My Diabetes and My Life – How peer support has become an important part of living with the disease
By Christine Kan
Diabetes is not such a horrible thing. Maybe a lot of people are afraid to let their co-workers or friends know about their disease. Diabetes is nothing to be ashamed of, so why should it be so taboo? I was diagnosed over 10 years ago, and all of my friends know that I am diabetic. They have not distanced themselves from me because of it, and quite the contrary it has given me the courage to positively face my diabetes.
Sharon Lee is a good friend whom I met at school. We both studied at CITA (Clothing Industry Training Authority) for quite a long time, we have had a long time to get to know each other and build our friendship. One of the reasons that she has become one of my best friends is that Sharon is very caring, with a very warm heart, and she is always really nice to everyone around her.
We love to ride our bicycles together; we like to do activities with a group of friends. Going on our bikes has a special meaning to us: you can reach your goal just by your own persistence. This is just how it is in all our lives: you will be surrounded by many people by your side every day, and through mutual encouragement, you move forward. This is also the reason why we love bicycling.
If I didn’t tell her that I’m diabetic, she wouldn’t even know. And diabetes has not affected my life negatively, because I am not like a patient, I am even stronger than some people without any illnesses. I’m even healthier. Just because you have an illness doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be weak. Quite the opposite, my illness has made me deal with life in a more proactive way, so this illness has in fact given me a positive push.
A conversation with Sharon and Christine
Life goes on for many young people with diabetes. They like to go out and hang with boys and girls their age. They are just like everyone else though some social circumstances may at first prove to be challenging. As in so many other things, having understanding friends with the right attitude can make the great difference. This has been the case for Christine Kan and Sharon.
When everyone else might be eating and drinking what they like, young people with diabetes need to be careful. What about when others tease them because of their sugar-free diet? Or needing to take medicine and insulin injections? Doctors diagnosed Christine with diabetes over a decade ago. Today, she is a well-adjusted, responsible young adult working as an assistant merchandiser doing her best to live healthily. One of her secret weapons: the support of her friends. They share their experience:
Sharon: It was a few years after I met Christine that I found out about her diabetes. She has such a positive personality, if I wasn’t told that she has diabetes, I wouldn’t even know that she has this illness. Actually there is not much difference between her and other people without diabetes, she just needs to check her blood glucose regularly, take insulin injections, and eat according to meal plan. This has not affected her life and her social circle, so it cannot be said that her illness has taken over her life; it is more like how to cope with it in a positive fashion.
Christine: Actually when I was young, I felt a sense of fear about diabetes. I was afraid of what other people would think about it, afraid that other people would treat me like a monster. Later on I realized that having the illness is not such a horrible thing, in fact it led me to receive a lot of support and encouragement. With the passing of time, I began to slowly understand that true friendship isn’t something that money can buy, and this revelation gave me even more confidence to face my life.
Sharon: Ha ha, seriously, am I really that important?
Christine: Of course you are – if it wasn’t for the strength that you and my other friends gave me, I think I will just go about each day feeling sorry for myself.
Sharon: Actually, it’s good that I know someone with diabetes, because when we were in school, we always ate together every day. When we eat together, we eat much lighter and plainer foods, and it’s also healthier.
Christine: If you hang out with me you won’t even get a decent meal. But maybe this is also a blessing in itself.