It is nearly World Diabetes Day (WDD), the highlight of Diabetes Awareness Month.
We asked our supporters if this month was a time of celebration or mourning. Most chose celebration, but quite a few chose mourning. It was a bit of a trick question to be honest, as most of us will have a mix of emotions today.
Yes, we can celebrate each day we survive this disease. We can celebrate the genius and generosity of Dr. Banting and his team at the University of Toronto, who discovered insulin nearly 100 years ago and ‘sold’ this miraculous discovery away for a dollar each.
November 14th is in fact Dr. Banting’s birthday. It is also a celebration of Dr. Banting and his team’s explicit wish for universal access to their creation: insulin. You might even say that Dr. Banting was the original #insulin4all advocate!
We can also celebrate that people living with type 1 diabetes are coming together like never before. Our annual protest outside Eli Lilly grows in number every year. Diabetes advocates have shaken Washington DC into Congressional hearings on the price of insulin and pushed for price transparency in their states.
While we acknowledge our wins, we can also mourn, especially those we have lost.
We must mourn young Bola Durojaiye in Nigeria, who died in 2016 because his parents took him to a traditional healer, rather than treating him with insulin. This was in part because the costs of insulin and other diabetes supplies is too much money for so many families in Africa to bear.
We must mourn Shane Patrick Boyle, a founder of the Houston Zinefest, an artist, a person who was loved by his friends, and is now no longer with us because he did not have the money to cover his insulin when he moved back to tend to his dying mother. His death is a story so sad that some people chose to deny it rather than face the reality. Yes, this did happen in the richest country in the world.
We must mourn Alec Raeshawn Smith, a beloved son, father, and a man who was finding his way in the world. Alec could not afford enough insulin to stay alive despite working a full time job. His mother, Nicole, in her fight for justice, remains an inspiration to us all.
We must mourn the sacrifices we and our families have had to make daily to stay alive. Whether this means staying in the same job because of poor health insurance, not going to school, staying in an abusive relationship, begging online or in-person, we know the toll diabetes can take on our lives is not simply a medical one.
T1Interational has shared these realities on local, national and international platforms. We have highlighted the issue of insulin access and costs at high-level forms like the United Nations multiple times.
Still, much work remains to be done, but as people living with type 1 diabetes we are working together, helping each other stay alive and finally realizing our collective power like never before. This brings us back to celebration. We can celebrate our power and the potential for change.
T1International helped begin the first #insulin4all campaign on this day five years ago, encouraging people to share a message with the diabetes community about the importance of remembering all parts of the world on WDD.
In honor of the ones we have lost and of the world we wish to see, mark World Diabetes Day with us.