“I have grown up with the mindset that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I respond to it.”
Alysha is a behavioural neuroscience student, community volunteer, and talented choir singer who is constantly seeking to find positive learning moments in overwhelming situations.
When she was 13, Alysha was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes following a variety of uncomfortable symptoms and medical tests. Although the timing was “not ideal,” she shared that the disease has taught her a lot over the years.
“Having diabetes during my teen years taught me to be very responsible, giving, and empathetic. I developed an understanding that everyone is going through their own problems…perhaps even similar to mine.”
When I asked Alysha about her personal style, she explained that self-confidence comes first.
“I could wear anything, but style does not matter unless I feel confident in who I am regardless of the cards I’ve been dealt.”
On the sunny, warm morning that we met, Alysha transitioned between three vibrant dresses. She believes that “beauty is found in simplicity,” and that reflected beautifully, especially through her meaningful accessories.
Her bracelet, engraved with the Om symbol, was a gift from her friends for her 22nd birthday. Her quartz necklace is also special to her. Both of these jewelry pieces represent the positivity and energy that she wants to give to others when they are in her presence.
However, there was an accessory in the past that she was not a fan of: medical bracelets.
“As I grew older, I developed my personal style, and the medical bracelet did not fit in. My sister (who also has diabetes) and I decided to get tattoos that have dual purposes:
1. It shows that I’m proud of who I am and that I’m not ashamed of my condition.
2. If something happens to me, people will know what’s wrong right away.
This is my way of expressing that diabetes is a part of who I am, but it is not all of who I am. It does not control me.”
When I asked Alysha if she dresses to accommodate to her diabetes, she responded thoughtfully.
“I’ve come to notice that people do not look as critically at me as I thought they did. I was always afraid that people would notice the bump where my infusion set is or that they would see the outline of my insulin pump, but no one notices it unless I tell them it’s there. If anything, having diabetes has liberated me to explore what I can wear. I love that I can still wear what makes me feel good.”
Quick Questions with Alysha:
What does having diabetes mean for you on a daily basis?
In April, I hit nine years since my diagnosis. It was a milestone! I feel like I have finally mastered how I need to take care of myself and listen to my body. On a daily basis, I try to make healthy choices in terms of nutrition and physical activity. My A1C (percent of glucose in my blood) is at an all-time best right now. Overall, I’ve learned to mold parts of my life to fit in with my condition so that it does not hold me back.
Can you explain what having Type 1 diabetes means in particular?
Simply put, my body does not produce insulin. Over the past year, I transitioned from insulin injections to an insulin pump, which has helped my body to become more receptive to insulin. I’ve been feeling a lot better since I switched to an insulin pump. There’s less maintenance, and the treatment is less taxing on my body.
Considering what you have experienced over the years, when have you surprised yourself with what you have accomplished?
I have surprised myself with my own self-confidence and the ways I can empower other people living with or without this condition. I have managed to keep a positive attitude, and also keep friends and family close. I have also stayed in touch with friends who also have diabetes. It’s nice to share what is working for me to make living with diabetes less harsh for all of us.
What advice would you give to others going through a similar health condition? What has made you feel better emotionally along this journey?
Diabetes can be very serious, but it can also be very manageable. The biggest thing is having a positive mindset and making a conscious effort to keep oneself healthy and happy.
Having a strong support network of people who understand what you’re going through is also important. My parents have been my rock, my Mom especially. My family has become very knowledgeable about the condition to ensure that that we’re all living the best lives that we can. My sister also has diabetes, and we’re each other’s support system. It also means a lot to have close friends who are understanding and compassionate.
What would you like for people to understand better about life with diabetes?
Sometimes, people with diabetes or similar conditions may not know how to make their condition part of their life compared to it taking over their life. I want to be an advocate for people like me to remove the stigma that’s attached to having diabetes and even using an insulin pump. Particularly when I was younger, there were misunderstandings about this disease, so education and awareness are great too.
Alysha ultimately sees diabetes as her strength, not her weakness.
“I’m grateful that it has given me a path for my career. It has impacted every aspect of my life in a positive way. It has shaped who I am, what I want to do, and what my mindset is like. The past nine years have been a rollercoaster of emotions, but I wouldn’t change anything.”