We continue traveling the globe to bring you accounts of living with diabetes in various countries for our Global Diabetes series. This month, we’re happy to introduce a teenager who’s living with type 1 diabetes over in Baghdad, Iraq.
She’s offered to share aspects of her life as a teen with diabetes — and we’re excited to share her story here. Take it away, Danya!
A Guest Post By Danya Almashta
Hello everyone! My name is Danya, and I’m a 17-year-old girl who lives in the beautiful capital city of Iraq that passes by the Tigris River. I’m in grade 12 of high school, and among other things I love the arts, swimming and am a big lover of yoga, flowers, the color pink… And Diet Pepsi! One of my hobbies is to learn languages, so I learned English and am still learning French and Korean.
In Iraq, there are nearly 17,000 people living with diabetes. It’s not difficult, but a problem in our country is that it is very hard to get an insulin pump or the pump supplies because it has to be requested from another country. That’s very expensive. We have an organization called Iraqi Diabetes Association at the Al-Yarmouk Hospital, and they do offer insulin and test strips to help people out.
Being an optimistic person, I believe that there is a bright side for everything — even diabetes.
Of course, back then all most people (in the U.S. and many other places) had heard about Iraq was the “bad situation” that led to military conflicts. On the day of my diagnosis, I was on the way to school and there was an explosion just a meter away from my school bus. I was very afraid and thought everyone was going to be hurt… or worse. Everyone was fine, but it was a very traumatic experience.
About a week after that, I started feeling tired and weak, and lost so much weight. My family thought that it was anemia because, at that time, we didn’t know anything about diabetes except the stereotypes — only unhealthy and old people can get it. So, I went to do blood tests to see what was wrong, and when we were all in the waiting room my dad got the results. He was reading it and told my mother something, and they both looked so scared. I couldn’t hear, but I knew that there was something very serious happening.
We went to see a doctor after that, and I remember he said, “This is absolutely diabetes (because) her blood sugar is 255. That doctor was not a diabetes specialist, so he gave us an address to see someone else. The next day, I started taking insulin and started my journey with diabetes. I take Actrapid and Insulatard insulin (both of which aren’t available in the U.S.) five times a day.
Really, my life with diabetes is not very different from any other person. I go to school, do many different activities, and learn many precious lessons from life just like anyone else. The only difference is my pancreas does not make insulin, so I am working a part-time job as a pancreas and doing what my pancreas would normally do.
I am doing my best everyday to live a normal life and to stay healthy as much as I can so when a cure will found, I will be ready for it. I have promised myself that I will never let diabetes get me down, and that’s the message I want other people to know when they are diagnosed and scared.
Part of how I am doing that is by started a diabetes blog and sharing my story with as many people as possible. My biggest dream since I was a kid has been to become a doctor, and after my diagnosis this dream became even more concrete. That’s all that was in my mind. I love educating people about diabetes, so I started blogging and met an amazing group of “sweet” (pun intended!) diabetes bloggers, and it’s been great connecting with people just like me.
Especially for people here in Iraq who do not understand diabetes much, I want to tell them: it is not the end of the world and YOU CAN DO IT!
Thanks for the upbeat message, Danya. Sounds like you’re making the best of your diagnosis and helping spread the all-important YCDT message to people in Iraq who need to hear it. We wish you the best in pursuing your dream of becoming a doctor!