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Harry's story: Membership made me feel like I'm not alone

Harry in Diabetes UK vest smiling outside

Harry Leung

Harry, 34, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 4

I’ve been a Diabetes UK member for 20 years. Reading stories in Balance about people at different stages of their lives and their diabetes helped me deal with what I was going through.

Harry has lived with diabetes for most of his life so knows first-hand the impact it can have on everyday life. Harry also has the the skin condition vitiligo. In 2022 he decided to run 33 marathons, to mark 30 years of living with type 1 diabetes and 3 years of living with vitiligo. Here he talks about his Diabetes UK membership and running journey. 

Diabetes journey

Diabetes has been there at every big stage of my life – school, university, and my career. I did experience diabetes burnout at school, so I can relate to others who are struggling. When you're a teenager your diabetes feels more apparent and it's hard growing up with diabetes, learning how to do injections and navigating that in social situations was an adjustment, but I’m lucky I’ve had lots of support from my family.

When I was diagnosed, doctors made it clear I can still do everything I want, but diabetes is not going to go away and there are complications if it's not managed. 

Diabetes UK membership

I’ve been a Diabetes UK member for 20 years. Reading stories in Balance about people at different stages of their lives and their diabetes helped me deal with what I was going through at different times. It makes me feel like I’m not alone and that we’re in it together. The stories in Balance magazine are so human and feature people from different backgrounds and walks of life talk about how they deal with their diabetes at that point in their life, they're so relatable.

Setting myself a challenge

I got really into running during the first lockdown. It was a way to get outside and stay healthy and it all progressed from there. I've wanted to do something for Diabetes UK and the Vitiligo Society for a while to raise awareness and mark my milestone diabetes anniversary so I decided in April 2021 that I wanted to take on this challenge, and having trained for two years, I'm now confident I can achieve my goal. I did my first run for the challenge on News Years Day 2022. 

I’m doing a mixture of public events and runs by myself, I'm aiming to do 2 to 3 marathons a month. It’s important to me, as someone living with type 1, to give back to the UK’s leading diabetes charity and prove to myself and others that I can live a normal, healthy life.

Exercise helps me a lot, so it’s really encouraging to see how technology has advanced over the years and enables people like me to safely take part in strenuous activities and stay healthy. If I’d attempted this five years ago, it would’ve been much harder but with my Freestyle Libre it's much easier to do long activities. 

Advice to others

I think it’s always best to be honest about your diabetes. Not everyone around you is going to know what to do to support you, and that’s OK. You can educate people and communicate what you need. I was always unsure about what to say when starting a new job, but in the long run it’s worth being honest about your condition. People will generally be sympathetic and happy for you to do what you need to to look after yourself. Accepting your diabetes is important.

You can still pursue your dreams; you just might have to do some extra things to look after yourself. But that’s what makes you, you. I’d also like parents of children with type 1 to know that diabetes is not the end of the world. Just listen to medical advice and know help is out there.

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