April 1st 2003
Checking my blood sugar at age 9
Injecting my insulin at age 9
Getting welcomed back home after attending FADI camp in Caracas, Venezuela at age 8
Saying goodbye to the diabetic friends I made while at FADI camp at age 8
April 1st, 2003, commonly known as April Fools’ Day, was the day I was diagnosed with Diabetes Mellitus - Type 1. I was 8 years old and lived in Caracas, Venezuela. For the previous few months, I had been getting extremely sick at school: headaches, thirstiness, stomachaches, dizziness… I would call my mom to pick me up from school on a daily basis. My mom had realized my weight was also dramatically changing, I was losing so much weight that she decided to take me to the hospital to get some blood work done. After all, she was familiar with the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes, as it runs in my family. After leaving the hospital on the morning of April 1st, 2003, my life was going to be completely different. At first unfamiliar and scary, these experiences with needles and the glucometer became commonplace, and slowly but surely, ended up being a regular part of my life, just like eating and sleeping.
I was off from school for a week or two. I felt very sad and lonely, not understanding what diabetes was. I would always ask my family, “Why me?”. I constantly thought I had done something wrong and God wanted to punish me for the rest of my life. It was very hard to deal with something so serious at such a young age. Getting back to school was extremely tough. I had to quit all of my extra curricular activities: gymnastics, music and dance, as I was not aware on how diabetes was managed just yet. It was hard to deal with kids making fun of me because I had to watch what I ate. It was by far one of the hardest times in my life.
Since I was so young, my mom decided to send me to FADI (Friends Against Diabetes) camp in Venezuela, a summer camp that was only for diabetic children. It was a place where every kid had diabetes and we could relate to one another. It was a place where we were taught how to control our diabetes and how to measure our foods and carbohydrates. It was a place where I felt welcomed and ‘normal’. I was a completely different person the day I returned from this camp to my house in Caracas, Venezuela. I was confident in controlling my own diabetes, taking my own needles, and counting my own carbs. Diabetes was no longer controlling me, but I began controlling my diabetes.
After all this time struggling and adjusting, my life with diabetes was becoming second nature and no longer a hassle but a normal part of my life. I got back into all of my extra curricular activities and excelled at them. I began doing presentations in front of people to inform them about what diabetes was. I was asked to be in medical documentaries where children explained what diabetes was. My life completely changed, but for the better.
I thank God every day for letting me learn what living with Diabetes is like. It has taught me to be stronger and more
responsible. Diabetes has not held me back from anything, it has actually helped me conquer many situations. I would not have learned half of what I know today if I was not diabetic. I am also Diabetes Hope Foundations' 2012 scholarship recipient for the best blood sugar control, something that continues to keep me motivated to this day. Diabetes has been a part of me for most of my life, therefore, making it a part of me. It taught me to be resilient and overcome challenges. The challenges I faced and stepped beyond have prepared me for the hardships of the future. I have experienced different situations that seemed scary or nearly impossible to overcome, but with perseverance and determination, I taught myself how to be strong and most of all, independent. Being able to take care of myself anytime and anywhere no matter the circumstance is a valuable skill that I truly feel stems from my life with Diabetes.
From now on, my goal is to inform others of what diabetes is and how it can be controlled. I want others to feel empowered over their diabetes. I want others to also know that it is common for someone to feel lonely and sad when being diagnosed. My mission is to make diabetics feel like they are not alone.
Learn More About Me!
My name is Maria Alejandra De La Pava and I am 25 years old. I was born on September 5th, 1994 in Caracas, Venezuela, but I moved to Ontario, Canada, when I was 12 years old. I graduated from Brock University with an Honours degree in Media and Communication studies - I absolutely loved my program! Not only did it inspire me to write blogs, but every time I write or work in corporate communications and marketing, I get a sense that this is the field I am supposed to be in.
Currently, I have had T1D for 17 years now. It has been hard at times, but I have never let it stop me. I try to remain as positive as I can under every circumstance. It has definitely taught me a lot that I would not have learned otherwise.
If you would like to know anything else about me or would like to contact me, please send me an email or fill out a "Contact Me" form - I'd love to hear from you as well! I hope you enjoy my blog, as I have created it with lots of love, dedication, and patience - not only for diabetics, but for people who may want to learn about diabetes or who are familiar with someone who is diabetic. Enjoy!