Title

Personal Stories

Meet Gina Anzures—Artist and Advocate Extraordinaire

Inspiring journey of an artist and advocate who has turned her type 1 diabetes diagnosis into a source of artistic empowerment.

Meet Gina Anzures—Artist and Advocate Extraordinaire

About Gina Anzures

Georgina Anzures Cajica grew up in Puebla, Mexico, just two hours outside of Mexico City. When she was 12 years old, her parents, both physicians, discovered she had type 1 diabetes. Rather than let her condition hinder her ambitions, she used art as an outlet to express her emotions and encourage others to battle the disease.  Anzures recently received a Master of Fine Arts in illustration from the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Georgia, and completed her second Master's Degree in 3D Animation at the Coco Design School in Spain.

She also has her diabetes educator certification and was recently invited to present her art at the DiabetesMine Innovation Days in San Diego, CA. 

We caught up with Anzures and had the chance to learn about her activism efforts, her new children’s book, and her remarkable T1D journey. 
A Cartoon Star is Born—Meet Gina Pillina

Gina Anzures is artistically known as Gina Pillina. In Spanish, Pillina represents someone cheerful, comical, and mischievous. Pillina rhymes with Gina (“ll” sounds like “g” in Spanish), and as the name rolls off the tongue, it’s easy for fans to remember. It naturally became Anzures’ brand, and the captivating character is stealing hearts online

The character Gina Pillina tells entertaining antidotes and stories through comic strips. With her sunny disposition and light-hearted banter, she spreads humor and high energy to those living with type 1 diabetes. With charming characters and vivid palettes, Anzures weaves diabetes into her art with expressive dialogue and empowered tropes—both great learning tools. 

“Humor is a great learning mechanism, so this is why funny elements help me educate about type 1 through visuals. Gina Pillina likes to make people laugh and enjoy the storytelling. Funny stays longer in the mind,” said Anzures.

A Not-So-Easy Path

Fortunately, as both of Anzure’s parents were doctors (her father works in critical care medicine, and her mother is an ophthalmologist), they recognized the signs of diabetes immediately. Hence, her diabetes never reached the severe stages. Gina had lost a lot of weight, was drinking a great deal of water, and was feeling exhausted. “They said this is type 1. I never went to the hospital; honestly, it was very simple. It was not simple regarding my emotions because I didn’t understand what was happening. Though, I always received support from my parents. They encouraged me to keep learning, but we kept my diabetes a secret.” 

Anzures explained that the quality of care for type 1 patients differs from that of the U.S. “When my parents were medical students, they had some cases of children who were type 1; many years ago, like 40 -50 years ago, people in Mexico with type 1 didn’t survive. My mom had a cousin with diabetes who didn’t survive, so that’s why everyone was very scared in my family. In the beginning we thought that it was the best thing to keep it a secret. I kept it a secret for four years. My school never knew.” From a young age, Anzures suffered depression. “Finally, I said no, I need to tell more people. Because I wasn’t feeling emotionally better, and I was feeling very lonely. So, then I started telling everyone, and I switched to a new school, and it was better.”

For four years, Gina was on insulin shot therapy and then switched to the Medtronic pump. “Something that helped me a lot with my diabetes treatment was Nick Jonas because I was a huge fan of the Jonas Brothers. I loved him. He was my celebrity crush, and I knew that he had an insulin pump, so I told my parents, ‘Hey, Nick Jonas has an insulin pump,’ and that’s why we tried it, and I love my pump now.”

During Anzures adolescent years, she experienced a secondary traumatic health complication unrelated to diabetes, a volvulus. This is where a loop of the intestine twists around itself, causing bowel obstruction. Anzures’ intestine was 24 inches longer than it should be. After passing out from the pain and being rushed to the hospital, doctors induced her into a coma. Anzures awoke eight days later from this serious condition and had a colostomy for four months. 

Artistic Awakening

Anzures said the experience actually helped her come to terms with her diabetes. “It made me realize I could manage it. I don’t like having diabetes, but it’s something that you can manage. It helped me to become happier and become friends with my diabetes. I could give myself insulin and count carbs. I’ve been living with diabetes for 16 years, and the first 10 years were really hard. I felt it was very unfair. I was stressed a lot and used to cry every day. I felt very sad like diabetes was my enemy.”

Up to this point, Anzures used art as a type of therapy when she was sad or lonely, but after her hospitalization, she had an artistic awakening where she began drawing with a new purpose. After the health scare, she felt like she was given a second chance to live.

“I was so grateful to be alive. I once heard someone say diabetes is like a fly; they are just there to bother you. You can still keep going with your life.”

DiabetesMine Innovation Summit

After submitting her thesis project, Anzures was invited by her artist-friend, Weronika Burkot, as a featured speaker and artist at the DiabetesMine Innovation Days in San Diego. “My father always attended diabetes conferences. I think it’s very important to stay educated about diabetes.”

She had an artist friend who was working with the DiabetesMine founder, Amy Tenderich. They invited her to speak and share her work. “It was awesome. I felt very happy to present. I got the chance to talk about how my art serves as a coping mechanism. I showed some of my comic strips and my future projects. What I loved the most was meeting awesome people living with type 1. It was funny to hear insulin pumps and CGMs going off during the conference. It felt like the perfect world of diabetes. Everyone was very friendly. I think what I liked the most was the community.” 

Anzures was one of three artists invited to present. “I see diabetes as a very positive thing because I’m very cheerful. Since we all talked about our own experiences, the second artist had a different point of view. Then the third artist was a fashion designer who had a runway show with music – it was very empowering.” 

What the Future Holds

With her combined dual master’s and advocacy work, Gina is now concentrating on publishing her thesis, a children’s book for recently diagnosed T1D kids. Anzures’ dynamic talent, kind heart, and empathetic nature will surely take her far. Her next step is to pitch the book to agents for publication. Additionally, Anzures would like to continue with her Gina Pillina brand comic strips and publish the comic strips as well. “I’d like to work for an animation studio or publishing house, but the first thing is to publish my book.”

With all of the misperceptions surrounding diabetes, Anzures uses her art not only to empower but also to educate those less informed about the disease. “The best advice I would give to someone newly diagnosed is always to stay informed. Insulin is part of the treatment, and exercise is amazing, but being informed is key!” Anzures went on to say, “The more we know, the better our management is going to be. Because it helps us to make our own decisions, and something that I would have loved to know back then is to get in touch with more people who have type 1. That helps a lot, like from the very beginning.”

Contact Info:

Website: www.ginapillina.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gina.pillina/

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