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Brian's story: cycling towards a better future

Brian smiling on the beach with his helmet on

Brian Lambert

Diagnosed in 2019

UK Wide Cycle Ride isn’t a race, it’s a ride - it’s a ride to show people that just because we have diabetes, it doesn’t stop us from living a normal life.

After getting diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 50, Brian struggled to come to terms with how his life had changed. In his story, he shares how lifestyle changes and a new-found love for cycling have helped him to feel in control again.  

Diagnosis

Feeling unwell

I was unaware that I had diabetes for a long while; I knew there was something going on but I just thought I was tired or that work was taking its toll. And because my symptoms developed in such a slow and gradual way, I didn’t really think twice about it being something more serious. 

I’ve always been quite a large guy, at one point I was around 19 and a half stone, and so I decided then that it was time to lose some weight. I went on a little bit of a diet and started to lose some of it, so I thought ‘ok, this is working’.

But within six months, my weight had dropped to 11 stone 5 pounds. It’s hard to explain, because at the time I didn’t really notice what was happening. Looking back, I know I should have - but when you’re living in the moment, it’s really difficult. 

It was only when I woke up one morning and couldn’t see properly that I decided to go to the doctors. They tested my blood glucose (sugar) levels and sent me straight to A&E. That’s when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, at the age of 50. 

Coming to terms with my diagnosis

It was a very surreal and frightening experience, and although my diabetes nurse was a great source of support - coming out of hospital and having to accept that your life has changed was difficult. I remember getting home, looking in the food cupboards and thinking, ‘what do I eat?’. 

In the first few months following my diagnosis, I went through so many different stages. I experienced depression about not being able to eat this and eat that, and I felt insecure and embarrassed about having diabetes. Then I went through denial where I refused to take my insulin because I thought I didn’t need it, or refused to eat so I didn’t need to take as much insulin. 

The hospital gave me two leaflets when I was diagnosed, and at the bottom of one was the Diabetes UK website. I visited it online, and from there - that sort of changed my life. Everything I needed to know was there, from support to recipes and information about managing my condition. 

Thanks to making changes to my lifestyle, and what and how I eat, I’ve been able to manage my weight and reduce my insulin dose by about 75%. I’ve worked really hard at it, and I’ve grabbed life by the horns. I still have my bad days like everyone else, but overall - I feel much more in control. 

Activity

Challenging myself

I wasn’t a cyclist before UK Wide Cycle Ride; the only exercise I used to do was either wrestling with someone during my job as a security officer, or jumping in my car! But after I started developing problems with my toes, and my diabetes nurse pushed me to move, I took the first step to becoming more active and bought myself an Oxygen e-bike. 

I had tried my normal bike before that, but I could hardly get to the end of the road on it. So, rather than give up, I got an e-bike and it changed my life. I was going to be the first person to ride one in RideLondon last year, but unfortunately that got cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Then I saw UK Wide Cycle Ride online and thought I had to give it a go. It’s virtual, I could do it in my own time, I didn’t have to travel or book hotels to take part.. I just thought, ‘let’s do it!’. 

My UK Wide Cycle Ride experience

It was a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it; I felt motivated throughout the entire month and the community was like one big team - it was really special.

I managed to do the full 950 miles, which was a huge goal for me. I had never cycled that far in my life so I have to admit, I did find it hard - but hitting the target felt incredible. 

Nowadays, I can’t wait to get on my bike. I’ve given up driving and tend to cycle everywhere - I built my strength up on the e-bike and now I can take the mountain bike out for 20 to 23 miles at a time. It’s currently being custom sprayed with the Diabetes UK logo because I want to promote the charity and raise awareness; I want to make people stop and stare and ask questions. 

This time round, I’m planning to do 950 miles again - but I want to do it in three weeks. That’s about 50 miles a day, so 25 miles in the morning before work and 25 miles after. 

UK Wide Cycle Ride isn’t a race, it’s a ride - it’s a ride to show people that just because we have diabetes, it doesn’t stop us from living a normal life. Yes, we may have more to think about, or more to consider, but that won’t stop us. 

Support Brian on his cycling journey

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