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Katie's Story: Becoming a Young Leader to help other young people navigate type 1 diabetes

Katie Smith

Katie Smith

Diagnosed 2018

"I remember being out with my friends and thinking ‘I'm different now, I wonder if I'll ever feel like part of the group again?'"

When Katie Smith met a former work colleague and discovered that they both live with type 1 diabetes she felt a weight fall off her shoulders.



As a young woman living with the condition Katie, who works as a junior magazine editor, had been struggling to find people whose experiences matched hers. Key to that seemed to be finding someone in her own age group.

Katie, who is now 25 and lives in Camden, North London, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she had just turned 20 in 2018. Alongside the shock of the diagnosis came a feeling of dislocation.

She says:

“I remember being out with my friends and thinking ‘I'm different now, I wonder if I'll ever feel like part of the group again’?”

Prior to her diagnosis, Katie saw herself as a typical young woman. She was studying at the University of St Andrew’s, making friends and enjoying university life.

Then she started to experience all the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, including incredible thirst, weight loss combined with a ravenous hunger and tiredness.

“I just wasn't myself and I knew it,” she says, “But for a time I kept finding reasons to put individual symptoms down to working too hard or training too hard or not getting enough sleep.”

Then one night Katie had a lightbulb moment - her younger brother had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes many years earlier at the age of four and she saw the similarities between what she was experiencing and his condition. After a brief bit of online research she did a finger prick test at home and the result sent her straight to hospital.


The power of support and becoming a Young Leader

With a supportive family around her Katie handled the diagnosis, learned to manage the condition and headed back out into the world, taking type 1 diabetes with her. Following her diagnosis she trained and took part in an ultra-marathon.

While on the surface she was coping well, the underlying worries and feelings of being alone with the condition were there as well. Katie says that she has since discovered that many young people who have a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes as a teenager or young adult go through a similar experience - the feeling a bit of an “outsider” in their peer group.

Katie has signed up to become a Young Leader for Diabetes UK to use her experience to help other young people navigate type 1 diabetes.

She says:

“I was so pleased when I spoke to my former work colleague - we could relate to each other and I want to offer that to other people. it's great to be in a room with people who understand you in a way that others might not.”

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