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"I wish I'd known that changing my lifestyle could've prevented me from losing my sight"

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Jaswinder has sight loss because of her diabetes. She didn't know that diabetes could affect her eyes and wants other people to know this vital information, so they're aware of what can go wrong and the action they can take.

 

 

Jaswinder Kalsi
Age 60
Living with Type 2 diabetes since 1986

"I wish I'd known that changes to my lifestyle could've helped prevent complications from setting in. There’s now so much information, whereas there wasn’t 30 years ago, just a few leaflets at the hospital. Now there is information everywhere.”

My diagnosis

I remember being really thirsty all the time and very tired, but it wasn’t until a year later that I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It was upsetting as I was only in my mid-twenties and at the time I thought you either got diabetes when you were really young or in your forties. I had a young family, which added to the upset. And my mum was living with diabetes at the time too. 

I was put on tablets and then insulin – I've been injecting insulin for the past 13 years.

I don't remember anyone talking to me about my lifestyle. So my life carried on pretty much as normal, as I had a young family and didn’t have much time to do anything differently. And I also working full-time, so life was very busy. Looking back, I was probably eating the wrong food and not looking after myself as much as I should have been.

Eye problems

I remember when I was first told about my eye problems. I came home crying and asked why was this was happening to me. I thought this is what happens to my parents not me, and I couldn’t comprehend why I was getting problems so much sooner than imagined. I thought it was the end of the world. 

I was diagnosed with retinopathy and have been having laser eye surgery since 2002, in both eyes. I also had a cataract operation that caused further complications.

I look around at people being so active, and there are some things I just can't do because I can't see properly. I can't drive at night. I used to love sewing, but I can't thread needles anymore.

It's sad, even now. Especially with my granddaughters – when I read stories to them, I can't always get my eyes to focus. So we have to choose a different book with bigger letters.

I do worry about going blind. I don't want to become so sick that I become dependent on the rest of my family. It would be unfair on them. Because you could say I've brought this on myself, I should've taken better care of myself. 

Changes to my lifestyle

I now have a healthier lifestyle. My kids bought me a Fitbit and I try to do around 9000 steps a day.

I don't work full-time anymore and although it means I have more time to be active, I do miss it. Work gave me a sense of purpose which helped me through the dark times, but my family have also been hugely supportive and give me strength. 

Spreading awareness of complications

There's so much diabetes everywhere nowadays, it's so important people are aware of all the complications that can happen.

I spread awareness at work, as a health and wellbeing champion. I put posters up, invite speakers to come into the workplace and request information from different organisations. A lot of my colleagues have told me it’s a great way to get information out there.

If you don't look after yourself, no one else is going to do it for you.

"I wanted to share my story with Diabetes UK to let people with diabetes know what can potentially go wrong, and that there's help and information out there to help you avoid serious complications."

 

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