Meet Chris Samuels, he is an ambitious 22 year old student and has been living with type 1 diabetes for 16 years. Chris’ aspiration is to be the first coloured homosexual male to dominate the African media industry.
Chris describes his journey as a 6 year old type 1 diabetic as painful and difficult when he and his parents first found out about his diagnosis. Chris was too young to understand what was happening. As a parent, you only want what is best for your child and protecting your child becomes your first priority. With Chris’ diagnosis, his mother, Cecilia became very cautious around Chris, only allowing and making sure that he eats correctly to avoid getting sick, which led to fears and tears. Any energetic 6 year old would become confused when told that they cannot enjoy their favourite snack, sweet or drink. Chris’ condition wasn’t properly explained to him and didn’t fully understand the changes that were happening right in front of him. As a 6 year old, all Chris knew and understood was that he couldn’t eat what his friends and cousins were eating.
“Growing up was a real struggle honestly, the first few years were fine, then I became naughty, stealing sweets and sugar at school, eating all the wrong stuff just so that I wouldn’t be looked at differently from other kids”, says Chris, however things did change. As an adult Chris would get looked at funny or stared at for taking his insulin when he is out in public. It’s not something that Chris or any type 1 diabetic can avoid. When the need arises for a diabetic to take their insulin, they have to no matter what environment they are in, same as breastfeeding a baby. Chris however does not pay attention to those stares anymore, “I can take insulin at a store standing in a queue without flinching”.
As a family with a diabetic member part of the household, it all came down to teamwork. Chris has four older brothers, who constantly watched over him as a child and made sure that Chris would follow the rules that were set by their parents. Chris said it was difficult for his parents to raise a 6 year old diabetic who didn’t understand the consequences of not following his diet. As Chris grew older and took responsibility from his parents and started caring for himself, he realised the emotional toll it must have had on his parents. In the beginning Chris described taking on this responsibility as “emotionally exhausting” having to inject himself 5 times a day, check his sugar 6 times or more a day.
Being a student nearing the end of his studies; juggling assignments, tests and the most stressful one – job hunting. With everything that is happening in Chris’ life, keeping his sugar levels controlled on days when he just doesn’t feel motivated enough is challenging.
As a media student Chris wants to use his influence in the industry to empower diabetics to not look at their condition as a constant set-back in their life, but to rather embrace it as part of their lifestyle. Chris has a message and one message only to his fellow diabetics and that is “to look after yourself. Getting a limb amputated or having your kidneys fail or even going blind is not fun”.