My name is Elizabeth Rowley and I have had diabetes for over 20 years. I grew up in a small town in Illinois (USA). In 2011 I moved to London to pursue a Master’s degree in International Development at the London School of Economics to better understand global issues and work to change systemic problems. Living with diabetes has been a struggle, but I have done my best not to let it stop me from doing the things I want in life. Diabetes has brought me my best friend and husband (who also has Type 1 diabetes) and it has given me lots of determination and passion.
My first experience with diabetes is best explained through the following quote from my aunt: ‘’Your mom and dad were totally blind-sided with the diagnosis. I think they were both in shock. It was so horrible and so sad to administer insulin shots to a little 4-year old and to prick your little fingers for testing. I think your mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, and me would all have happily taken the diabetes from you and given it to ourselves if such a thing were possible. It was true when you were four and it is just as true today.’’ I am lucky to have such a supportive family who made my diagnosis experience as easy as possible, despite the shock.
There are a lot of things that make living with diabetes a challenge, particularly because people with Type 1 diabetes never get a break. It never goes away. We constantly have to test blood sugar, calculate carbohydrates, estimate insulin levels, factor in exercise or activity to avoid high or low blood sugars – not to mention the emotional and psychological effects and pressure we feel to maintain good blood sugars and avoid complications! Sometimes, whatever you do, complications happen, so it can be a lot to deal with mentally. This is all exacerbated for someone who is struggling to access their insulin, diabetes supplies, or lacks proper diabetes education – which is a global problem that I am really keen to do something about.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 at age four. My fierce passion is to raise awareness about living with diabetes around the world and to get people thinking about the many people who are fighting for their lives daily due to lack of supplies, care, treatment, and education. I want to change that outrageous fact by making Non-communicable Disease and access to diabetes treatment and education a priority around the world. In March of 2013 I started a website about global Type 1 diabetes at http://www.t1international.com where readers can easily navigate resources, organizations, and existing literature about the topic. I would like to continue to grow this space and hope to use it as a platform to do bigger and better things to advocate for people living with diabetes in all parts of the globe. This is only a first step, but I hope to spur the diabetes community – and the world - to do something!
My project branches off from the website and blog mentioned above. My husband and I recently opened ‘Marketplace’ online (http://t1international.com/t1i-marketplace/) which sells hand-made art and other items in exchange for donations directly to various international diabetes causes. The first cause we are raising funds for is my journey to the Dominican Republic in June with a wonderful diabetes charity called AYUDA. As a volunteer, I will help plan and execute summer camps for kids with type 1 diabetes to help them survive and thrive with diabetes.
You can read all about how the Marketplace works at the above link, and be sure to visit http://t1international.com to learn more about the issues and my projects!