Life with Diabetes in Guerrero
Editor’s Notes: Beyond Type 1 is working to amplify the critical work being done by Life For a Child, a non-profit that partners with diabetes centers in under-resourced countries to provide young people with insulin and syringes, blood glucose monitoring supplies, HbA1c testing, diabetes education, workshops, camps, and resources and more.
Until 2022, there have been wide gaps in the data about the incidence and impact of type 1 diabetes across the world. According to estimates from the type 1 diabetes (T1D) Index by JDRF, almost 90,000 people live with type 1 diabetes in Mexico, but almost 60,000 additional people would still be alive today if everyone had access to a timely diagnosis, vital diabetes supplies and management education. An average young person diagnosed at age 10 will lose an estimated 35 years of healthy life. Globally, there are an estimated total of 3.86 million people that would be alive today if everyone had equitable access to diabetes healthcare and tools. Learn more at T1DIndex.org.
Below, translated from its original Spanish, a freelance writer on our global team shares the story of one person impacted by Life For a Child’s work. In addition to the story shared below, read more about Life for a Child’s work supporting young people like Rwandan sisters Ineza and Rebeka at ToClimbAThousandHills.org.
Every person with diabetes is unique, with different personalities, backgrounds, and perspectives. For that reason, each member of the diabetes community is important—each perspective brings a needed viewpoint, and every person’s voice can make an impact on others who also live with diabetes.
Carlos, who has been living with type 1 diabetes for nine years, is one of those people who make an impact. In addition to being part of Diabeteens, a group of speakers from the Mexican Diabetes Federation who raise awareness about diabetes in young people, Carlos is also a member of the Mexican Diabetes Association in the state of Guerrero, as well as a beneficiary of the Life for a Child program. He shared a bit of his story and his experience in the My Life with Diabetes Art Competition.
BT1: What was your diagnosis like? What has been the most difficult thing for you since that day and how has it impacted your family?
Carlos: My diagnosis was confusing. It was on May 5, 2012. I was 12 years old and I went to help my maternal grandmother paint her house. That day I went to the bathroom several times and drank too much water. I associated it with the fact that it was a hot day and also that I was growing.
My grandmother watched me for a long time and called my mother to take me to the doctor. Since it was Saturday, we went to a private doctor near the house. While we were there, my mom told her about my symptoms and she checked my blood glucose. I think the result was 430 mg/dL, but I really do not remember exactly.
The doctor told her it was almost certainly diabetes. My mother burst into tears. I did not know what was happening, but I knew it was bad because of my mom. I felt confused, anguished and sad because of my mother’s cries and gestures.
From that day on, life in my house changed. The most difficult thing was the food changing radically. We no longer had cereal on top of the fridge. For a whole year, I had grilled fish fillet with steamed vegetables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, varying the food only twice a week. Sugar itself no longer existed in that house.
My family already knew what diabetes was, so they did not take it too badly. They just wondered: “why?… he is just a child.”
How did you find the Mexican Diabetes Association in Guerrero?
Carlos: With my diagnosis, we looked for options to learn more about diabetes. In the Institute of Mexican Social Security (IMSS), there is a group called DiabetIMSS. I attended sessions there once a month for a whole year. They told us about diabetes care, but I did not feel comfortable. There were only older people there. So we sought more help—we met an endocrinologist who was recommended by the Mexican Diabetes Association in the state of Guerrero.
Always wanting to know more about any support, my mother and I went to check it out. We found the Mexican Diabetes Association in Guerrero and it was fantastic. I was shocked because I finally met teenagers and children with diabetes. I stopped feeling alone.
Tell us about Life for a Child, how it has impacted your life and what it means for you.
Carlos: When I was diagnosed, I felt alone and confused. When I arrived at the Mexican Diabetes Association in Guerrero (which is supported by Life For a Child), that changed. I was able to talk with more boys and girls with diabetes who felt what I felt. I had a sense of relief as I met such wonderful, committed, and grounded people who are diabetes educators. This program is very good, since there are many people who otherwise do not have access to basic care for their diabetes. For that, I am thankful with all my heart. It is more than support—it is an important basis for self-management of our diabetes. They have been a great support, both for me and for many more people.
How did you decide to participate in the My Life with Diabetes art competition? This piece with which you participated, what does it mean for you? What did you want to capture?
Carlos: I participated in two My Life with Diabetes art contests. The first was in December 2015, and I won second place. With the first contest, to be honest, I did not really want to do it. The director of the Mexican Diabetes Association in Guerrero encouraged me, and so I did it. The second time I participated, I luckily won first place.
In both contests, I wanted to capture what my life is like. Being me with my diabetes in everyday life. Diabetes is bipolar and that is what I wanted to portray—how good things come out of bad times.
Is there anything you want to tell other people who live outside of Mexico about what diabetes is like in our country?
Carlos: Well, diabetes itself is the same everywhere; what changes is diabetes education in each country. Unfortunately, the population in Mexico lacks some education on this subject. There are groups, associations and people that fortunately try to eradicate all this. Education will gradually be in every corner of the country.
Do you have a message for other young adults your age with type 1 diabetes?
Carlos: I would like to know their experiences and be able to talk with them. Exchanging all those critical moments of diabetes, talking about everyday life and diabetes itself. We must not lose our goal, our hope. We get to set the example for many to follow.
Life for a Child believes that no child should die of diabetes. Find out how you can help support young people living with diabetes in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities on their website.
This content was made possible in part with support from Lilly, an active partner of Beyond Type 1 at the time of publication.. Beyond Type 1 maintains full editorial control of all content published on our platforms.