UPDATE FROM HATD-BENEFICIARY MOHAMMED SEYAM, DIABETIC STUDENT IN GAZA
My name is Mohammed Seyam, a 22 year old medical student from Gaza, Palestine. I’m a Type 1 diabetic who has been living with Type 1 Diabetes Meletus (T1DM) since February 2011. I represented the Diabetes Palestine Association (DPA) in a program organized by the International Diabetes Federation.
I consider my diabetic life an adventure; lots of memories, ups and downs, diabetic friends, support. I have great hopes!
My family has been very supportive since day one and I owe a huge part of my success to them. Diabetes changed every aspect of my life, I started off on the wrong foot, with lots of blaming and criticizing, but for an 11year old boy, life as a diabetic wasn’t as enjoyable as I had dreamed.
Growing up with diabetes taught me a lot, I slowly began to accept my diagnosis and see the bigger picture. I decided to own my story and paint my path the way I wanted it to be. The chronic disease self-management program (CDSMP) that HATD funded and organized has helped me and my family understand the nature of diabetes as a chronic condition. I was very happy when I heard that DPA in conjunction with HATD would be offering the CDSMP to diabetics in Gaza. I felt like I needed it as I was missing a lot of the basic information about T1DM on how to deal with my diabetes on my own and once the program started, I realized how lucky I was.
I believe we all need something positive in our lives, something that is always with us, and can make us proud every time we talk about it. A few years ago, I was just like any other Gazan with diabetes, hiding it, hardly trying to manage it and full of fear of how would the world see me as a diabetic. It was tough. And I’m sure a lot of us felt the same way. I still don’t know what changed the way I think, but it started very small by just opening up about my diabetes and waiting for the people to react. To be honest, it wasn’t bad! It felt like I was doing something good; it takes a lot of courage to do it, and I did! So, it was the beginning of a new chapter of my life, a chapter where I’m the real hero of my story.
Time flies, as they say, a short while after CDSMP began, I found myself learning more about diabetes, managing it better, helping diabetics based on my experience and what I’ve learned. DPA conducted the first-ever diabetes camp in the Gaza strip last year which was for sure the best thing I’ve done for the diabetes community so far. Now, since the onset of COVID-19, we raise awareness on diabetes using social media platforms and community events.
I’m honored to say that I’m part of the program in the Gaza Strip, both as a young leader and as a beneficiary.
I shared part of my story with the program in one of HATD’s webinars last November. Since then not much has changed with the program in the Strip, we are still carrying on with the program online with many meetings being held to prepare on the ground activities when we can go back to “normal life” and enjoy the sessions as they should be with the adolescents.
Lots of diabetics’ lives have changed since we started the CDSMP. Adolescents who attended and kept in touch have witnessed outstanding results and improvements with their self-management.
I get very happy when I remember that I played a role in lowering A1C’s and making people’s lives better. I’m very happy that I was able to use diabetes as a superpower!
Living in the Gaza strip, which is already complex, and living with a chronic condition surely makes it harder, especially with the lack of diabetes supplies, technologies, or even proper diabetes education.
CDSMP has improved my life and many others in different ways, but what stood out for me is how I was able to use what I learned and implement it in my medical studies. The program helped me understand patients with chronic illnesses from different perspectives: I was able to engage more with them, support them and help them with some of the activities and lessons I learned from the program.
I look at my diabetes as my superpower, it’s the one thing that makes me special, it’s what helped me build who I am, yes, diabetes doesn’t define me but, it helped me through dark times and for sure taught me courage. Diabetes helped me in shaping the person I am today. In a world full of negativity and bad vibes, I chose my diabetes as the one positive constant power helping me. It’s not easy to think of it like this with all the feelings you might get from living with T1DM. I mean, most of us faced diabetes distress before, but trying to have a positive mindset about your diabetes would make your life better, especially with managing your diabetes! The way you feel, controlling the stress around you is a major step forward in living a better life with diabetes, and that’s why a Gazan like me in this place, takes his diabetes as a shield. And one thing I’m sure about from the experience I have as a Gazan living with diabetes is that both diabetics and Gazans teach resilience, we are the masters of resilience, and we will always teach the world how powerful we are.