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Jan's story: stepping towards remission

Jan smiling in her One Million Step Challenge t-shirt and medal

Jan Mather

Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2010

The One Million Step Challenge has been a humbling and enriching experience. I’m so grateful for what it has brought into my life. 

In her story, Jan shares how the One Million Step Challenge brought her closer to her husband and helped her to put her type 2 diabetes into remission.

Diagnosis

Putting others first

I had thyroid cancer in my 30s, and whilst I’m really lucky to have recovered, it has left me with a very slow metabolism, so I’ve struggled with my weight a lot. At my heaviest I was 126 kilos. For many years I cared for my severely disabled son, which was very demanding, so thinking about my own health fell to the bottom of the list.

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 10 years ago, but I just took medication for it. I didn’t have much capacity for thinking about it beyond that.

Over the years I think we had fallen into the habit of using food as a comfort - we cooked and ate well, but it was all quite high in fat and carbohydrates, and large portions. When life is demanding, you just want to make everyone a good meal followed by apple crumble.

Life with diabetes

Changing my lifestyle

My son is a lovely boy, but he has very high needs and caring for him didn’t give me much room for myself. When he was in his 20s, we found a really wonderful residential place for him, and now he is happily settled there.

My life opened out into a different rhythm, where I would visit him, work and spend time with my husband and daughter. 

Three years ago my husband and I were just getting to the stage when we thought life would become calmer - he had retired and I was working from home in a job I loved, when he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. 

It’s quite advanced, but he is having excellent treatment and doing very well. He is a very positive and proactive man, and he decided he was going to do everything he could to make sure that his treatment had the best possible outcome. 

So last summer we decided to change our lifestyle. My blood glucose (sugar) levels were very high, so I knew it would be good for me too.

We cut pretty much all sugar, fat and processed food out of our diet. Eating better improved our energy levels.

And because a friend of mine had done the One Million Step Challenge the year before, when I saw it online I signed up immediately.

Activity

Walking and talking together with my husband

We started our Million Step challenge the next day. We’re really lucky because where we live is so beautiful. It really lifted our spirits and got us through all the difficulties of lockdown.

We’d pack up a thermos of soup and an apple, maybe sit on a bench and just chat. There were days when I didn’t fancy it, but my husband was great - he’d always encourage me. And as soon as you’re out, you’re glad you’ve gone. Even in foul weather, you just get your waterproofs on and get out in the fresh air. 

We take the camera sometimes - we’ve photographed buzzards and deer. And it’s deepened our relationship, walking with someone makes you feel so much more connected to them. I look at my lovely husband and I think, I am so blessed to have this wonderful man to chatter with. We know his cancer is serious, but we’re making sure every day is a bonus. 

I put it on Facebook and raised £280 - my family were wonderful and all sponsored me. I’m not someone who normally posts about their life online, but it felt good, I felt proud of what we were doing. 

Remission

Putting my diabetes into remission

The combination of making changes to my diet and taking up regular exercise meant that I lost a lot of weight quite quickly. My body has changed and I feel so much fitter and stronger. I even go for a little jog occasionally - whereas if you’d have asked me before I’d have said ‘I’ll never run again.’ 

I’m now 83 kilos and have lost more than 40 kilos. I feel so much more confident, because I have committed to something and made it work. It’s an achievement I’ve strived for all my life. And more importantly, my blood sugar levels are right back down. They were in the 80s and they are now 41. I am officially in remission. My doctor was absolutely amazed.

The One Million Step Challenge been a humbling and enriching experience. I’m so grateful for what it has brought into my life.

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