas got started on an insulin pump and CGM very quickly – one month after his diagnosis. As we prepared for his return to preschool, we began to look for an insulin pump pouch or belt, a bag for his diabetes stuff, and a medical alert bracelet. Unfortunately, we were faced with a lack of diabetes accessories in Lithuania, especially for children. We could not find anything appropriate and beautiful for our son. After this sad experience, we decided to take it upon ourselves to introduce much-needed accessories and other items to our friends in the diabetes community. This is how, just one year ago, our family project MURKA.LT was born. 

MURKA.LT is the first specialized online store that provides various diabetes accessories and healthcare supplies for the diabetes community in Lithuania. I am the manager and a creative mind behind MURKA.LT, so I’m constantly looking for the products and ways which could make life with diabetes better for Germantas and other people. I work alongside my son to test all of our products before we sell them through MURKA.LT. Germantas is the primary (and best!) critic who helps me to choose which products are the most appropriate and necessary for people with diabetes. Thanks to his insight, I have presented many beautiful and useful things to my son and our diabetes community, such as special clothes and pouches for insulin pump users, unique bags for insulin and diabetes supplies, medical alert bracelets, and more.

Like every family impacted by type 1 diabetes, we deal with its effects every moment, so we deeply know how important it is to lend a brightness and strength to everyday life with health issues. By managing the MURKA.LT project, I’ve been afforded an opportunity to spread awareness about diabetes, teach others about what a serious chronic disease it is, and communicate why and how it needs to be understood and recognizable. This project also provides support to others, especially families of newly diagnosed children, by sharing our family’s experiences along with tips on conquering challenges with raising a kid with type 1 diabetes. 

Germantas is also very open and does not hesitate to talk about type 1 diabetes or demonstrate his diabetes devices and accessories to others. Although he is now only five years old, from the day of diagnosis he has done so much to raise awareness around type 1 diabetes. I am so proud of him, and he keeps me strong throughout our family’s journey, especially with our family project.

You are welcome on our online store MURKA.LT! We are always open for partnership, and if you see anything you think we should be producing, do not hesitate to reach out.

Join us on social media to get the latest updates and keep in touch! 

Facebook: @MURKA.LT
Instagram: @murka.lt

Sending all the best wishes to the Beta Change community from the MURKA.LT family! 

Skaitykite lietuviškai:

Aušra, 1 tipo cukriniu diabetu sergančio berniuko mama, projekto MURKA.LT įkūrėja, dalijasi savo šeimos istorija, kaip jiems pavyko rasti vilties ir pozityvumo po to, kai jos trejų metų amžiaus sūnui Germantui buvo diagnozuotas 1 tipo cukrinis diabetas.  Pamatykite jos atvirutę anglų ir lietuvių kalbomis!

Sveiki visi!

Aš esu Aušra Gaudiešienė, ir gyvenu  Klaipėdoje, Lietuvoje. Mano šeimos kelionė su 1 tipo cukriniu diabetu prasidėjo prieš dvejus metus, kai mūsų trimečiui berniukui Germantui buvo nustatyta cukrinio diabeto diagnozė.
Pirmieji mėnesiai mūsų šeimai buvo sunkūs. Prireikė laiko, kad susitaikytume su cukriniu diabetu, tačiau kartu žinojome, kad turime nepasiduoti  ir išlikti stiprūs. Supratome, kad diabetas turi tapti gyvenimo būdu, net jei nė vienas iš mūsų šeimos, tuo labiau Germantas, to savo noru nesirinkome. Todėl, kad jau buvome priversti su tuo susigyventi, nusprendėme imtis visko, kad sūnaus ir mūsų šeimos gyvenimas su cukriniu diabetu taptų lengvesnis ir paprastesnis.

Labai greitai, praėjus vos vienam mėnesiui po cukrinio diabeto diagnozės, Germantas pradėjo naudoti insulino pompą ir nuolatinį gliukozės matuoklį. Susidraugavę su insulino pompa ėmėme ruoštis Germanto grįžimui į darželį ir pradėjome ieškoti diržo ar maišelį, į kurį galėtume įdėti insulino pompą, dėklo reikalingoms cukrinio diabeto priemonėms susidėti  ir diabeto identifikavimo apyrankės. Deja, susidūrėme su cukrinio diabeto priemonių, ypač skirtų vaikams, trūkumu. Negalėjome rasti nieko tinkamo ir gražaus sūnui. Po šios liūdnos patirties nusprendėme imtis ir pasirūpinti cukrinio diabeto priemonių, aksesuarų ir kitų diabeto priežiūrai reikalingų dalykų pristatymu į Lietuvą. Ir štai taip, prieš vienerius metus, gimė mūsų šeimos projektas MURKA.LT.

MURKA.LT yra pirmoji specializuota internetinė parduotuvė, pristatanti įvairias cukrinio diabeto ir sveikatos gerinimo priemones sergančiųjų diabetu bendruomenei Lietuvoje. Aš esu MURKA.LT vadovė ir kūrybinis protas, todėl nuolat ieškau produktų ir būdų, kurie galėtų pagerinti gyvenimą su cukriniu diabetu Germantui ir kitiems žmonėms. Kartu su sūnumi išbandome produktus, prieš nuspręsdami juos pristatyti ir kitiems žmonėms. Germantas yra pagrindinis (ir geriausias!) kritikas, padedantis man išsiaiškinti, kurie produktai yra tinkamiausi ir reikalingiausi diabetu sergantiesiems. Tik dėka Germanto, jam pačiam ir mūsų sergančiųjų diabetu bendruomenei galėjau pristatyti daug gražių ir naudingų dalykų, tokių kaip specialūs drabužiai su integruotomis kišenėmis ir maišeliai insulino pompų naudotojams, izoterminiai dėklai ir šaltkrepšiai insulinui bei cukrinio diabeto priemonėms, cukrinio diabeto identifikavimo apyrankės ir dar daugiau.

Kaip ir kiekviena šeima, kurios gyvenimas siejasi su 1 tipo cukriniu diabetu, kiekvieną akimirką susiduriame su šios ligos sukeliamais iššūkiais. Todėl labai gerai žinome, kaip svarbu kasdieniam gyvenimui suteikti žvalumo ir stiprybės sprendžiant iškylančias sveikatos problemas. Mūsų šeimos projektas MURKA.LT man ir mūsų šeimai suteikia galimybę skleisti supratimą apie diabetą, dalintis svarbia žinia apie tai, kokia tai yra sunki ir pavojinga lėtinė liga, bei kodėl ir kaip ją reikia suprasti ir atpažinti. Taip pat šis projektas man suteikia galimybes paremti kitus, ypač naujai susirgusių diabetu vaikų šeimas, dalijantis mūsų šeimos patirtimi ir patarimais, kaip įveikti iššūkius auginant 1 tipo cukriniu diabetu sergantį vaiką.

Germantas taip pat yra labai atviras ir nesidrovi kalbėti apie 1 tipo cukrinį diabetą ar demonstruoti kitiems savo insulino pompą ir kitus diabeto prietaisus. Nors jam dabar tik penkeri metai, jis padarė daug, kad padidintų supratimą apie 1 tipo cukrinį diabetą. Aš juo labai didžiuojuosi, o jis man padeda išlikti stipria šioje mūsų šeimos su diabetu kelionėje, ypač įgyvendinant mūsų šeimos projektą.
Esate laukiami mūsų internetinėje parduotuvėje MURKA.LT! Mes visada esame atviri partnerystei ir, jei pamatysite ką nors, kuo jūsų manymu turėtume pasidalinti, nedvejodami susisiekite. Prisijunkite prie mūsų socialiniuose tinkluose, kad gautumėte naujausius pranešimus  ir galėtume palaikykite ryšį!

Facebook: @MURKA.LT
Instagram: @murka.lt 

Siunčiame geriausius linkėjimus Beta Change bendruomenei nuo MURKA.LT šeimos!

Living with Hope

In our last blog post, we talked about the importance of sharing stories. Recently, I attended a momentous diabetes event that reminded about the significance of this. During National Diabetes Week in Australia every year, the Kellion Victory Medal acknowledges and celebrates a special milestone for people who have been living with type 1 diabetes for 50 years and over. We know how challenging living with diabetes can be and many of us celebrate or acknowledge our diaversaries. So it’s only fitting that we throw a big party for a milestone like 50, 60, 70, 75 and 80 years of living with a broken pancreas! 

As part of the Diabetes Victoria Consumer Engagement Community, I was invited to present the medal to awardees. To me, this is a tremendous honour as I got to read each of the recipient’s stories as they received their award. Their stories talked about their struggles, achievements and most importantly, how they’ve lived their best lives. It was a huge privilege to share such a special moment in their lives with them.

Reading out story after story, it dawned on me how much diabetes technology has evolved and how quickly it has advanced over the years. Time and time again we heard about how blood glucose monitoring was the biggest turning point from them when we’re here pining for the next CGM update! We heard about boiling syringes for to sterilise them before use and innovative ways of collecting urine samples from babies to test their sugar levels. We also heard how many of these inspiring people with diabetes advocated for change and pushed the boundaries and stereotypical perceptions of what we can achieve while being pancreatically challenged. We heard about women with diabetes having healthy babies and raising thriving families and business people travelling the world and navigating time zones and different cuisines with what we consider now to be basic technology. Yet, time and time, we hear the resounding them of people living full lives despite diabetes. We heard about resilience, hope and love. 

For many of the Kellion Victory Medalists, they attributed their successes to having adequate support from family, friends and loved ones. Love and support came through in different ways, from helping with hypos to being a sounding board. These guys showed us that diabetes is tough, but having your tribe around you makes it a bit easier. Speaking to some of these medalists, they would never consider themselves to be inspirational figures. Little do they know how much it means for the younger generations of those living with diabetes to hear their story and the hope that it brings. These individuals have paved the way for us forward be it as a role model, for future research, technological improvements or support services. To our Kellion Victory Medalists, we say thank you.

Penpals United – by Hannah Anolik

In this Global Postcard, we hear from Hannah based in New Jersey who has recently taken over as the Executive Director of Penpals United. Here, she talks about what Penpals United is, how they started and some of their future plans. We’re excited to keep supporting them and following their journey as they keep growing!

My name is Hannah Anolik and I am the new Executive Director of Penpals United (PPU). I am 21 years old and I have had type 1 diabetes since I was 6 years old. I’m entering my final year at The College of New Jersey, where I am majoring in public health and minoring in political science and psychology. I hope to work in global health or health policy one day.

Last semester, I interned abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, where I worked at Diabetes South Africa to plan the annual weekend camp for children with diabetes and visited support groups for people with diabetes throughout Cape Town. I have been involved with PPU since 2011 and have held many roles in the organization since then. Penpals United aims to create an inspiring community of people around the world with T1D. Founded in 2013 by Jack Terschluse after his endocrinologist, Dr. Santosh Gupta, started the Manav Seva Foundation, a 501c3 organization that supports diabetes programs for the poor in India’s rural clinics, PPU continues to grow.

At first, we led support groups via web-based video chatting software for participants at these rural clinics in India with our mentors, who were teens and role models with T1D in America and other countries (where my initial role in Penpals began!). Over the years, we have reached over 250 children in India and helped provide psychosocial support that many communities were lacking. Children reported lower hemoglobin A1C levels, increased self-esteem, and better diabetes self-management. Not only were these support groups inspiring and impactful, but they paved the way for PPU’s future mission.

After becoming a nonprofit entity in 2013 and receiving the Medtronic Bakken Invitation in 2016, Penpals United realized that it was time to devote our energy into creating sustainable, continuously expanding, self-sufficient programs. Early in 2019, we launched our new website, http://www.penpalsunited.org, which provides culturally relevant education for people with T1D based on Dr. Santosh Gupta’s book, “Living the Sweet Life,” and an online social media platform for people with T1D in developing areas to connect with each other. 

Still, we are looking toward the future to carry out our mission of providing culturally relevant T1D education to people in developing communities worldwide and empowering them in peer-to-peer support groups. I am honored to be in this new position at Penpals United, and am eager to see what our team can accomplish in the years to come. 

Penpals United has truly changed my life in more ways than I can count. Despite my role as mentor, the people and children that I have interacted with throughout the years have been an inspiration to me. We know that there is a need for access to culturally relevant information and that the T1D community is made of incredible people who we believe can connect and empower each other. Penpals United is working to foster a world where many people with T1D can thrive when they come together.