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Helen's story: taking on one million steps to honour my dad and brother

Helen celebrating finishing her one million steps


Walking in memory of her dad and brother, David, who died of type 2 diabetes complications

It’s not just for a good cause. It’s the whole package. It’s doing something positive for yourself, it’s about the people you’re helping. You’re just enjoying life and going for it.

In her story, Helen, 51, talks about how taking part in our 2020 One Million Step Challenge helped her cope with grief and stay connected to family and friends during lockdown.

Life with diabetes

Family connections to diabetes

My brother, David, had type 2 diabetes for a number of years. He was injecting and had all sorts of complications. In 2019, he was quite unwell for a number of months. 

It turned out he had heart disease and water around his heart and lungs. That’s when we lost him. He was just 54. His death has devastated me and my mum, but for his wife and kids, it’s another level of loss. 

We’d lost my dad three years earlier. David had never really got over Dad’s death. I think that played a part in him not looking after himself as much as he should. I wanted to do something to honour them both. My way of doing that was taking on the One Million Steps Challenge. It was the first time I’d done any fundraising for charity.   

I look after my mum, who's nearly 80, and she’s loved me doing the challenge and watching my progress. It’s been wonderful for her to see all the pictures I’ve taken on my walks and hear about all the different people taking part and their stories. 

This challenge has been something for her to focus on, it’s been something else for me. It’s been an amazing way of supporting me through my grief. If you’re not doing something, if you’re not distracting yourself, you’re just living it every day. 


Getting started with the challenge

I took the plunge, signed up, and then I couldn’t wait for it to start. I threw myself into it straight away. It’s quite hilly where I live. I’d walk to my mum’s doing various routes, which is nearly four miles. The hills were quite a challenge, but it just got easier and easier and I could go further and further. 

The challenge took place during lockdown, so it was perfect timing in some respects. I’d go out, put my music on, and focus on walking. It’s been quiet - birds are singing and there aren’t many cars about. I can go to my local park and take pictures and see something different every day.

People on Facebook have liked the photos I’ve taken on my walks, so it’s helped me keep connected to people who have moved away or who I haven’t seen much of this year. I do a lot of gardening as part of my steps, and I do my mum’s too. It lets me have quality time with her.   

I go to Slimming World classes, but I didn’t tell anyone there about what I was doing until I’d more or less completed the challenge. It kept me persevering with Slimming World during lockdown. Others were finding eating and drinking harder during those months, but the challenge helped keep me on track. 

Crossing the finish line

The final day was brilliant. I was on a walk and I ended up at my mum’s. She was outside herding her geese. I said, ‘I’m nearly there,’ and I ran around and round her bungalow until I’d done it. It was dusk. I came home, put my Diabetes UK T-shirt on, and sat in the garden with some champagne while my partner, Rudi, took photos.  

It’s a shock when you’re finished and it’s all over. Others who’ve taken part have said they didn’t know what to do with themselves afterwards.   

Since taking part in the challenge, I’ve lost three stone. I’ve also joined an NHS group to learn more about preventing type 2 diabetes via Facebook. I've learnt new tips about cooking and portion sizes, and it's been really useful to hear advice from others.

It’s been a great opportunity to do something for me. Before the school run, if I have 45 minutes to spare, I’ll go and do another walk. It just rolls on and keeps going. 

Now, I’ve set myself a challenge of 20k steps a day. I know it sounds like a lot. But I’ve got that urge to do it. Before, if I had a bit of free time, I’d have sat and looked at Facebook for half an hour. Whereas now I’ll go for a walk - it’s the way forward. It’s going to be my life now. It’s opened up a whole new ballgame. 


Raising funds for a good cause

 At the end of the challenge, my fundraising went berserk. People were donating £50 and £100 at a time. It hits home then that you’ve done something special; that you must have touched a few people having raised £911.91. 

There’s always a need for research into diabetes. I think the money I’ve raised will be used wisely and will hopefully make the lives of people living with diabetes easier. I also hope it will help promote exercise and prevention of type 2 diabetes. 

I think prevention is very important. I’ve met people through this challenge who have turned their type 2 diabetes around. I keep telling my partner he could achieve remission too. I also want to do as much as I can to prevent myself from getting type 2 diabetes. 

Diabetes UK and me

My advice to anyone considering taking on One Million Steps

Everybody on the One Million Steps Facebook group is brilliant. There’s no negativity. Everybody supports each other. It’s just lovely. 

 I’d say go for it. It makes you feel so much better. I’ve gone down four dress sizes. The whole thing is just brilliant.

It’s not just for a good cause. It’s the whole package. It’s doing something positive for yourself, it’s about the people you’re helping. You’re just enjoying life and going for it. I can’t thank Diabetes UK enough - you’ve done us proud. 

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