IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes programme.
In April of this year Diabetes New Zealand had the pleasure of informing Tess James that she was a successful applicant for the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Young Leaders in Diabetes programme. Places were limited and the application process extremely competitive, so it is a true testament of Tess’s qualities, skills and experience that she was selected.
The IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes (YLD) Programme is the key driver in enhancing the lives of young people living with diabetes. The Young Leaders are committed to raising awareness of diabetes by being a powerful voice for prevention, education, access to quality care, improved quality of life, and the end of discrimination worldwide. The IDF YLD Programme supports IDF and its Members (Diabetes New Zealand) in reaching its strategic goals.
We asked Tess some questions so we could get to know her better.
1) Tess as a second year university student you must have a lot on your plate already. Why did you decide to apply for the IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes programme?
I had the privilege of being a part of many camps and events run by Diabetes Youth when I was younger, which I know aren’t possible without the hard work and generosity of the volunteers that run and organise all the events. I have always been passionate about giving back, especially to the Diabetes community to enable other diabetics to partake in activities that I had the fortune of. I saw joining the IDF as an opportunity that would allow me to make an even bigger positive impact on my Diabetes community and to continue to give back.
2) What are you are most looking forward to experiencing as an IDF Young Leader?
There are so many things I am eager to experience through the IDF Young Leaders programme. One of the main things I am excited about is the opportunity to take all that I learn from this experience and use it to positively impact the wider Diabetes community. I am also looking forward to the opportunity to meet and make connections with other like minded diabetics from all across the globe and learn more about their experiences with diabetes internationally.
3) How old were you when you were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and what would you say was your biggest challenge in learning to live with it?
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes a little under 13 years ago at the age of 6. Initially, I did not understand what was happening or the impact this would have on me throughout my life as I was too young to comprehend it all. At the young age of 6 I found it difficult to understand what was happening and feeling as though I suddenly had a responsibility that I did not want to have to focus on. At the time of diagnosis the hardest aspect was to try and understand what Type 1 Diabetes is, however, through all my years of Diabetes the hardest thing for me has actually been in realising that I’m not alone and there are so many people there and willing to help throughout my journey.
4) If you knew then, what you know now, what would you tell yourself as a newly diagnosed child?
I think I would definitely want to tell 6 year old me that despite all the changes that happened initially that everything will all work out okay and it just becomes a subconscious part of everyday life. I would also tell myself that Diabetes isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Not every day will be perfect or without its struggles, but its about pacing yourself and just getting through each day is a big win.
5) If you could only impart one piece of advice to a newly diagnosed child what would it be?
Being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes will change your life, however you don’t have to let it be negatively. At first you may feel overwhelmed and maybe even a little scared, and some days it can feel as though you’re alone, however you will quickly learn to look after your diabetes and come to realise you certainly aren’t alone, from your family, to doctors and nurses and even fellow diabetics like me there is so much support and everyone is here to help you along your journey. Some days may be overwhelming and even after 13 years I still have my off days, however, despite all this diabetes will never define you and can never make us say no to experiences. We just have to learn to make the adjustments so that we can say yes!
We will be following her journey with great interest and wish her the very best.