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"Manage your diabetes and avoid developing complications.”

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When Corinne developed Type 2 diabetes 30 years ago, a lack of information led to complications. While she feels there is much better support for people living with diabetes now, she wants to warn others of the dangers of ignoring the condition.

Corinne Wykes
Age 64
Has had Type 2 diabetes for 33 years

“In the past, blaming myself has led to me burying my head in the sand.”

Corinne’s journey with diabetes

  • Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes aged 31 in 1985.
  •  Ignored the condition for 10 years.
  •  After becoming very unwell, she was prescribed Metformin, then Gliclazide, before moving onto insulin 18 years ago.
  • Has retinopathy and neuropathy due to diabetes complications.
  •  After becoming a Service Champion for Diabetes UK, Corinne finally has her condition under control, but wants to warn others of the dangers of not managing their diabetes.

Emotions

When I was diagnosed in 1985, I didn’t know anything about diabetes. I’d heard of it, but I really didn’t know much about it at all. It was picked up in a medical and at that time, I wasn’t very symptomatic. I wasn’t prescribed any medication and so I stuck my head in the sand and carried on for 10 years without looking after myself.

Now, there’s a wealth of information available, but I still think there isn’t enough psychological support for people living with diabetes. At the moment, I think people don’t realise how having diabetes affects you – and your family – psychologically. 

I have a strong family history of diabetes, and with that comes guilt. When my daughter had gestational diabetes, I worried that was my fault. In turn, she’s worried that because she had gestational diabetes, her son will have a higher risk of developing the condition. Self-blame is a difficult emotion to manage and, in the past, it’s led to me buried my head in the sand. 

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Work

I was working in the path lab in a hospital when I was diagnosed, so I knew a bit about diabetes, but didn’t know about any of the consequences and the risks. I was diagnosed, given a bit of paper detailing what I should and shouldn’t eat and that was it.

When, after 10 years, my diabetes started making me feel really unwell, I initially blamed it on the fact I was working shifts, but when I went to the doctor, I was prescribed Metformin.

Then, after I took early retirement at 58, I needed something to do. That was when I saw a Service Champion role advertised at Diabetes UK. Since then I’ve acquired so much knowledge. My story is to tell people not to be like me and do nothing, because you will suffer the complications. I’ve had retinopathy - a complication of diabetes caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the back of the eye retina. I’ve also got neuropathy – nerve damage - in my feet and problems with my hands, which has been caused by my poorly managed diabetes. 


Diet, nutrition and exercise

There were no diabetes clinics or health checks when I was first diagnosed. I had my GP and a list of things that I should and shouldn’t eat, but for 10 years my life carried on ostensibly as normal. 

Then I became very unwell. I had all the classic symptoms - thirst, going to the loo a lot, blurred vision, and I felt awful. I was prescribed Metformin. Then I moved on to gliclazide and was eventually put on insulin, which I’ve now been on for about 18 years. 

Still, I didn’t fully understand how serious the condition could be. I’m overweight, but I think my genes are to blame for me developing diabetes as well, as I have a strong family history of the condition. Now that there are educational courses for people with diabetes, it’s making people aware that what they put in their mouth matters.


Diabetes UK and me

I started volunteering with Diabetes UK seven years ago as a Service Champion and today I’m secretary of our local support group. I’m also a speaker volunteer and have recently trained to be a Risk Assessor for the ‘Are you at Risk of Diabetes’ work, plus I am a patient representative on the “National Footcare Audit Team”. 

In that time, the services locally have changed completely. There’s so much information out there. Diabetes UK have fantastic resources and a fabulous website where you can read up about things in language that you’re able to understand. 

You do now get a recognised annual check, not just looking at your sugars. They do all the checks, and rightly so. 
A few years ago, I was campaigning and I contacted a local GP. I was trying to get a multi-discipline footcare team in place, and he said, ‘I think we spend enough time on people with diabetes.’ I was stunned. 

Thankfully, since then, things have changed so much. They do now recognise that if they don’t look after people with diabetes, the costs are going to get even worse. They have put a multidisciplinary footcare team in, which was initially expensive but is saving them a lot of money and saving people’s feet. 

Today, there’s less of a one-size-fits all approach. People living with diabetes are more aware of different treatments and can request them. I don’t recognise diabetes care now. It’s so different to what it was 30 years ago, and even compared to 10 years ago. It’s been an amazing journey.


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