Stitching a New Safety Net — T1D in Japan

WRITTEN BY: Miranda Hewett

miranda_hewett_1Waking up in your own room and in your own bed is something I really took for granted. Since moving to Japan I have been living in my tiny little bedroom surrounded by mountains of my belongings but as of today, I have officially unpacked. Never has this foreign place I threw myself into nearly a month ago felt like home until I finally unpacked all my pump supplies. Yes, unpacking my pump supplies and lining them up neatly in their lines made me transition from being away from home to feeling at home. Unfortunately, a comfort of home for me is a fresh batch of well-organised pump supplies.

Like most people moving to a completely different culture, I have had to try to learn a new language, adapt to people and customs that are not my own and learn how to live alone for the first time. Unlike anyone else living in my corridor though, I’ve also had to adapt by teaching my body my new pump basal rates. Whilst everyone else is sitting in their rooms, thinking about what classes to take, I’ve had to calculate precise basal rates which will match my new daily activities (walking more and riding my bike) and my new diet (a lack of carbs compared to Australia).

I am in turn sitting in my room stitching my new safety net. The moment I stepped onto that plane, I pierced a big hole in my previous one that has caught me so many times — leaving the people who know how to inject my glucagon, drop me in a spare pump supply if I forget it or know exactly what I need when my blood sugar is low. That safety net is something I really took for granted. Just like every good superhero, a T1D needs a sidekick to catch her when she falls. Here, there is no one. I think that is why I sat in my tiny Okayama Hotel room with my box of pump supplies and cooler bag of insulin and cried. This change that I was so ready for had shocked me — I was alone with a big hole in my safety net and that frightened me.

Since I was a teenager, I’ve always been very open about my T1D. When I unclipped my insulin pump from my bra in the middle of dinner on my first night in Okayama, it got the attention of everyone, which allowed me to introduce my T1D to my fellow students. Four weeks later, I couldn’t be happier that I made this choice to come. I found that I could stitch a safety net in new territory; I could manage my T1D anywhere.

I’ll never forget the medical check (that all new students have to do) and the lovely Japanese doctor who asked me about my T1D. I explained to her that I’ve had it for 15 years and she and her fellow medical staff bowed and clapped for me to acknowledge and congratulate me on my life with T1D. It made me realize that I am extremely proud of what I’ve done with my life. I’m also proud of taking this huge step to move to Japan for my studies. It has made me realise that whatever you do, taking big leaps as a T1D is easy as long as you bring along the extra thread to fill in the new holes. Everything will be okay and you too will be able to show the world how impressive your life is living as a T1D.

Happy Pumping!

Miranda Hewett

Miranda Hewett was diagnosed with T1D in July 2000 at age 6. She's from Adelaide in South Australia but has lived in Okayama, Japan, as an exchange student. She loves traveling (hence the exchange), she loves cooking, exploring and sharing her T1D experiences with people from around the world. She has been on an insulin pump for nearly two years and it has become her best friend. She'd passionate about letting the world know living with T1D does not hold you back, it pushes you forward.