Shreya Mashru, Research and Data Officer at Diabetes UK, talks about her type 1 diabetes diagnosis as well as the technology that's transformed her diabetes management.
Shreya was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2006 at the age of 11. As a child her parents took away much of the stress and management of the condition but as she grew up it was something she became increasingly aware of. Dealing with the condition became quite overwhelming as she entered her teens.
“I felt like I had an extra worry compared with my peers at school. It felt like no one understood because it really wasn’t spoken about. It’s something you have to think about constantly because essentially you’re having to do the entire work of an organ, manually by yourself.”
Shreya believes that awareness of the relentless reality of diabetes is not widely understood.
“Sometimes you need a break, but you just don’t get it. As soon as I wake up, I make sure I’ve injected my basal insulin, so my glucose levels won’t peek or trough too much. Then I have to think about the amount of carbs I’m going to be having for breakfast and inject accordingly. I’m carb counting throughout the day. It’s constantly on my mind.”
'I didn't want to feel different'
When Shreya was at university, she didn’t have any diabetes tech so she would have to take her blood glucose monitor wherever she went. This was a big strain and impacted her time as a student.
“I didn’t want to feel different. And I didn’t want people to think I was any different. I’d try and hide the machine, use it under the desk. If I was in a lecture or out for the night, I’d leave it behind.
“It felt like such a major burden, I just tried to forget I had diabetes. As a result, my HbA1c was totally out of control, I was underweight, and found it hard gain weight. I still did all the activities that I wanted to do – like netball and dance but without understanding what that was doing to my body.”
About a year after leaving university Shreya was experiencing a potentially dangerous loss of hypo awareness and, as a result, was sent on DAFNE, a diabetes education course where she learned what she should be doing to take care of herself.
“I began to take the fact I have diabetes much more seriously and began to understand how I could take more control instead of letting my body have that control.”
Having completed the DAFNE course, Shreya was then able to get access to her first piece of diabetes tech which was a Freestyle Libre.
“Just having that piece of tech meant that I could walk around and with a simple scan could check my glucose levels with my phone. I felt so much more confident with my diabetes. It even began to feel like I wasn’t any different to anyone else anymore.
“I could care for my diabetes so much more effectively. My life really did change from that point on. My HbA1c started to improve, and I wasn’t underweight anymore. Generally, my health and fitness improved dramatically.”
Life with tech
It’s now been four years since Shreya’s had the diabetes tech and there have already been many technical advances.
“I currently use the Dexcom G7 which means I don’t have to scan a little patch on my arm. It just directs continuous readings to my phone. I get alarms for when my glucose is running high or when it’s running low. I can check it at a glance. I can view statistics over the past month or over the past week if I want to track something and change something in my management.
“I can do all this myself instead of having to book an appointment with my consultant which is hard to get anyway. It puts me in a place where I feel safer in managing my diabetes. The tech takes away so much of the mental stress that comes with having the condition.”
Shreya’s hopes for the future are that everyone with diabetes has access to the tech that she has.
“My biggest hope is that tech will be easily accessible for everyone with diabetes anywhere in the UK or around the world. We have to think about this 24/7. We never get a break. Tech at least allows us a breather.”