In 2016, I achieved a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Social Policy. It involved a great deal of independent research, requiring initiative, self-motivation, and a wide range of skills. This degree provided credits in management, social Planning, EU Projects, project management and others which are essential to this position. I focused a number of assignments on diabetes and also focused my dissertation on how Type 1 diabetes impacts the family members from a social policy perspective. From this achievement, I knew that I wanted to work in such a sector. After a number of work experiences, I found such a job. For the last 5 months I was given the opportunity to work within a social purpose foundation whose aim is to enhance inclusion through empowering individuals and working closely with civil society through a Council of NGOs that will support and guide the direction of the organisation. It was a great experience that helped develop my professional path.I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1997 and it has affected me in many ways but above all, has strengthened my determination to make a difference within this field. Therefore, when I was contacted regarding a staff exchange with the International Diabetes Federation in Brussels, I was terrified but thrilled at the same time. Terrified because it was miles away from home, but thrilled because it is an amazing opportunity which I have dreamed about for years. Such an opportunity, although challenging in many ways, it will provide the experience and knowledge needed in my professional path.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1997 and it has affected me in many ways but above all, has strengthened my determination to make a difference within this field. Therefore, when I was contacted regarding a staff exchange with the International Diabetes Federation in Brussels, I was terrified but thrilled at the same time. Terrified because it was miles away from home, but thrilled because it is an amazing opportunity which I have dreamed about for years. Such an opportunity, although challenging in many ways, it will provide the experience and knowledge needed in my professional path.
With a minimum of 1,460 injections yearly with an additional 2,190 finger pricks it can be a challenge for the individual to live a fulfilling life. From personal experience, I can understand the struggles and pain people living with this chronic illness have. Every second of every day one has to plan and prepare therefore, have to constantly think about it. This may be very daunting for a person, however we only have one life and one must not be afraid to live. After years of denial, I found the motivation in myself to make a difference to others. I always kept in mind that I did not want anyone to go through what I went through. I wanted to educate, raise awareness and support individuals affected by Diabetes.
For years I hated my diabetes, I thought that it was too much of an obstacle and that it blocked every success that I could achieve. It affected me in many ways, and every time I blamed my diabetes for not living life to the fullest. However, when I got accepted to the University of Malta reading a B.A (Hons) in Social Policy, it gave me the strength to overcome my fears and accept my condition. Although it is an invisible illness, it affects me physical and also emotionally. There is no vacation leave and no time off, so I knew I had a decision to make, either let it destroy me or let it make me stronger. Deciding on the latter, I wanted to give support to those who need it because I did not want anyone to go through what I went through. Although my diabetes always seems to get in the way of my plans, I have learned that it should not control my life and just like any other person, I have dreams and goals which I am determined to achieve.
With this in mind, I based a number of my assignments and projects on diabetes. I also focused my thesis on how type 1 diabetes impacts family members from a social policy perspective. I knew that this was the area I wanted to work in, so I applied for a job in an organisation in London and successfully got an interview. I was not chosen due to there being someone else with more experience however; attending this interview gave me much more determination to work in this area. I came back home to prepare for my final exams. Only a week away, I started to see black spots and I knew this was not normal. The ophthalmic surgeon confirmed since I was diagnosed with Diabetic Retinopathy. With finals only a week away, it was as if the world had stopped. I was a disaster and my finals where only a week away. With the support I had from family, friends and the faculty, I was able to sit for my exams, go through laser treatment and graduate with my class in November. Although I was a wreck, I did not give up. I knew what my dreams where, I knew that I was too young to give up – I still have many years to live, experience amazing things, and make a difference.
Having spent years of denial and anger towards my diabetes, I knew I had family and friends that helped and supported me, however, there were a number of people who did not know what diabetes is and their comments made me hate it even more. Such comments included:
If you eat healthy and exercise you would have perfect readings – this was not true since everything effects my blood sugar such as stress, nerves, inconsistent schedules, holidays, parties and much more!
You shouldn’t be eating that – I can control what I eat with insulin and if I have a hypo I need to eat.
Look the Junkie is going – I was in an office and did not want to take my insulin in front of the rest of the employees so I went to the bathroom and someone said that to me as a joke.
With everything that I went through and the comments people pass without knowing the emotional damage they are causing they gave me the inspiration to make a difference in this area and help others live a healthy and happy life as every person should.
Don’t be afraid to seek help, advice or learn new things. The society is ever-changing, and it is important to adapt to this change. Do not be afraid if there is someone more knowledgeable or experience. Take that opportunity to learn and gain the knowledge needed to make your idea a success.
The most important tip to give is to never give up. There will be a number of obstacles yet these can only make you stronger. I love music since I believe that when words fail, music speaks. Saying that, I always keep the song ‘Little too much’ by Shawn Mendes in my mind. Sometimes it might be too much to handle but one should never give up. Follow your dreams, make plans and make a difference!
Opportunities:Graduating in Bachelors of Arts (Honours) in Social PolicyAttending meetings, activities and coursesSupport given by family members and friendsInternational Diabetes Federation Staff Exchange ProgrammeEuropean Patient’s Forum – Summer Training for Young Patient Advocate Leadership ProgrammeThreats:Type 1 diabetesEye Retinopathy