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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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“When I was told that I’d gone into remission, it was such a big surprise to see how quickly DiRECT worked for me.”

Eric, 64, from Glasgow, worked for the city council as a VAT officer. Now retired, he was still working when he took part in the DiRECT trial in 2014, a couple of years after his Type 2 diagnosis. Being a carer for his wife, who had a stroke, was a big motivation for Eric to stay well and avoid diabetes complications. Going on the trial offered him the unmissable opportunity to put his Type 2 into remission. Following his time on the study, Eric continues to work hard to maintain a healthy weight and remain in remission.

Eric Borland
Age: 64
Lived with Type 2 diabetes for two to three years and has been in remission for more than four years
 

A big motivation to keep myself healthy was so that I could take care of my wife.

Eric's journey with diabetes

  • Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes a couple of years before he joined the DiRECT trial. 
  • He had previously been told he was at high risk of developing the condition if he wasn’t careful about his diet and increased the amount of exercise he did. 
  • However, diagnosis still came as a shock to him.
  • Being put on metformin, but not advised on ways to adapt his lifestyle to help him manage his Type 2 better were a frustration.
  • Eric didn’t want to take diabetes medication alone – he knew about the risks of complications and wanted to avoid them.
  • His wife’s stroke a few years after his diagnosis meant that Eric was determined to stay healthy so that he could care for her.
  • An invitation to take part in DiRECT came at just the right time for Eric, as he was keen to avoid diabetes complications so that he could continue to look after his wife.
  • Both Eric and the DiRECT team were surprised at how quickly he lost weight and went into remission.
  • Eric remains in remission, more than four years after his initial involvement with the study.

Diagnosis 

I had already been considered at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. But the diagnosis still came as a shock to me, despite the doctor telling me that this could happen if I wasn’t careful about my diet and didn’t increase the amount of exercise I was doing. It was a bit of a blow. 

Before I was diagnosed the doctor very clearly told me that developing Type 2 could be related to lifestyle, but at diagnosis, the only thing they offered me straight away was medication – metformin.

This was upsetting – no one at that point said anything about my lifestyle and there was no discussion about anything I could do about my diabetes. It was more about me having to live with the diabetes medication – nothing else. 

But I knew that having diabetes would put me at higher risk of developing different complications – two of my best friends had Type 2 and I also worked with a number of people who had diabetes. So I knew quite a bit about this aspect of the condition. 

And a big motivation for me to keep myself healthy was so that I could take care of my wife. She had a stroke on the plane coming back from holiday some time after I was diagnosed  – and a year before I took part in DiRECT. 


Going on the trial

I’d been living with Type 2 diabetes for about two or three years by the time my doctor sent a letter inviting people, like me, who’d recently been diagnosed with the condition, to take part in the trial.

I was very interested in taking part because I knew having Type 2 would put me at higher risk of diabetes complications. But I needed to stay as healthy as possible, so that I could be here for my wife and look after her – that’s why I decided to go on the trial.


DiRECT challenges

I didn’t experience any major challenges during the time I was on DiRECT and it didn’t affect me emotionally. I remember there was the odd day when I’d feel drained or tired – that was it. But a lot of people around me said they wouldn’t be able to go through with the trial, like I have, and my wife was worried that I wasn’t eating enough. 

Unexpectedly, it was the passing comments of people who thought something wasn’t right with me, or that I’d lost too much weight, had gone too far with the diet, or that my cheeks were sunken, that had some impact on me.

Sticking to the soups and shakes could be tough, too. There were six flavours for the shakes. But I couldn’t have the same flavour every meal – I had to vary them. The funny thing was that I’d never been keen on mushrooms, but I had to have the mushroom soup, rather than the other flavours as I didn’t like all of them. I think, if anything, that was a problem – the lack of variation and having to have the same thing every day for three months. 

I spaced my meals out during the day, so that I was having something every four hours.
 

I’d had a very sweet tooth before I went on the trial and there were times when I desperately wanted to have something sweet. It was also difficult to have to refuse when people offered me tea and biscuits. 


Support

In spite of the challenges, the DiRECT team supported me, and my colleagues were also very supportive. My family were supportive, too, but they were worried about how quickly I was losing the weight. 

In fact, my neighbours thought I was unwell because of the very sudden weight loss. And people I hadn’t seen in a long while were very shocked – thinking I had a terrible disease. This type of reaction tended to be the worst thing of all. 

Unexpected results

When I was told that I’d gone into remission, it was such a big surprise to see how quickly DiRECT worked and how considerably the trial changed my diabetic status. It happened straight away, which wasn’t something I, or the DiRECT team looking after me, had expected to happen.  

I was on blood pressure tablets, but came off everything when I went on DiRECT. And for about a year after the trial, I didn’t need any of the medication I’d been on before. I’m now back on tablets for my blood pressure, but I’m taking a lower dose. 

The future

I’ve been told that as long as I maintain a healthy enough weight at a reasonable level, I’ll continue to be in remission. 
I weighed 111kg when I started on DiRECT and I went down to 85kg. But I’m now up to 90kg. I’m a bit heavier because I fractured my hip playing basketball and that was a setback. They put a plate in my hip – that was a week before my daughter’s wedding! 

One thing I realise now is how much being overweight stopped me from doing things before. In that respect, now I’ve lost weight, my life has changed so much.

I’m so pleased I went on the trial. Looking back, going on DiRECT couldn’t have happened at a better time for me. I retired from work, my lifestyle has changed and I’ve tried to be a little bit more active. I joined a gym, but having fractured my hip meant I couldn’t go. And I am a carer for my wife.

Thinking about my time on the study, I’d say that the difficulty is two-fold. For someone who deals with things the way I do, it’s fine – I was very fixed on the idea. But for those who can’t stick with diets, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to follow this programme. But I’d definitely recommend it. 

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