My name is Rachel Lamb, I am a 22 year old Australian from Perth. I also have had Type 1 Diabetes for 4 years. I was diagnosed when I was 18 years old on Valentine's Day 2009. Having to spend it in hospital was one of the many things I had to come to terms with, pretty quickly! I was ill for about 8 months before anyone uncovered what was going on - family, friends, myself and medical professionals all missed every textbook warning sign (weight loss, frequent urination, increased hunger, increased thirst, fatigue, thrush, cramps, etc...). In the end it was my very worried best friend who googled my symptoms and told me to see a doctor sooner that I was planning to because my symptoms indicated I had diabetes. She was right, she hadn't even begun medical school yet but she was already saving lives!
However my symptoms were left untreated for so long that once the lab had my blood results they immediately (and without warning) sent an ambulance to my house! I will never forget the frantic phone call I got from my Mom that Saturday saying I had to come home straight away - beacuse there was an ambulance waiting for me! My levels reached over 70mmol (~1274 gmol)!! 'Normal' blood glucose levels should be between 4 - 8 mmol! Needless to say I was very sick, and subsequently had to stay in hospital for 4 nights. This meant I missed out on the Fall Out Boy concert I was planning on going to the day after I was admitted. Right off the bat I felt robbed, and so began the battle between what I need to do for my health and what I want to do with my life - and trying to find the happy medium in the middle! This is a balance I am still struggling with, everyday. Diabetes affects every single facet of my life, not all in a bad way but it can be very exhausting and draining. Dealing with this disease, and every battle it has brought with it has been the focus of my past 3 years. I have dealt with it in a very proactive, hands on way. Wanting to learn everything I possibly can, meet anyone who may help me, find an answer to every question and not let anything stand in my way. After I was diagnosed it didn't take me long to realise there was nothing for young type 1's in my area. No avenue for them to connect with other type 1's, to relate, to learn from first hand experience, to ask eachother questions, to just feel 'normal'. So a month after my diagnosis, with the help of an enthusiastic Diabetes Educator, I co-founded a support group along with 2 other youths - YWAIT; Young Western Australian Insulin Takers. This group has been central in the way I've dealt with my diabetes and I truly believe in the power of connecting with others who share and understand in your struggles, your experiences and essentially your life. A network of people living with diabetes is a powerful tool that needs a lot more recognition by medical professionals and a lot more support from governments and other associations. Not just financially, but also developmentally and functionally.
There is much work to be done in the diabetes world. Firstly awareness; of the disease, the symptoms, the risks, the difference between the types, etc... I also strongly believe that people who deal with diabetes need to be empowered to do so in a realistic and proactive way, especially young people. And the psycho-social aspects of dealing with the disease needs to be adequately addressed. Additionally there are huge gaps in education – from the very basic mechanics of the disease, to the sophisticated coping techniques. There are also huge disparities between the issues faced in countries over the world; the challenges we face here in Australia are vastly different to those faced in say developing countries.
Like I said, there is a lot of work to be done! But each delegate in the IDF's YLP is passionate about, and motivated to make a difference. Each one of us faces unique challenges in our respective countries, but in facing them we have one very very powerful tool on our side – a network of fellow type 1 youths (and faculty members and support persons and sponsors)! I am honoured to be involved in such an amazing program, and cannot wait to see the great things we all continue to do in the future :)