I’m Cajsa. I was born in 1989 and grew up in a small town in Sweden, where I spent a happy childhood with my mother, father and older brother Oscar. In the past years, I’ve lived in North Carolina, Uppsala and Paris, but I’m currently living in Copenhagen, where I’m pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration & Sociology and a master’s degree in International Business & Politics at Copenhagen Business School.
On August 15th 2002, after a summer of copious water drinking, rapid weight loss and acetone breath, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It was a Thursday night and I had just turned 13. I spent the first night in the hospital crying like the little girl I actually was, and the following two weeks learning as much as I could about diabetes and life with a chronic illness. Being diagnosed with diabetes is never easy, no matter how old you are, and at 13, I was too old to have my parents take care of my disease for me, but perhaps still a little too young to manage completely alone. Growing up with diabetes means having to take a lot of responsibility early on in life, and I think it makes you grow up quicker than many others. I was constantly trying to balance my wish to be independent and my need for support from family and friends (I still am!), but despite that, my first five years with diabetes were relatively pain free and I coped quite well.
In my late teens and early 20s, however, I went through diabetes burnout and that was eventually what motivated me to get involved with Ung Diabetes (‘Young Diabetes’), the youth organization of the Swedish Diabetes Association that I’m currently president of. Working with Ung Diabetes, and now the Young Leaders in Diabetes program, has changed my life and I’m so proud to be involved with both organizations; I love many things in life (books, singing, milk, amusement parks!) but diabetes is where my heart lies. I don’t believe there is anything positive about diabetes per se, but my type 1 diabetes has provided me with a passion and a community that I love.
Diabetes is a disease that never rests. It’s 24/7 and it can be very tiring, both physically and mentally. The psychosocial aspects of diabetes are often misunderstood and forgotten, largely because diabetes is an “invisible” disease. People with diabetes (PWDs) are always trying to prove that we can live happy, healthy lives, but it doesn’t come easy - there is a lot of work involved in thriving with diabetes. We can do most of the things that others can, but it requires a lot more work, and with that comes guilt, worry and stress. Sadly, I believe there is a general lack of both support and understanding of the emotional aspects of this disease, leading many PWDs to feel alone and insecure about themselves and their future. That is something I hope to help change. Through my work at Ung Diabetes, I want to make life with diabetes easier by supporting PWDs, being a voice for them in society and in the public debate, sharing knowledge, information and inspiration, and creating opportunities for people to meet and exchange experiences. As part of my project for the YLD program, I’m starting a mentorship program for young people with diabetes and I’m also part of developing a platform for political advocacy for Ung Diabetes.
Another issue that is close to my heart is the lack of access to insulin and health care that causes tremendous suffering for people with diabetes in many countries all over the world. Everyday, thousands of people fight for their lives due to lack of access to a medicine that has been around for nearly 100 years. That is unacceptable. I think one of the most important things I can do in my home country is to spread awareness about this worldwide struggle, as well as to work to support research, advocate for a change, and support my friends in the YLD program who are battling this in their home countries.