Guest Post: Diabetes in Spain.
But thankfully, some college students do manage to fly across the pond and literally broaden their horizons. Melissa Moulton, a staffer at CBC and PWD of ten years, is spending a full year living in Spain. She's offered to share some of her stories about managing diabetes while living abroad her on SUM, and I'm really pleased to be hosting her posts. Take it away, Melissa!
Instead of getting on a train and going to Hogwarts on September 1st of this year, I went to JFK airport and got on a big scary plane and flew across the Atlantic to Madrid, Spain. In place of doing the more common one semester study abroad program, I somehow decided it was a good idea to live in Madrid with a host family for the entire academic year. This decision meant leaving my cozy liberal arts college for a bustling, unfamiliar city. Add in type 1 diabetes and gluten intolerance and this incredible experience is bound to get a little more complicated.
Once my incredible summer working at CBC ended, it hit me that I would be leaving the country in merely two weeks. I spent the days counting test strips, spending time with friends and family, and most of all trying to remember how to speak Spanish.
Then about a week before leaving I met with my endo and we talked about getting a Dexcom. And because I just love to be stressed, I decided to peruse getting a Dexcom before leaving… in one week. Somehow Dexcom and my insurance company pulled it off and I didn’t even have to verbally assault anyone in the process—win-win, in my opinion. Getting a Dexcom has proved to be one of the best decisions I think I have ever made in regards to my diabetes. It has really made living far away from friends and family, who know the nitty-gritty of diabetes, much easier.
Fast forward to meeting my host family: I sat jet-lagged and overwhelmed at the kitchen table with my new “host mom” and attempted, in lovely broken Spanish, to tell her about diabetes and eating gluten free. I managed to convey the basics, but for just about everything else we ended up reading Spanish Wikipedia articles (explaining autoimmune diseases in a foreign language for dummies?). In retrospect, it probably would have been a good idea to figure out how to talk about diabetes in Spanish before leaving, but I guess I was too preoccupied deciding which dresses to bring, or something like that. Oh, and it’s a good thing the word “gluten” is exactly the same in both languages.
Though this has been an incredible experience so far, I think one of the things that has been most difficult for me has been that lack of diabetes (not to mention red hair and freckles) here in Spain. It’s almost as if the disease doesn’t even exist over here! We all have experiences running into a random stranger in the grocery store with a pump or seeing a stray test strip hanging out on the floor of a public restroom. However I haven’t seen any of this: not a pump, not a random person wearing a JDRF walk t-shirt, nothing. I went from having an entire network of people with diabetes only a text message away, to a world where diabetes is something nearly unmentionable. I’m still hoping to come across some diabetes in public, but at least I’ve realized that with a little effort, overseas communication isn’t all that difficult (thanks technology!)
Despite the occasional "diafail" and one very scary Spanish endocrinologist (think massive mahogany desk, fifteen foot ceilings, a large mustache, and no knowledge of diabetes—at least I only needed a prescription), I’ve definitely managed to live life in Europe to the fullest and learn a heck of a lot of Spanish. Oh yeah, and I still have six months to go!
Thank you, Melissa!!! I'm excited for your next update!