“Volunteering has taught me a lot about myself and my own experience of living with Type 1. It’s helped me to grow as a person and given me opportunities that I would never have had otherwise.”
Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for April 2019 - Mike Kendall
Mike was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1991. It wasn’t until almost 20 years later though that he really started connecting with others with the condition. Now passionate about peer support, Mike is a volunteer moderator on the Diabetes UK Support Forum. He's also an active blogger and has given talks across the UK about his experience.
Where it all began - discovering the forum
“I had a really nasty hypo one night and had to go to A&E for the first time since I was diagnosed. My wife asked the doctor if it was likely to happen again and his answer was “yes”. This was an eye-opening experience for me and it made me start asking myself questions about my diabetes and how much I still had to learn about managing it.”
This prompted Mike to look online for support, and soon after he discovered the forum in June 2010. “Discovering the forum was a profound experience. It worked for me because I could go at my own pace. I could get a feel for it first before I started posting. I would ask a question and very quickly get replies from perhaps a dozen people, each sharing their thoughts, experiences and suggestions.”
In March 2011, Mike was asked if he wanted to become a forum moderator; he accepted the role and has been a volunteer moderator ever since.
Life on the forum
“The forum largely runs itself. The community is very friendly and welcoming, so moderation is usually straightforward. You can’t see facial expressions or body language of course, so very occasionally there are misunderstandings. Posters on the forum can be passionate because everyone’s experience of diabetes is as individual as they are. Moderators are there to make sure the interaction is healthy and supportive and that people abide by forum guidelines.
“Connecting with other people living with a long-term condition can be a very powerful thing. The forum is there for people at all stages of their diabetes journey: those newly diagnosed, parents, carers, partners, family members and people like me who have had diabetes for decades.”
Highlights and achievements
“A big highlight for me is seeing people’s experience of living with diabetes completely turn around. People can be in a fragile state and really struggling when they join the forum. After a short while we see from posts that diabetes results and overall quality of life are improving.”
Mike has met good friends through the forum. “Our lives and different stories intertwine through the wafer thin thread of an internet connection. Experiences are better together whether joyful or painful. People can lift you when you’re down and you can do the same for others.”
He has had a positive reaction to his blog from people who have said it has helped them to understand their diabetes better or introduced them to a new diabetes technology.
“When you put something out there online, you don’t ever know how it will be received. You’re talking about your personal experience and saying this is how I’ve found it. When you get kind comments back, it’s then that you discover that people are reading it and finding it helpful.”
Not only does Mike volunteer on the forum and blog his day-to-day triumphs and challenges, he has also got involved with campaign work. He is a member of Diabetes Voices and contacts his MP regularly about key issues such as access to diabetes technology.
Mike is always proud to be invited to speak to people about his experience of living with Type 1. He was even asked to speak at the Houses of Parliament a few years ago.
Mike has also been a part of the press team at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference, blogging and sharing his insight from a patient perspective on social media. This is something he describes as an “amazing experience”.
Looking to the future. What’s next?
“My wife and I always said we would write a book about the family’s experience of Type 1 diabetes. She sadly passed away last year and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. I’ve carried on with the blog that we wrote together. In the early years different members of the family each wrote from their own perspective, but these days it’s mostly me. I hope to take what we’ve done with the blog and write the book. It might be a free download, or I might try and raise some money for charity through it.”
Other than that, Mike says he will keep connecting with people online and will continue to be there for anyone who has a question or needs support.
If you’ve been inspired my Mike’s story and would like to find out more about how you can volunteer, get involved.