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Natasha’s story: our lives our voices and becoming a young leader

Natasha, a Young Leader from Our Lives Our Voices youth programme, standing in front of her photography project,
The peer support element of this project has been invaluable, having friends and other people my age to talk to about diabetes has been one of the key benefits as they understand exactly what you’re going through.

Natasha was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 17 and very shortly after joined the Northern Ireland youth programme Our Lives Our Voices back in 2019. Taking on the role of a Young Leader, Natasha worked closely alongside the Northern Ireland Youth Team and other Young Leaders to develop the programme over the years, ensuring it offered strong support to young people living with diabetes in the region. As Our Lives Our Voices joins the Together Type 1 youth programme, led by Diabetes UK, Natasha shares her experiences with us:


It’s really hard to believe, but I am coming up to five years since my diagnosis. This happened just as I turned 17 and at an already very busy time as I was taking my A-Levels. Looking back, it is odd to think that I actually had the answer right in front of me – I was doing food science as part of my studies and one of the topics focused on diabetes. As we were studying it, we chatted through the symptoms and every single one felt familiar. I was drinking litres and litres of water, constantly running to the toilet and felt so exhausted all the time, but I had put this down to exhaustion from school. The exhaustion really did impact me, I was falling asleep in classes, at lunch and as soon I got home.

This went on for just over three months, and at this point, I had lost nearly five stone in weight. My whole family and I had put this down to exam stress, and even though I was studying diabetes, I put it down to stress too! Eventually, we visited the doctor but at that time I had a strong phobia of needles and struggled to have my blood taken. Instead, the doctor took a urine sample, and we were told to go to A&E immediately. Again, having my blood taken there was a real struggle however due to the severity of my condition, it was something I had to get over very quickly. Quite a bit of time has passed since my diagnosis, and it is safe to say that I’m completely over my fear of needles – sometimes I just feel a little sick when I have blood taken in clinic.  


Joining Our Lives Our Voices  

I remember my diabetes psychologist recommended Our Lives Our Voices in November 2019, around five months after my diagnosis. I was still 17 at the time so my first meeting was with the younger peer group but soon after I was then able to join the 18+ peer support group.

The peer support element of this project has been invaluable, having friends and other people my age to talk to about diabetes has been one of the key benefits as they understand exactly what you’re going through.

I’ve had such a fun time being part of Our Lives Our Voices and have come away with more confidence in my diabetes. The online fireside chats with healthcare professionals and others living with diabetes have given me a great platform to learn from, in a more relaxed environment.

Becoming a Young Leader

I would encourage anyone thinking of becoming a Young Leader to go for it! You’ll make friends and it takes away the loneliness of living with type 1 diabetes. I particularly enjoyed seeing the younger members of Our Lives Our Voices finding friends through events or online sessions.

I think this project has helped young people in many ways; gaining confidence in understanding their condition, understanding the importance of wellbeing, and building relationships with young people their age.

I was recently involved in a photography project with Our Lives Our Voices and Belfast Exposed – Type 1 Through The Lens. This project was an amazing experience, I was able to expand on one of my hobbies and express myself through photography. It was a brilliant course throughout the summer, and it was lovely to meet other young people who are interested in photography.


If you had to describe your experience of Our Lives Our Voices in three words, what would they be?

Fun, encouraging and exciting.


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