So here it is. The essay that has almost 15 years worth of inspiration behind it. Unfortunately, I was limited to 3 pages and strict question about an issue that is personal, local, national, or international its importance to me and how I will use my time at the university as well as my future goals. A lot of the points I wanted to make about diabetes had to be left out to answer the entire prompt fully. (I’ve edited a bit out about the University to maintain privacy.) I think it’s an appropriate post today after Kerri’s wonderful one about getting the diabetes word out, outside of our community. I can only hope it makes it to the admissions office on time and that they deem it worthy of a full scholarship after I go to the accompanying interview. Only time will tell if this entire dream will come true…
There are a whole host of issues that should concern global citizens today. One in particular has been close to my heart for nearly fifteen years. I am living with Type I Diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic illness that has become one of the many growing international health epidemics. According to the World Health Organization between 2009 -2011, an estimated 220 million people were living with diabetes around the world, compared to just 33 million with HIV/AIDS. I feel that it is imperative to raise awareness about this demanding and deadly disease. It is my hope that the time I spend at the University, both in and outside of the classroom, prepares me for a future that allows me to merge my personal story and skills with the ability to help others.
It has been nearly one hundred years since Sir Frederick Banting discovered insulin. That medical breakthrough has saved millions from prolonged suffering and death, but the many complications of diabetes still remain a leading cause of death. In America and many other places around the world the medications needed to treat diabetes are either unavailable or too expensive. I recently read an article about a woman in a developing country who did not know how long she had had Type I Diabetes, but who suffered from blindness and required amputation because she was only diagnosed recently. These kinds of stories are not unique to far away countries.
Although the medications and information are available to treat diabetes, there are American people who must decide everyday whether they can pay bills, put meals on the table, and still take care of their diabetes. There are also people who refuse to care for themselves even though they have the resources. Diabetes is such an individual disease, not only are there different types, but each person has their own diabetes story. From my own experience, I know that growing up and living with diabetes is a tremendous challenge. In a way I am lucky. I am living with Type I Diabetes, something that may not have been possible had I been born in some other place or at a completely different time.
When I was diagnosed in 1996, at the age of five, the burden of diabetes hit my family incredibly hard. My parents were forced to become caregivers in a way that they had never imagined. They had no experience and very little knowledge of the disease, because until very recently, no one really talked about diabetes. In an instant, they had a daughter who required constant monitoring, injections, a special diet, and emotional support for the scary new disease that had taken over my body. Had there been an emphasis on diabetes awareness at the time, I think that getting through those rough first years may have been less overwhelming.
As a child I was fearful, I would beg and plead not to go through the required testing and injections for diabetes management. In time, I graduated to managing things semi-independently. Like most adolescents, I did not always get things right. It was a combination of rebellion of the body and the mind. It is not easy to be a teen with diabetes. As my diabetes got more difficult to control, I settled for poor management. I found myself fighting again, this time my body and my doctor’s advice. Eventually, I found support from others with diabetes, and I decided that managing my diabetes needed to be a priority. I learned the power of sharing the truth of the disease was the best way to battle it, and in turn, I experienced a diabetes metamorphosis. Even though I am doing well now, I continue to worry that complications will eventually catch up with me.
It might seem as though the most obvious way for me to have an impact in the fight against diabetes would be for me to become a doctor, who works with patients with diabetes, or a researcher, who works to find a cure. But my talents lie elsewhere. Instead, I plan to attend the University and study Studio Art. I expect to further my understanding of my own craft, learning to push boundaries and share compelling stories through art. Art is about vision, something that is also important in the diabetes community because one of the most common complications of diabetes is blindness. With the knowledge and skills I hope to gain, I plan to help others.
I know that giving back and a dedication to service are a huge part of the University community. While I attend the University, I want to participate in student service organizations like H.E.A.L and the Photography Club, which I feel will blend my desire to educate about public health and also my love of art. These groups will be an outstanding foundation for my future goals of advocacy. Diabetes is a war; it leaves broken, bruised, and amputated bodies behind. For me, the only way to fight diabetes is awareness, and I believe that art is a perfect way to do it.
I want to shed a light on the millions affected by diabetes worldwide. Not only do I want to document the disease, but I also want to encourage others to express themselves and their struggles through art. The fact is, important moments of history can all be traced back to compelling imagery, so why not capture the way this disease ravages the people living with it as a means of bringing attention to it. It is my goal to show the world what it is like to live with diabetes through any media available.
There is a common conversation that occurs after a person is diagnosed with diabetes, especially children with Type I. It is a discussion of the future, including career possibilities, to which diabetes can be a roadblock. Advocate is not a profession on that list. I am certain that the University is the right place to continue to grow and learn about service, social responsibility, and my role in the global community.
Carried You – Justin Nozuka