“Diabetes Does Not Limit Us”—Organizing for T1D in Ecuador


 

Christian José Muñoz Araneda is a 26-year-old human resources professional living in Cuenca, Ecuador. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 22 years ago, Christian has been involved with Casa de la Diabetes—a nongovernmental organization that helps improve the lives of people with diabetes and raise diabetes awareness in Ecuador—for eight years. Christian is a runner; in 2021, he helped organize a race with Casa de la Diabetes where he ran more than 18 miles.

Christian shared his perspective and insights on living with T1D in a beautiful poem he submitted to Life for a Child’s global art contest: “My Life with Diabetes,” which aims to portray how people live with diabetes in different parts of the world. Beyond Type 1 recently spoke with Christian about his work in the diabetes space, his poem, and his experiences with T1D.

Beyond Type 1: Hello Christian, can you start by telling us what motivated you to get involved with and raise awareness for the diabetes community in Ecuador?

Christian: I’ll be honest—it wasn´t until I was 17 or 18 years old that I began to get involved in the activities of Casa de la Diabetes. Before that I was quite shy. Now I have perhaps loosened a bit and have been more active in their activities. For example, Casa de la Diabetes organizes annual camps for children and young people with Type 1 diabetes to create spaces for both learning and entertainment. These camps are really enjoyable.

We have also been organizing races since last year, including a marathon here in Cuenca. I would say that I started getting involved with Casa de la Diabetes as I was gaining a little more confidence and understanding more about the disease. At the same time I developed personal maturity facing diabetes itself.

 

Christian wrote the following poem when he was 18 years old. He submitted it to Life for a Child’s art competition.


MY LIFE WITH DIABETES

It is my reality: patience and perseverance;
Understanding the past, moving through the present and deciphering the future;
Being resilient in the face of adversity and understanding;
Carrying a backpack for life, perhaps heavier or not, perhaps a different backpack.

It is my reality, mine and nobody else’s;
Maybe less common, or maybe more common than any;
Perhaps less enjoyable, or perhaps more satisfying than all the others;
It is neither better nor worse, it is just as necessary;
“Real” reality, alive, of the here and now, and with hope.

It is my reality, nobody takes it away from me;
Reality with rights and obligations: state with unique responsibilities,
But a territory with freedom and
Fanfare in the end.
Reality worthy like yours and respectable like all;
It is much more than the visible and goes beyond the scientific;
It is emotion, it is feeling and it is thinking.

Diabetes is my reality;
It is my style, my form and my sense of belonging;
It is my story, my effort and my purpose;
It is my anecdote, my blood, my strength and message.
It’s my engine. It is my motivation.

It is my reality and that of all people with diabetes in the world: It is mine, it is yours, it belongs to a mother, it is from a friend, from a brother, it is ours, it belongs to everyone …

Diabetes is not denied or evaded, it is invited to enter the room of our life to become
in a great and inseparable friendship.

It is not allowed to lose hope, it is not allowed to weaken an illusion, it is not allowed to frustrate a dream, it is not allowed to fall without getting up later.


What does it mean for you to be able to give a voice to your diabetes?

It means a lot. Talking about diabetes for me is talking about something very intimate, very personal… Very few people understand this whole day-to-day situation, which involves resilience, perseverance, and discipline.

What created this poem is precisely what we try to do at Casa de la Diabetes with our events, and races especially. To carry a message where you say, “I am aware that I have diabetes. I am aware that I must face it, I must carry it, and I must be disciplined. I can do everything. I have no limitations.” More than telling us, “hey, don’t do that,” diabetes tells us how to do it—rather, it gives us the way.

I think this is what we all have in common, what we all feel, and it is gratifying to know that there are sensations that are mine, but also belong to many other people. Imagine, people I don’t even know are capable of reading the poem and feeling the same things, which is really rewarding.

What would you like the people who read your poem to learn from it?

It is about facing diabetes not from a negative side, but from a place of hope. I think there are many concepts related to diabetes that are wrong and there are many attitudes and behaviors from those outside of diabetes that are incorrect or misplaced. For example, I’ve had diabetes since I was a kid, and when my dad or mom would tell someone, “my son has diabetes,” the person would respond with something like, “oh, poor thing,” or “oh, what a shame.” These kinds of thoughts are what we have to try to change.

What do you think of the work that Life for a Child’s art competition is doing for the public perception of diabetes?

The mission of Life for a Child and these contests is also to make visible all these ideas, all these feelings of what we live with on a daily basis. And I emphasize, not from a negative perspective of victimization, but from a place of positivity and hope; that “it is possible.”

With these messages we must try to bring that positivity and that hope so that everyone knows that we can all have an extremely normal life with diabetes, and these spaces, these contests are very useful.

Do you have any final message for people living with diabetes?

The message I would like to leave is the same as usual: diabetes does not limit us. It does condition us a bit, but it does not limit us. It tells us how to do things, but it doesn’t tell us, “don’t do it.” Knowledge is the gasoline of the engine to carry all of this. Without knowledge there is nothing. There is a lot of ignorance at all levels. Ignorance affects and complicates people instead of helping them with their diabetes. All these kinds of things must be analyzed in their context. Always push forward. That’s the only way. That is what I can tell you.


Click here to donate to Life for a Child so they can continue to support young people like Christian living with diabetes around the world.

WRITTEN BY Eugenia Araiza, POSTED 01/18/22, UPDATED 01/18/22

Eugenia is a Nutritionist and Diabetes Educator. She has been living with Type 1 diabetes since 1995. In 2019, she started Healthy Diabetes, a project that includes educational resources to support and empower people living with diabetes. She is the author of the book Soy Diferente y me Gusta (I am Different and I Like It), which preaches about acceptance when living with diabetes. She recently co-authored a book called Había una vez una Diabetes (Once Upon a Time There was Diabetes) which addresses diabetes burnout in diabetes from a professional perspective and with a personal and unique twist. Eugenia is co-founder of Diabetes and Co, an online educational platform for the different types of diabetes. She is currently a Project Manager at Beyond Type 1.