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Advice for people with diabetes and also their families

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Natalie's story: why Summer's type 1 diabetes storyline from Coronation Street feels so familiar

Natalie stands on a beach, with diabetes tech on her arm and leg

Natalie Balmain

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007, age 20

The story of my diagnosis is actually quite similar to Summer’s on Coronation Street!

Natalie Balmain, 35 from Manchester was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007, aged 20. She reflects on getting diagnosed and learning to live with her type 1 diabetes. 

Diagnosis

Thinking back to my diagnosis

The story of my diagnosis is actually quite similar to Summer’s on Coronation Street! I started to lose weight, and my family suspected I might have an eating disorder. I was at uni at the time, and although I was hungry all the time and eating lots of sugary foods, the weight was falling off me. I didn’t think much of it, in fact I quite liked it as I was receiving so many compliments on how I looked. But it got to the point where people started to worry about me –  I’d lost 3½ stone, and when I came back from uni for the holidays, my parents were shocked at how thin I was.

My parents encouraged me to go to the GP. I told the doctor I was fine, just a bit thirsty. They did a finger prick test and immediately knew what was wrong. I ended up in hospital with a drip in my arm and a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

Symptoms

Before my diagnosis, I didn’t think much of my symptoms, they just crept up on me. But looking back, I was constantly drinking water, I was going to the toilet several times a night, and my vision started getting blurry. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed and started to feel better that I realised quite how ill I had been.

Life with diabetes

Learning to live with type 1 diabetes

When I was first diagnosed I didn’t really understand what food I could eat, or how much. I felt like I was winging it when it came to managing my blood sugars – I didn’t know what I was doing. I was having hypos at night and would wake up sweating, and I didn’t understand why.

Four years after my diagnosis I burst into tears during an appointment – I realised I wasn’t coping. The turning point for me was going on a carb counting course. It gave me the tools and the education to manage my diabetes well. That course was the first time I’d ever met anyone else with type 1 diabetes, and being able to talk to someone who was going through the same thing made all the difference. I think this was the real start of my recovery.

Emotions

How it affected my mental health

Following my diagnosis, my mental health was all over the place. I’d received so many compliments on my weight loss, that when I started to put the weight back on I didn’t feel good about myself, so sometimes didn’t take my insulin in order to lose weight. At the same time I was feeling so much healthier than before – it was such a mix of emotions.

My diagnosis definitely left me with some trauma. I was at an age where I was starting to find myself, and it felt like diabetes took that version of me away. Now when I look back, I’m grateful that it gave me the space to carve out a new me – a stronger, more confident version with new friends, a great career, and a whole community around me.

Journey with diabetes

A new outlook on life

Diabetes is one of the worst and best things to ever happen to me. It’s like getting on a train with no stops – you’re not getting off, so you’ve got to just embrace the journey. It’s given me a whole new community and support network. To anyone who’s recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I’d say please don’t panic. The best thing you can do is to learn about diabetes and how to manage it – for me this made all the difference and was the point at which I changed my life for the better. Reach out to your friends, find diabetes support groups – there’s a whole community of people going through the same thing, and you’re not alone in this.

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