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'Swim 22 was a welcome challenge!'

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"I developed Type 1 Diabetes in 1976, when I was 25 and teaching PE and English at a grammar school in Shrewsbury. It took a while to stabilise and come to terms with my new lifestyle, but I was very lucky to have tremendous support from my family and friends.

I did have rebellions from time to time - some really bad ones which rocked my control and worried my parents - but I became adept at redressing any deviations in my sugar levels. This probably wasn't a good thing, but I have known of people who become obsessive about their control and make life difficult for those around them as well as themselves and people who depend on others in their family to sort out their diet etc and see that they test and inject on time.

I soon came to the conclusion that in rebelling I was only cheating myself and worrying my parents - who obviously knew I was lying to them and remonstrated with me, but I lived alone and they realised that the effort had to come from me. I took myself in hand and got to grips with things.

Pregnancy caused me tremendous problems and nearly brought my specialist and I to blows, until - after three weeks in hospital - he finally accepted that they were not of my making!  He was brilliant after that.

As an ex-international swimmer in the late sixties and early seventies, swimming has always been my preferred way of keeping fit, so the 'Swim 22' was a welcome challenge! 

I hadn't always trained over the years, but have at times swam in Masters' events - taking care to monitor my sugar levels etc to avoid problems in training and competition - and I've recently gone back to coach and teach with our local swimming club.

The children in the photo have all, at some time, been in groups which I have either taught or coached and have now progressed to more advanced groups; many of them have swum at county level, and one young man - who is now twenty one or two and not in the photo - competed at International Youth level and started his competitive career in one of my groups.

It was my decision to teach/coach at this level, as I love the enthusiasm and excitement you see in these sometimes very young children as they often improve in leaps and bounds.  I was offered the opportuniy to work with more advanced groups, but - although I really enjoy coaching and using my own competitive experience to their advantage - I decided to stay put! I used to coach at my club when I was in my teens and competing at international level, but - although I taught PE for some time, as well as English - I didn't get back to working with a club until I married and came to live in Leek. 

I started training again a couple of times a week and the "Swim 22" fitted in nicely and I managed it in 14 sessions.  

As well as family and friends sponsoring me, I've had overwhelming support from parents at the club, who said they've appreciated the work I've done with their children and were happy to sponsor me.

We've joked since that they were short-changed, as I did an extra session and an extra 108 lengths by mistake!

For the last twenty five years I have been fortunate to have a very supportive husband, and - although I coped with diabetes before we met - his support has helped me through so much.  I'm sure that there are many diabetics like me who value their partners support and know that it helps you to cope with the highs and lows (not meant as a pun - although it's true!) of the condition.

I have never hidden my condition and do not feel embarrassed by it and have rarely had to have time off work because of it. I hope that my contribution to "Swim 22" will be useful."

Words by Liz

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