Newcomer to New Zealand Diagnosed with T1D

WRITTEN BY: Parisa Shademan

parisa-shademan-4Three years ago, I was a student, studying graphic design and animation at Unitec when I first met T1D. It was only a few months that I was living in Auckland, New Zealand. I didn’t know anybody, except my workmates and a few people at uni but I had no real friends yet and no family nearby.

Everything was great though, I was happy, in a new city, learning what I loved to do. Then everything changed. The whole world became blurry — I couldn’t see well and I could’t sleep and I was always tired.

It was first day of our second semester at Unitec. I was feeling sick and dizzy, so I decided to go to the Unitec Medical Centre for a check up. As soon as I started talking about my symptoms my GP said, “It’s diabetes and I must go to hospital and she gave me a letter to take with me which I didn’t even read!

I drove to hospital, maybe I shouldn’t have with that blurry vision! When I got there the reception had a look at my letter and she was surprised. She asked if I was OK or if I needed a wheelchair or help. I said, ‘no,’ so she said I should just follow the red line to the emergency room. I was walking very slowly following the red line alone and that was the last bit of my energy … Yes, I met my T1D right there.

I spent a week in hospital. So many doctors and health or social workers came to visit me; I got a crazy amount of information, which was really overwhelming. And that was it — they confirmed that I had Type 1 diabetes.

I was alone in Auckland. My sister was living in Tauranga. My parents were and still are overseas. I don’t know how many of you were alone, without your family and friends when you were just diagnosed, but let me tell you, it’s not easy! The first few months were the loneliest days of my life. Everyone was telling me that I should move to Tauranga and live close to my sister so that she could look after me. That meant quitting my studies, my part-time job and my dream. The answer was obvious: No! I’m not giving up anything because of T1D! I made up my mind while I was in hospital: I will not let this new flatmate of mine who’s living in my body, take control of my life. I’m the boss and T1D is just gonna be a companion or a flatmate but nothing more.

That’s how I went back to my study, my work and my life … with few changes like checking BG and injecting insulin. It was hard to start with. It was confusing and uncomfortable but I focused on being positive. I started reading and researching. Negativity is not part of my life. I had come a long way to reach my goals and T1D wasn’t going to stop me.

I focused on things that I liked to do. I learned how to swim and I started boxing. I travel a lot and I like to be active in general. T1D might have taken away a functioning pancreas but I won’t let it destroy my happiness.

I designed a diabetes app and a website about diabetes last year that helps with blood sugar management, letting you know when you are in range or not throughout the day. Now, I work for Spark NZ as an interaction designer. I’m living my dream and I’m happy. I told my boss about my diabetes in my third interview with Spark and she was really cool about it. Then I told my workmates about it, and they didn’t know what it was. The only thing that they asked was what to do in case of an emergency! So I think I’m really lucky woking at Spark with lots of amazing people.

I like solving problems rather than ignoring them. Maybe that’s why I’m a designer. Design is all about defining the problem and solving it. That’s what I do for a living.

T1D for me is just a problem that I need to solve and nothing more! Insulin was the good news. 100 years ago someone already came up with the solution, I just need to apply that in my daily life, well with a bit of a math and playing around with numbers.

Of course I have my ups and downs like every body else living with T1D. We have our disagreements here and there but we get along most of the time.

The best thing that I learned from T1D is that nothing matters more than my health and my dreams. I learned not to sweat over small stuff and live my life everyday in the present. The most important time of my life is right now, this moment, that’s all that matters. Who knows what number I’m gonna be in few hours, so let’s enjoy the life right now!

Read other stories from New Zealanders with Type 1 diabetes. 

Parisa Shademan

Parisa is 28 years old. She moved to New Zealand in 2011 from Tehran, Iran. She was a street photographer before she moved there, and you can see some of her photos here: She was diagnosed in 2013 in Aukland with no history of diabetes in my family, so it was a total shock. She studied graphic design and animation at Unitec, Auckland. She now works for Spark NZ (one the biggest companies in NZ). She likes traveling, boxing, kayaking, camping, and of course, photography. In addition to her diabetes app, she's designed and made a diabetes game and website: