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Maltese Diabetes advocate launches novel to break taboo about chronic condition
What an inspirational gal!

Caroline Curmi

At 26, Rachel Portelli is one of Malta’s most prominent Diabetes advocates. Fresh off the successful launch of her debut novel Special 1, Rachel is currently representing the members of the Maltese Diabetic Association at the International Diabetes Federation Congress 2019 in Busan, South Korea. Despite the slew of achievements she has accumulated over the past few years - among which are graduating, traveling the world and undertaking an internship in Brussels - things were not always as positive for the young author.

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Rachel confesses that she has no memory of life prior to diabetes. Diagnosed at only three and a half years old, her parents were left in a state of utter disbelief. “At the time, there was no awareness of type 1 diabetes,” Rachel explains, adding that growing up in a society where diabetes was perceived as a taboo extremely difficult. “I felt very much alone and misunderstood, and I would start feeling anxious from weeks before a scheduled doctor’s appointment,” she continues.

At one point, she went through an intense period of denial where she admits to having caused harm to herself: “my blood sugar levels were a rollercoaster yet I didn’t really care as all I wanted was to fit in with my friends and live a normal teenage life,” she says. Rachel concedes to coming close to giving up, despite health professionals’ efforts to stabilise her condition. “What helped me accept my condition was when I spoke to another person living with type 1 diabetes,” she explains, adding that the courage stemming from their mutual understanding helped her power through and turn her life around.

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Despite her powerful conviction, she was still privy to lowly moments, some brought on by comments such as ‘just exercise and eat healthily and you’ll be fine.’ Rather than reply verbally, Rachel would put her thoughts down on paper, a move which eventually morphed into a therapeutic release. It is through the support she received, and which she passed on to others, that she decided to share her story, all highs and lows included. Having caught a glimpse of a strong narrative, Rachel secured a deal with London-based Olympia Publishers, who saw the potential behind her story.

Their collaboration kicked off in 2017 and work to transform her notes into a novel began: “I adapted all the pieces I had written earlier and adapted them to a new storyline that would not only interest people with diabetes but also other individuals.” And her efforts have paid off, with her book currently being sold on Olympia Publisher’s official website, Amazon and Book Depository. Requests from bookstores for the rights to stock her novel are also flooding in, and Rachel has been left speechless by the public's feedback.

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“Growing up I always wanted to read a book which I could relate to,” she confesses. “I never thought I’d be the person writing it though!” Rachel stresses that the book is not just the story of a person suffering with a chronic illness but an inspirational and motivational tale spurred on by hope. “Type 1 diabetes is not something which you may have caused, or brought about due to poor lifestyle choices,” she concludes. “Type 1 diabetes just happens, and when it does, your life turns upside down. So by raising awareness and supporting others, life with this chronic illness may become somewhat brighter.”

 

2nd December 2019


Caroline Curmi
Written by
Caroline Curmi
When she’s not having a quarter-life crisis, Caroline is either drawing in a café, frittering her salary on sushi or swearing at traffic in full-on Gozitan. There is also the occasional daytime drink somewhere in the equation. Or two. A creative must be allowed at least one vice.

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