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Sarah’s story: A research volunteer trying to help others living with diabetes

Sarah Parsons

Sarah was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes aged 21 and is receiving treatment for multiple health complications. She is an active participant in diabetes research, and training as an NHS Research Champion, and she is striving to help researchers explore new ways to prevent and treat diabetes. 


Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes aged 21, following a difficult childhood. From a young age I developed problems with disordered eating, then I was told by my healthcare team at age 13 that I was developing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which has since been proven to be triggered by my being insulin resistant. 

Following my diagnosis of type 2 I was put onto metformin. I then made dietary changes and lost weight and went into remission for a few years in my twenties.

But my personal circumstances became very challenging and I restarted metformin treatment. My disordered eating then worsened, so I subsequently took part in two weight loss management programmes, before I was referred to have bariatric (weight loss) surgery in 2013.  


Weight loss surgery

I had gastric bypass surgery in 2014. My starting weight was 190kg, which dropped to 114kg post-op, within seven months. As a result of this weight loss, I went into remission from type 2 diabetes for just over two years. 

But I experienced several complications following the operation, including gastrointestinal disorders, bowel problems and a diagnosis of pancreatitis, which I think may have developed in part due to my history of disordered eating.  

All in all, the journey was quite horrific. And I spoke about my experiences of bariatric surgery at the 2023 Diabetes UK Professional Conference (DUKPC) to share how the process was for me, and the problems I experienced.  


Managing through the pandemic

The pandemic was a really tough time for me.

By this point I was told that I was no longer in remission, and I had a blip with my eating and regained some weight, although I was able to lose that quite quickly.

But I also suffered two bad falls, and because I have problems with my back I’ve been on crutches ever since, and I have found it very hard to do any form of exercise to help lose weight.  

I am working with my healthcare team to monitor my complications. I am currently taking insulin, and I’m on a plan to ensure my weight remains stable.  


Diabetes research

I volunteer in diabetes research because I want everyone to learn from my situation. I am training to become an NHS Research Champion, which means I can go out to local communities to talk about upcoming research and how people can get involved.  

Researchers need people living with diabetes who are willing to participate in studies, either in trials directly or by filling in surveys to build data. This will help researchers work towards the prevention of diabetes, as well as future treatments.  

I appeared on ‘Diabetes Discussions – a Diabetes UK Podcast’ as a guest on Episode 5: Research to discuss my work as an NHS Research Champion and why I feel passionately that people living with diabetes can make a massive difference by engaging with diabetes research.  

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