At the young age of 11, Krystal Boyea was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Now, at the age of 35, she uses her voice as an advocate to empower, educate and improve the lives of others living with illnesses and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes.
In her daily life, Krystal is an entrepreneur and patient advocate, Republic Bank ambassador, managing director at the Diagnostics Medical Clinic and CEO of The Living Collection —a medical jewellery store that sells engraved bracelets, chains and key rings detailing medical conditions, blood type, emergency contact and other pertinent information.
This dedication to helping those with non-communicable diseases stems from her experiences with type 1 diabetes, having been diagnosed on a day she remembers to the date – January 19th, 1999—two weeks before her 12th birthday.
“At the age of 11, you don’t really understand what forever really means, so when I was sat down in the doctor’s chair, and I was told that I had type 1 diabetes and I would have to inject myself forever, I was kinda just like ‘okay well I just wanna get back to school’. I really wasn’t processing what it meant because I was a child.”
For many years after her diagnosis, Krystal struggled throughout school and later on in her first job due to the physical and mental toll of living with her illness. These struggles forced her to reassess her relationship with type1 diabetes. She sought out people that she could share in experiences with and speak to about her condition, eventually leading her to volunteer work with the diabetes association and the diabetes foundation.
Through her work with the diabetes association, Krystal collaborated with Dr Michelle Lashley to curate a first-of-its-kind national registry which notes all those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes allowing the foundation to find out their needs, how to assess them and how to readily support them. This work in chronic illness advocacy has come to define much of Krystal’s work, something that she feels is necessary to fill a void that she long felt as someone living with type 1 diabetes and a chronic illness in Barbados.
One of Krystal’s hopes in her advocacy is to change the stigma towards type 1 diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
“Living with type 1 diabetes or living with type 2 diabetes, or any non-communicable disease is not as easy as it looks on paper, and we all need to support each other and do what we can to make this world a better place and easier for one another; that’s what I try to do, and I hope that that little bit changes a whole person’s mindset on what it is like to live with a condition like this.”
At present, Krystal maintains an active life. She admits that she indulges in sweet stuff on special occasions but exercises regularly and has even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. She describes living with type 1 diabetes as making 50 to 80 extra decisions every day, a process that is admittedly exhausting but one that she has had 25 years to perfect and accept.
“As much as I can say ‘why me’ sometimes, I have to say thank you to my diabetes because it really allowed me to get to know myself and my body in a way that I probably would not have taken the time to do if I didn’t have it.” (JN)