Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes is not easy at all. For some people is difficult to accept that condition. But, for others, it’s a motivation and inspirations for them to become doctors. One of them is Louise Peirsman, a 20-year-old girl from Belgium. I met her during the IDF Youth Leadership Camp in Prague. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was only 14 months old. Her story touched my heart and I hope that it will touch yours as well. Her diabetes story didn’t stop her to study to become a doctor.
“I was 14 months old when I was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus type 1. As a result, I could not sit right, I could not walk like a normal baby from that age. I drank so much (water 😉 ). My mother thought she would lose me. When I was finally diagnosed, she couldn’t be a happier person. So you can definitely say, I grew up with diabetes and it is a part of who I am.
But I had difficulties accepting that part. When I was young I said to my mother that she needed to take care of me. Luckily, she was always there for me and she understood it. I was completely dependent on her. Unfortunately, I was ashamed to show people I had diabetes. I saw myself as someone with a disease, some kind of a handicap.
Her diabetes story during her high school years
When I went to High School, I only told my closest friend I had diabetes. Everyone else had to find it out indirectly. Someone saw me injecting or pricking and they told it to other people. I didn’t even tell my teachers. I was afraid, when they found out, that they didn’t want to be my friend anymore. When some of them found out about my diabetes, they kind of didn’t care, but they weren’t so supportive. I had to inject myself in the toilet so they wouldn’t see it. And that didn’t help much about my shame. So I tried to hide it in any way I could.
But then I said High School and that shitty life goodbye. I started Medicine at the University of Ghent. I wanted to study to become a doctor. However, I couldn’t accept myself for who I was, that wasn’t right. So I started to accept myself for who I am. (I had also issues with my self-image) I worked on myself during summer break. Moreover, I felt I had to do something for people with diabetes. So I could feel the support and give them support back. I feel like helping people is my goal. So I had to start with myself. An so I did. My diabetes story motivated me to study to become a doctor.
How did diabetes motivate her to become a doctor?
First, I started to believe in myself, I started to learn loving myself and to accept. I saw there were positive and negative sides of diabetes. I went to an activity organized by my diabetes association (Jong & Diabeet, Diabetes Liga), I saw that people with diabetes are perfectly normal and that there was nothing strange about them. Before that day, I have never had friends with diabetes. It felt good. So I became a committee member. An amazing adventure! Those people became good friends!
All that support made me a richer person! In University I stopped caring what other people might think of me. I now inject publicly, I am not ashamed anymore. And I should never have been ashamed of my diabetes, I realize. Thanks to my Freestyle Libre sensor, it’s much easier to tell people I have diabetes. And I see that they don’t see me as a different person from that moment. And they shouldn’t! Now, I am proud and I see myself as a person WITH diabetes, not with a disease.
We are all equal no matter what we carry with us. And I have seen that everybody needs caring people around them, people who understand what it means to have diabetes. And I want to be that person for others. I believe people with diabetes are strong. We need to take more care of ourselves, but that makes us more independent! Thanks to my diabetes, I know how to fight for my goals and it gives me the opportunity to meet so many amazing people. It gives me a goal too. I want to spread this message and unite with all my friends, so we can all say: yes, we can!”