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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Andy's story: taking part in the Great North Run for diabetes awareness

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Andy

Diagnosed age 16.

Having an event to train for is a great way to keep focused on exercising regularly and avoid letting fitness slip.

Andy and Danielle are running the Great North Run in September to support people affected by diabetes. Their dream is for CGM monitoring to be made available on the NHS for everyone with diabetes.

Journey with diabetes

Symptoms and diagnosis

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 16. I’d had symptoms for a couple of months such as feeling lethargic. But at that age, everyone assumed I was just being a teenager.

Thankfully, one of my lecturers at college was also type 1 diabetic, recognised the symptoms during classes and suggested I went to my GP. We booked an appointment that day and the GP sent me away asking me to return for a fasting blood test in a few days’ time. The next day the same lecturer insisted I booked another appointment with a different GP. That time my blood glucose was taken straight away, and it was in the mid 30’s. I was admitted straight to hospital with type 1 diabetes.

 

Biggest challenge faced?

The two main challenges I faced when first being diagnosed were carbohydrate counting (specifically portioning of fresh foods) and remembering to take my basal insulin. My blood sugars were often very high due to these factors, and I eventually ended up using an insulin pump.

Danielle says, "I’ve had to learn a lot, as I knew very little about the condition before meeting Andy. Generally, life is no different as with the Insulin pump, and he manages his diabetes really well. It’s just part of daily life, and he doesn’t let it have an impact on what he wants to do."

Treatments

Most effective improvements

My biggest success has been since using the insulin pump my blood sugars have become much more controlled (even if not perfect). This has enabled me to enjoy being more physically active, as with a little bit of planning (such as modifying the basal on the pump before, during and after exercise) I can still go running and complete events such as Tough Mudder and the Great North Run.

I feel the biggest improvement that can be made is by making Continuous Glucose Monitoring and flash glucose monitoring more accessible to everyone with diabetes. I was allowed to try a Libre system for a week as part of the launch of the system. The data available from this is incredibly useful for improving your blood glucose readings and enabling data-driven modifications to future basal and bolus patterns. Without this system, and without an unrealistic amount of daily testing, diabetes is currently managed by guesswork.

Research should also be focusing on closing the loop between CGM and the insulin pump, especially since the technology already exists to do this.

Fundraising

Raising money for Diabetes UK

I’ve chosen to raise money for Diabetes UK as the advice provided by the charity is highly valuable, not just for newly diagnosed people but for those of us who have lived with it for longer. I also feel it is vital to help fund research and into diabetes care and technologies to improve the outcome in the future.

Plus we’ve done a lot of fundraising in the last few years for other charities, and felt it was about time we did something for the charity supporting the condition we’re most affected by!

 

The Great North Run

Having an event to train for is a great way to keep focused on exercising regularly and avoid letting fitness slip. The Great North Run is so iconic, and as I’m from the North East originally (now living in the Midlands) it is great to be able to complete such a great event back home.

Danielle said, "I did the Great North Run once before when I was 19 to raise money for Breast Cancer research following my gran battling the illness. I’ve wanted to run it again ever since because the atmosphere of the race is like no other in the UK. With my 30th birthday this year I thought it would be a good way to mark the milestone, and running for Diabetes UK means I’ll be running a second GNR for a cause close to my heart. I’m looking forward to having Andy by my side to see him experience it for the first time."

We’ve done a few runs together over the last few years – the longest being the Birmingham Black Country half marathon in 2017. We’ve also done a few Tough Mudders, which we initially started in a bid to be ‘fitter’ for our wedding, and then kept doing out of some twisted enjoyment.

Over winter, having not yet signed up to an event, we’ve let our training slip. I’m enjoying getting back in the gym and running again, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.

 

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