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Diagnosis

Knowing where to start with your diagnosis of diabetes can be a challenge. But it’s not a challenge you have to face alone. Here we share stories from people who recall how they came to terms with their diagnosis and adjusted to life with diabetes.

Linda wearing an every step counts t-shirt holding a certificate saying stepping superstar

Linda Potts-Neate

Family link

My auntie had type 1 diabetes. She died from diabetes complications at the age of 30. I remember when I was still quite young, I used to help her get her injections ready. She taught me all about it. It was when you used glass syringes and you had to tap it to get the air bubbles out. 

I was diagnosed when I was 29. I remember it was the day before my birthday. I was living with my (ex) husband at a military base in Germany.  I self-diagnosed myself. I was watching a programme about the guy who invented insulin

And I thought, that’s what I’ve got. I hadn’t taken a lot of notice, but I’d lost a lot of weight. It was a bit of a shock. 

I was sent to the military hospital where I stayed for a couple of days where they taught me how to inject. I remember they advised me not to get pregnant. But it turned out that I was already! but I did manage OK. My son got married this Sunday gone.  

I did go through a stage of thinking why me? But in the end I thought it was a good job it was me and not my sister as she wouldn’t have coped. 

Read Linda Potts-Neate's complete story
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Dr Shukrat Salisu-Olatunji

No family history or risk factors

When Shukrat, now 43, was diagnosed with diabetes in 2005, she was mum to a one-year-old daughter and busy with her job as a new medical officer in Nigeria. 

Experiencing unexplained thirst, hunger, weight loss and fatigue she put the symptoms down to a busy life as a new mum but decided to go to a clinic and get tested. 

She says: “It was obvious from tests that I had diabetes. I didn’t fully believe it for a long time, as I had no family history and no risk factors that I knew of. I knew what I was being told but it didn’t feel real.” 

Shukrat was initially diagnosed, at the age of 27, with type 2 diabetes but never felt like she was able to get her condition under control despite the various treatments and lifestyle adjustments.

Rediagnosed

After almost 10 years of living with the condition and experiencing frequent hypers and hypos, she was finally diagnosed as having type 1 diabetes. 

“It felt like being diagnosed all over again. I found it hard to accept that I had type 1 because I believed then that it was only diagnosed in childhood. I couldn’t accept that I’d have to use insulin for the rest of my life.” 

After moving to the UK in 2015, over time she says she has adjusted and accepted her diagnosis. Learning and understanding more about her relationship with diabetes and how it affects her has also helped her during Ramadan. 
 

Read Dr Shukrat Salisu-Olatunji 's complete story
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Jordan Charles

Covid

In early 2020, artist and performer Jordan Charles was 28 and gaining confidence in a varied career that saw him sing at gigs and events at festivals, private parties, and on cruise ships. 

A few weeks later, Jordan developed a cough. After he developed flu-like symptoms, began to cough up blood and suffered severe shortness of breath, Jordan called 111. He spent a night in hospital, where he was given oxygen to help with his breathing.

“It wasn’t too scary,” he says. “The doctors and nurses were very comforting, and the oxygen helped.”

After being discharged, Jordan recovered within a couple of weeks. But as lockdown restrictions began to ease that summer, he began experiencing sudden, acute episodes of lethargy.

“That was so out of character for me,” he says. “I’m an extrovert. I enjoy chatting with people. But there were times when I’d have to suddenly excuse myself from a conversation. Sometimes people assumed I was being rude, and it caused some friction.”

Symptoms

For some people, coronavirus can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone. This is sometimes called ‘long COVID’ or ‘post-COVID-19 syndrome’. Jordan assumed that this was the cause of his energy dips.

“I was trying to wait it out, hoping it would get better soon,” he says.In September, Jordan’s symptoms intensified. Added to his fatigue, he had muscle cramps, needed to pee frequently, and lost his appetite.

He asked his aunt, a medical professional, for advice. She suggested his symptoms could be caused by diabetes, as they had a family history of type 2.

“I didn’t really know anything about diabetes or how serious it could be,” says Jordan. “I booked an appointment with my GP, but the day before I felt so terrible I decided to go to hospital. Getting in the taxi to A&E is the last thing that I remember.”

Complications

At hospital, Jordan collapsed and was resuscitated before being put on life support. Tests showed his blood sugar levels were 127mmol/l. He had no idea that in the months following his recovery from coronavirus, he’d developed type 2 diabetes. 

While it’s already known that people living with diabetes are more at risk of suffering severe effects of coronavirus, new evidence suggests that in some people – like Jordan – the virus could be triggering the condition.

“Doctors told me a blood glucose reading that high was incredibly rare,” says Jordan. “It caused lung failure, heart failure, pancreatitis and kidney injury.

"My body was shutting down. I was told that if I’d waited another hour before going to hospital, I wouldn’t have survived.”

Jordan was suffering from hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state (HHS). This occurs in people with type 2 diabetes who experience very high blood glucose levels – often over 40mmol/l. 

Critically ill, he was placed in an induced coma for three days while medics battled to save his life. After three days in intensive care, Jordan was transferred to a high dependency unit.

“One day, I was chatting to a nurse, and my partner brought in cards from our friends. I remember looking out of the window and thinking, ‘I’m back.’

“But I was a long way from being healed,” he says. “The extent to which my illness had affected everyone around me that I loved and cared about was devastating. I didn’t realise how bad it’d been.”

Treatment

As he recovered, diabetes nurses talked to Jordan about the condition and treatment options. They explained that because he had suffered pancreatitis – a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed – he needed to treat his condition with metformin and insulin while his pancreas recovered.
 

Read Jordan Charles's complete story
Denise wrapped up for one of her One Million Step walks

Denise

Reality check

I was diagnosed as prediabetic in 2019, my weight was the heaviest it had ever been. Let’s just say I’d been through a long, difficult divorce. When the doctor told me, I was very shocked. The extra weight was one of the factors and they also found I had a fatty liver. They sat me down and explained that if I didn’t try and do something about my weight how it might affect my health. It was a reality check for me. I’d only gone for an appointment for something more general. 

I signed up to Slimming World soon after. The weight was coming off – and I had a large amount of weight to lose. I had nearly got to a four stone weight loss and then Covid happened. I became a baker like everyone else, and I put a stone and a half back on. It took me 17 months to reach that four stone milestone

Read Denise's complete story
Christine's story

ChristineDiagnosed with type 1 in 1971

My diagnosis in 1971

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on Valentine’s Day in 1971. During Christmas 1970, I developed a cold that didn’t seem to want to go away - it left me feeling very thirsty and I was drinking constantly. I remember having to go to the toilet during lessons at school.   

My mum took me to the doctor on my 14th birthday and asked him to check for diabetes. He asked a few questions and didn’t do any tests.  But eventually I felt so ill, I couldn’t go to school, and on 14 February 1971 my parents called for the doctor as I was having difficulty breathing. 

The doctor told my mum I was hysterical and prescribed tranquillisers, but after taking the first tranquilliser I fell into a coma. My mum and dad took me to Black Notley Hospital and my mum asked the duty doctor to check for diabetes. He did. That request no doubt saved my life.   

Read Christine's complete story
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