Jorja Buckingham

Type 1

I was diagnosed with diabetes at age 10. It was a relief for my parents as they just didn’t know what was wrong with me and it was nice to have an answer. I had gone from being a very active child to wanting to quit everything and stay at home.

I’ll never forget my first hypo – I got so cranky and even crankier when the diabetes educators wanted me to test my blood sugar!

I refer to diabetes as my “super power” and I always try and put a positive spin on it.

Diabetes inspired my career choice nursing, and challenges my passion, dancing. I continue to pursue my dreams and won’t let it stop me, I always say “there is no difference between you and me, only that I manually put in the insulin and your body does it itself”. Diabetes isn’t a great attribute in the professional dancing industry. If you can avoid a medical, you’ll be ok, but if not you’re up for a fight. My biggest fear has always been to obtain a contract and fail a medical, which I have been warned by from other dancers with diabetes. So far in my dance career I’ve worked for ‘Sydney Showboats’, ‘Wet N Wild Sydney’, and ‘Circus Krone’ in Germany, a traveling circus moving cities every 3-8 days.

I’ve had some challenging times – with a combination of coeliac disease and diabetes causing me to have to come home from a dream job, burn-out, a seizure which left me sleeping in my parents room for 5 years, and even being discriminated against due to one performance with a BSL of 26 whilst sick, leaving me out of the ‘Special’ dance troupe I so badly wanted to be in.

I have balance – I talk about diabetes in nursing and I keep any talk to a bare minimum in my dance career.

I have had loads of challenges in my last job traveling 17 different cities doing 2 shows a day with the circus. Our last 19 days we worked the 19 days straight with 2 shows a day which was a little hard on the glucose reserves. I have experience with obtaining medical supplies in Germany, language barriers, posting medical supplies overseas (it’s not worth it) and traveling a long distance with insulin and keeping it cool. My last challenge was fridges being turned off for 24 hours at a time on travel days and trying to keep my insulin cool during this. Luckily, the world invented gas fridges and I had some special people hold my insulin for me.

I’m always available to share information on traveling overseas with diabetes as I know how daunting it is! I also had 3 days to get everything in order and leave the country- so I know about sourcing things fast!

These challenges have gotten me down into the burn-out zone a few times. Luckily everything is better with experience and now I know techniques to help myself through these periods and I’m always happy to share.

I’m all about making diabetes “sparkle”!

If you have a black boring blood glucose tester case – please replace it with something that makes you smile! Bright, colourful, funny, whatever you wish! But it has to make you feel good! You’re much more likely to pick it up and test if it appeals to you.

If you’re bored with your hypo treatment, change it up a little (with consult from your medical team of course). You don’t want to be sighing every time you have to treat a low. I don’t want you to be YAYing either, but a little excitement for your treatment would be nice!

Unless you’re going to get wicked perks, never select that you have a disability – diabetes is NOT a disability!

Don’t deprive yourself of new and exciting technology! If you can’t afford it, get on a trial! Ask your local community to fund you.

Big burn-out preventers – “Diabetes Doona Days”! Don’t FIGHT it every single day! Everything loses power eventually – cars need servicing, so do we! You are the event organizer! You get to decide what you watch, what you munch on, when you nap, if you get out of bed, how angry or sad you’ll be – but give yourself a break! You handle this disease 24/7, with ridiculous, judgemental- facepalm comments coming your way often. Your life is a mathematics test constantly! You definitely deserve a day to mope around and feel sorry for yourself! Or just relax and do nothing! You know those weeks you’ve had more hypos then hits on Facebook, or those periods of heavy testing, analyzing graphs, titrating doses- this is what gets you through! I’m not saying, ignore your diabetes, I’m saying do everything you need to do, but allow yourself to grieve per se. This shouldn’t go for longer then 24 hours – you then dust yourself off and pick yourself up or phone a friend from camp or an educator!

And finally, this is where I may lose some of you… find one reason you can thank the universe for picking ‘you’ to have diabetes. Is it the simple fact that you have awareness of health? Or a cool person you met in the waiting room at clinic? The fact you get to be a role model to a younger cousin or friend? The camps you’ve been on? For me I have more then one reason. Diabetes delivered my best friend, so many role models, inspiration for my career, a whole big camp community that I wouldn’t be where I am without, loads of second mums (educators), knowledge about health and so much more.

On the days you are pretty deflated for waking up still battling diabetes, try and be thankful for the gift of the day you’ve been given!

And don’t stop dreaming and believing!

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