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"Highs and lows"

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Reading time: 5 minutes
This is my short story that I uploaded for the EGiA Storytellers contest and one that has been awarded a prize (to my big surprise and joy). It is heavily based on my own experience as a person living with diabetes and one that I think many people can relate to. I hope you will enjoy reading it and maybe find some strength and inspiration from it!
A young woman standing wearing a white and blue-striped t-shirt, with visible insulin pump, standing with her hands up in front of a plant-covered wall. Next to her a brown plaque with unreadable text.
Celebrating my amazing stay in Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Not even two months went by and Eliza already was sure that this whole idea of going abroad for a semester was a big mistake. Surely, Erasmus was her dream since she first heard of the opportunity and she applied as soon as she got the information about the application process in her department. 


Her excitement however decreased significantly since she got the letter of acceptance from the university in Florence - but not because there was something wrong with her choice. No, the problem that Eliza had to face and tried not to for the past couple of weeks, with surprisingly good results, was much more simple.. She has finally realized that there is just no way for her to take all of her medication, insulin pump, and continuous glucose monitoring equipment with her. Her insulin wasn’t available in Italy and she’d have to pack it all and take it with her. And the space she would need for it? A whole suitcase. It certainly was possible, but not for one person who also needs to take their clothes, laptop, and other necessities with them. Not to mention that her medication needed cooling and was extremely sensitive to heat. What if even if she managed to transport it to Florence it would be all spoiled? She’d have to come back home, but how many times would she have to do that? What if her equipment wouldn’t work? She was also terribly scared of leaving her hometown. There, everybody could help her. And in Italy, everything would be so different, so much more complicated... What if she’ll be in a life-threatening condition but she wouldn’t be able to explain it? The ‘what if’s got to her again, making her heart beat faster and faster, and a gulp growing in her throat.


Eliza was panicking. She tried to contact people from Erasmus's WhatsApp group to see if anyone is in a similar situation, but couldn’t. Even reading all the happy and exciting messages sent by people from all over Europe and sometimes even from further away made her want to scream. No one, literally no one, has mentioned anything about a chronic illness, needing some support, or being scared. Everyone was so... cheerful. That made her feel even worse. ‘There must be someone who also has SOME sort of difficulty right?’ ‘Maybe I should just give up?’ 


In times like that, she needed her sister’s and mother’s advice. Or even not advice, just the possibility to vent and take the panic off her shoulders. They were on vacation right now, and she didn’t want to interrupt, but a single message surely wouldn’t do them any harm,


‘Hey, I don’t want to be a burden, but I’m still not sure if I should go, you know? This whole diabetes mess, I don’t feel so sure I can do it.’ She sent the text to her mom and shared it with her sister also. Then, feeling a bit better, Eliza decided to clean her room. Maybe she would also start packing...? As soon as she thought about it, she felt powerless and even worse than before. She looked at the new trekking shoes that she got from her boyfriend as an early birthday gift, at her suitcases already taken from the basement... Everything reminded her of the possibility of failure. Maybe at least her family will give her some sort of hope.


Eliza checked her text, but something didn’t seem right. Her mum didn’t respond, which was understandable, but there was no sign of her sending a text to her sister. Instead, she noticed 2 people messaging her that she had never met in her life. ‘What is going on...’ she thought to herself but then... Then she realized and froze. She must have shared her message with the Erasmus chat, not with her sis. ‘Oh no’ she whispered and looked at the chat. Dozen unread messages. She couldn’t breathe. Everybody... everybody could see her whining text. Now they found out about her vulnerability.


With hesitation, she opened the chat and ran her eyes over the texts. They weren’t that bad. People were encouraging, saying that she has to go to Florence and study with them. Surely, they might have thought that she was trying to get attention, but they were nice... And two people said that they sent her private messages. Firstly, she opened a text from someone called Luna. ‘Heyyy girl, it’s my third time going on Erasmus and I’m actually diabetic too so there’s nothing to worry about’ said the message. Eliza couldn’t believe her eyes. Third time... and with diabetes? This means there is hope for her too! Then she opened the second text and almost burst into tears with emotion. ‘Hey girl’ said Samira ‘I guess you’re living in Poland, 'cause you have a Polish area code? I’m German and my friend and I are going to Florence by car, we’re packing wayy too much to go by plane. So if you could get to Dresden somehow, we could give you a lift? I guess you have some sort of medical equipment with you, so maybe that will help?’ Eliza replied immediately ‘Are you serious? That would help me so so much, I can’t even tell you Samira texted her a second later ‘Great! We’ll be leaving in 2 weeks, so we can even arrange a video call and meet. Erasmus car call!’


Eliza looked at her suitcases once more. She could feel tears of joy running down her cheeks. Sure, she’d still have to figure out how to get medical help in Florence and there were many obstacles but... But she wasn’t alone. She got help from actual strangers even though she almost gave up on her biggest dream. And these strangers were soon to be her Erasmus friends.


‘Mum’ Eliza started typing ‘You will never guess what happened. Oh, and I will need another suitcase’.