Hello! My name is Krystal Boyea, I am 26 years old, and I am from the tiny, 166 square mile, island of Barbados, located in the Caribbean. After completing High School in Barbados, I moved to the Canada, to study Environmental Science at the University of Toronto. Upon my return home in 2010, I realized that the environment was not my passion. I am now completing my Masters in Public Health at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, in Barbados. Diabetes is not only my everyday life, my 24/7…it is also my passion and I am excited to make positive change in the Caribbean!
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on January 18th 1998. The memory of this day and the days following are still fresh in my memory. I was 10 years old…and didn’t quite understand what having diabetes really meant. My first experience of living with diabetes, was my first day back at school after the diagnosis. No more mom and dad to help me, I had to face this disease alone. I remember having to explain to my principle, my teacher and my class what diabetes was. Lunchtime was where it all got difficult. It felt like everything was the same except for me…the same friends to eat lunch with, the same tree where we sheltered, but a different me. I remember opening my lunchbox and comparing what I had to what my friends had…no sweets, no snacks. My friends did not understand, and some people teased.
Living in a region that boasts of some of the highest rates of amputations and other diabetes related complications is honestly not easy. I am constantly reminded of the possibility of a future without sight, the ability to walk, with kidney failure and other problems. Yes I do everything I can to make sure I take care of myself, but I can’t help think…would that be my future as well?
Managing my diabetes is not a challenge, it is difficult, but doable…my challenge is living on and island where people don’t understand. I wear the omnipod insulin pump on my arm, back or stomach, and in the hot Caribbean, this is often visible. People stare, point and ask ridiculous questions about it. This reminds me that I am different. Also, because of the stigma associated with diabetes here, I don’t have any friends with it, so it often gets lonely.
Attending the YLD Congress in Dubai changed my life! I was given a new outlook on life. I was honored to be elected to be the Youth Regional Representative for the North American and Caribbean Region. Through my work with the YLD, the IDF and my Member Association my goal is to be a spokesperson for diabetes. I know what a lonely experience it can be to live with diabetes in Caribbean and I want to offer support in any way possible to all young people in the region.
Currently within the Diabetes Association of Barbados, there is no youth arm. Looking also to the rest of the Caribbean, youth with diabetes is not a focus. This is my goal! To make youth with diabetes a focus in the Caribbean!
Even though youth is my focus, I personally am making it my goal to do all I can to help in regards to Diabetes in Barbados, Type 1 or Type 2, the need is there. I truly believe that the people of the Caribbean, whether young or old, Type 1 or Type 2, can be role models for the rest of the world, and I AM WILLING TO START THE TREND.
Upon my return home from Dubai, I was motivated to start a Youth Arm Committee at the Diabetes Association of Barbados- BLUEPRINT BARBADOS. This small group of young persons, none of whom have diabetes other than myself, all have an interest in making change in Diabetes here in Barbados. We as a group are working together to increase awareness about the disease. This is my current project. Through video stories, social media campaigns, and events we hope to transform the way Barbadian and by extension Caribbean people view diabetes! Its time for change…and we, the youth are ready!