My name is Mariah Erby and I’m a high school student from Aberdeen, Maryland. I live with type 1 diabetes and was diagnosed soon after my 5th birthday.
My diagnosis came completely out of the blue. After experiencing some severe symptoms like losing weight and constantly feeling thirsty, my mom took me to the hospital, where I was told that I would have to live with diabetes for the rest of my life. Learning to care for my condition was a challenge for my whole family — I was a 5 year-old learning how to count carbs, and my mom was learning how to give a 5 year-old a shot every day. Before I figured out the signals my body sends when my blood sugar levels are too low or too high, my parents would tag-team throughout the night to monitor my condition.
I’m fortunate to have good health insurance from both of my parents, and my glucose monitor and insulin pump are completely covered. My insulin, Novolog, currently costs us $25 per month, but I’m worried about what’s going to happen when I’m responsible for my own health coverage. When I was first diagnosed, my parents paid about $600 out-of-pocket every three months for all of my supplies, and it was a huge burden on our family. Even today, I hear about how some of the counselors at my diabetes camp have to choose between paying for insulin and paying rent.
I’m terrified of the possibility of a future where I have to ration insulin and depend on my parents for financial support. It motivates me to work hard so that I can enter the nursing field and earn enough to provide for myself. I know that I also need to research the plans that work for me and be more educated about the resources at my disposal.
In April, I started an Instagram account to share my experiences with type 1 diabetes because I felt like our community’s voice wasn’t being heard in the midst of the pandemic, even though we’re at higher risk for severe symptoms from COVID-19. I didn’t expect to receive the amazing feedback that I got from people around the world — and to hear their stories as well. A girl who had just recently immigrated to the United States told me that insulin is extremely expensive in Pakistan, and she hopes to have access to the amount of insulin that I have. It really hurt me to know that some of my followers are unable to take care of themselves.
For now, I’m trying to live life without letting diabetes hold me back. I’m super active and even competed last year in the Junior Olympics for jump rope. But I’m calling for lower insulin prices because it’s going to have a direct impact on my future and well-being — and to advocate for everyone who can’t get what they need right now.