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Volunteer Spotlight - September 2023 - Lee Morgan

Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for September 2023, Lee Morgan

Lee was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 7. He's recently become one of our Live Well Champions in Wales.

A man and a boy are wearing Diabetes UK tshirts and crazy hair, holding a map.
“Realising the impact I can have drives me to do more.”

Lee works as a Special Effects Makeup Artist. He first got involved with Diabetes UK in 2019 when he used his skills to create a series of images representing depression, exhaustion and isolation, highlighting the psychological impact of living with diabetes. These images were used at an event hosted by Diabetes UK Cymru to promote Diabetes UK’s ‘Too Often Missing: Making emotional and psychological support routine in diabetes care’ report.

The emotional toll of living with diabetes is something Lee is all too familiar with. When he was diagnosed in the 1980s, he felt there was a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding around diabetes, and he experienced various forms of bullying as a result of his diagnosis. He says the biggest reason he does what he does is to educate other people about diabetes, and says “I don’t want others to feel how I did, so if I can make that difference, I will do it.”

While working on film sets and at photo shoots, Lee talks about his diabetes a lot. He usually starts by asking “do you know what diabetes is?” and often finds that people think it’s all about eating. He explains that it’s much more than that, and talks about the different types of diabetes and how it’s managed. He says “seeing the look on people’s faces prompted me to get more involved.”

Lee has a Facebook page called KeyTones Diabetes that he uses to promote the work of Diabetes UK and to help encourage people to talk about diabetes. He uses the phrase “it’s your journey” to acknowledge the fact that everyone’s experience of diabetes is different. Lee hosts live videos on his page, but says people seem to find it hard to talk about the condition:

“There seems to be a stigma, like a cloud, around diabetes but that’s not there with other conditions. If I was diagnosed now, I’d want someone to talk to me about it.”

Recently, Lee spoke to a man who mentioned he’d been very thirsty, and Lee told him about the symptoms of diabetes – tired, toilet, thirsty, thinner – and advised him to see his GP. A few weeks later Lee saw the man again, who thanked him for the advice as he’d been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

“Realising the impact I can have drives me to do more.”

Lee gets a lot of support from his family, particularly his son, who’s 12. Two years ago, they undertook a 10-mile walk around Rhondda, where they live, to raise awareness of diabetes. And this year they’re taking part in our One Million Step Challenge. Lee has committed to walking 1.7 million steps over three months, while his son has taken on the half a million steps challenge.

Lee’s son has also produced small pouches containing two badges – one promoting Lee’s KeyTones Diabetes page, and one promoting Diabetes UK – and two small ceramic hearts, which he says are “to help people in Wales with diabetes.” Lee often goes to Comic Cons and festivals, where he takes the pouches to give to the celebrities he meets, along with copies of the images he produced for the Too Often Missing event. He asks the celebrities to sign the images, and he’s hoping to auction them in the future to raise funds for Diabetes UK. And he’s often delighted to see pictures of the celebrities wearing the badges he’s given them.

Lee wants to continue working with Diabetes UK Cymru for as long as he can. He’s been talking to them about hosting an awareness and fundraising event on a large field that’s at the end of the street where he lives. And in four years’ time, when Lee turns 50, he says he’d like to mark the event by walking the length of Wales, and raise awareness of diabetes along the way. He knows he needs to improve his physical and mental fitness for this, and it will be a big challenge for him, but it’s something that he’s really excited about.  

For Lee, the main highlight of volunteering with Diabetes UK is “just engaging with people, making them aware of what diabetes is.” Although Lee says he’s quite shy, he likes talking to people about something that he’s personally attached to. And his message for other people thinking about volunteering is “don’t think about it, just do it – out of all the personal accomplishments you can get, helping someone is huge.”

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