My name is Tanja Shatanovska. I am 25 years old and I live in Skopje, Macedonia. When most children are diagnosed with diabetes, they inevitably ask that universal question: “Why me?” I asked myself the same question when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I was only 6 years old. I remember that moment as if it was yesterday.
At the time the doctors diagnosed me with type 1 diabetes, my blood glucose level was 12 mmol/l. This number did not mean anything to me, but for my parents the fact that their child had diabetes was a shock and disbelief. They told me that they felt, or hoped, that it was just a terrible dream.
In the beginning, I didn’t want to accept the new situation. For years my parents and I have tried everything to overcome diabetes, but every time our fight ended up without success. It took me 12 years to realize that being educated about diabetes is the best way to live my life normally. The moment when I accepted my life with diabetes was the best decision of my life.
During the period of unacceptance, the parents of children with type 1 diabetes established an association in Macedonia where they can exchange experiences about diabetes and receive support. Afterward, other associations were formed with the same purposes. Every year, these associations organize workshops, seminars, camps, events in which people with diabetes gather together, share their diabetes knowledge and experiences of the disease.
I was lucky to have the opportunity to participate in one camp and one workshop. I heartily recommend this experience to everyone, especially to the youngest people, because it will help them realize that they are not only one in the world who faces diabetes. It helps us see that with regular control we can live a normal life.
What fascinates me the most is the fact that these associations actively share the experience and knowledge with associations outside the Republic of Macedonia. They also have active cooperation with scientists and medical staff from Macedonia and from international locations as well. In my country, it is said that the best advice you can get is from a person that is facing the same problem as you are. That is why I think that all associations should continue and share the work they are doing so that they can encourage people with diabetes to join them and inspire them to talk about their condition.
In my country, the amount of support we get from our family and friends is very important for us. My family and friends wanted to know and understand what diabetes is. They listened to what I think and feel, and supported and join me in making healthy changes. For example, 3 years ago, I changed my diet. It ended up being quite easy for me, because my mother ate the same foods that I did. My family always take care to have appropriate food and drinks for me in their houses.
As I mentioned, it was not always so easy, especially when I was facing an unfamiliar situation. Back in 1998 when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, only the insulin and needles were available free of charge. My parents had to buy the blood glucose metes, blood glucose test strips and lancets. But, after some time, the blood glucose self-testing equipment was covered for all people with diabetes.
Nowadays, thanks to the technology development, there are insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring systems available, which simplifies the way people manage their diabetes while improving their glucose levels and lifestyle. Unfortunately, the pumps are available only for children under the age of 12 and the sensor are too expensive for the Macedonian standard income. That is why I believe should come together as one and fight for our rights to ensure that everyone can get better treatment.
In my opinion, having a life with diabetes is a topic everyone should be familiar with. As the number of people with diabetes is constantly rising, everyone should get more educated, become aware and learn how to recognize and help someone whose blood sugar has dropped too low or bring high glucose level down.
In order to help other people realize that diabetes doesn’t have to limit their ability to do anything, so long as they are properly supported, I started writing a blog: Diabetes is my life. I write about my everyday experiences with type 1 diabetes, and how I manage to have a healthy life. I hope my stories will inspire many others to share their experiences and healthy advice on how to live with diabetes.