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Swim22 team helped me cope with my type 2 diagnosis and other health conditions

Michelle in wheelchair looking away from camera

Michelle Wacek

Diagnosed aged 24

I went on a diabetes course but there were so many older people there, I felt like a fly in the ointment.

Michelle talks about managing being a young person with type 2 and living with other health conditions. 

Coming to terms with diagnosis 

In late 2019, Michelle Wacek was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 24 after feeling shaky, unquenchably thirsty and drained of energy. She ignored symptoms for several months until she felt incredibly unwell and eventually visited the GP for help. After explaining her symptoms, the doctor suspected diabetes and sent Michelle for blood tests. 

“I was absolutely terrified. I was scared because I knew diabetes could be dangerous. So I went away and researched it."

Juggling other conditions 

Michelle lives with FND (functional neurological disorder), tics and non-epileptic attack disorder and therefore finds her diabetes hard to manage due to her other conditions - although they are unrelated: “it’s a lot to keep on top of.”

“At the time of diagnosis, I lived in a second-storey flat, was wheelchair-bound and not able to get out without my husband. It was very difficult and mentally, I was in a horrible place. Although my mobility has improved slightly and I’m now living in a ground floor flat, it’s had a knock-on effect on my mental health.”

“When I was diagnosed, I blamed myself. People were saying I was too young to be there.

"There’s a perception and stigma that type 2 diabetes can be self-inflicted, and I think that needs to be gotten rid of. After learning more about the condition I’ve realised it’s a lot more complicated than people think."

“People will see a bigger person and think they must have eaten too much and made themselves like that, but everyone is different. My diabetes didn’t happen just because I ate and drank the wrong things. My diet didn’t help, but there were lots of factors that came into play.”

Support from Swim22 team

“I did get support from the GP but most of all I got support from the Swim22 Facebook group. I saw the challenge advertised on Facebook, I love swimming and was swimming weekly when I started as my mobility issues weren’t as bad at that point in time. 

The Facebook page was nice, I would speak to other people who have FND and feel supported. I wanted to do Swim22 to raise money and do as much swimming as I could.

"I always try to push more but with my other medical issues, doing anything is a challenge. If I overdo it, it’s a nightmare, I was reminded that it’s ok to just do what I can."

Finding my own path

“I didn’t receive much advice from the GP, - after they told me about my diagnosis - I went and did my own research. I went to forums, Facebook, and the Diabetes UK website. I read other people’s testimonials and how they achieved remission. I have Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) too so trying to balance that with diabetes was a huge learning curve. 

The GP did say that as I’m quite young I had a very high chance of putting my diabetes into remission.”

Michelle began to diet alongside taking metformin as a low dose. “Little by little I understood what I had to do, I had to retrain myself to know what sugar is. In my brain at the time, I thought sugar meant sweets, chocolate, and cake but there are hidden sugars in lots of food.”

Within a year of eating less Michelle’s blood sugar levels were back in the non-diabetic range.

“Being a younger person with type 2, for me, it’s getting the message out there that being diagnosed at a younger age is scary, but you sometimes have the opportunity to make yourself better. 

“My blood sugars have gone up again and I’m classed as pre diabetic again but my outlook is much more positive now, despite having all these other health conditions. If you’re committed to managing your condition you can live a relatively normal life, it’s about finding your own path with diabetes.”

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