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Instagrammer walks for type 1 diabetes awareness and community building

Thomas Hickinbottom, 26, lives with type 1 diabetes and started walking in November to raise type 1 diabetes awareness and to improve his fitness levels. He walked 400,000 steps that month alone and has been posting videos of stunning countryside walks near his village, on the outskirts of Leicester.

Thomas was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2016 after going to a New Year’s Eve party with friends. 

“I had a month of losing weight, constant thirst, frequent toilet use, and being extremely tired, I collapsed at home and woke up in the hospital four days later, with little to no memory of the time in intensive care," he said.

"My family found it extremely scary and hard to comprehend what they had been told after my diagnosis, with friends and people close to me coming to see me during those days in the hospital.”

After struggling with his diagnosis and adapting to life with type 1, Thomas, a digital marketing manager, decided to find a community of support online: “Unfortunately, I hadn’t met anyone who is part of a support group, which ultimately is why I started creating videos and posts on Instagram to find a community.

"Surprisingly I have met so many other people with type 1 and engage in posts on a regular basis. There are groups here that offer great advice and stories of their own struggles and strengths, which ultimately help motivate me and others when we are low. When using social media correctly, there’s a vast wealth of information out there and some great people to meet along the way.”

To raise type 1 diabetes awareness, Thomas decided to start fundraising and recording his walks in Instagram videos. He said: “I love walking and just exploring! Give me a good pair of walking shoes or trainers, give me a nice location and I’ll walk for days! When I'm having a bit of a low day or a bad sugars day, I usually listen to some music, light a candle and play a video game.

“Despite millions in the UK alone having diabetes, not everyone knows the symptoms, not everyone knows how to control it, and not everyone knows how to help. So, I hope that setting up a fundraiser and engaging content will help raise awareness of something that is otherwise taboo.”

Thomas’s tips for coping with type 1 diabetes:

  • Walking.
  • Listening to music.
  • Doing what makes you happy.
  • Being grateful for the treatments we have now.
  • Using a continuous glucose monitor hooked up to his phone.
  • Finding a diabetes online community.
  • Understanding that there are good days and bad days. Diabetes doesn’t run like clockwork.
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