When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I wasn’t told what specifically triggered the destruction of my insulin-producing pancreatic β-cells but I was told genetics played a role, that diabetes was a serious condition and I would be dependent upon exogenous insulin and a strict dietary regime for life. As I navigated through school and community (Baltimore, Maryland (USA)), I carried juice boxes, syringes, and a vial of insulin in my backpack. I was open about my condition in part because I wanted to meet another student with type 1 diabetes, just like me.
For many years, I never met another young person living with type 1 diabetes until I was introduced to another high school senior at a different school. We commiserated about our longing for ice-cream and the delight in managing hypoglycaemic episodes with all our favorite but forbidden foods. Sadly, he did not live to see his 20th birthday due to complications of diabetes, but I thought about him this October as I celebrate 40 years with type 1 diabetes. I’ve come a long way and yet, we still do not know what triggers β-cell autoimmunity and further, why so many more children and young adults are developing autoimmune diabetes.