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Advice for people with diabetes and their families



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.

Brian smiling on the beach with his helmet on

Brian LambertDiagnosed in 2019

Feeling unwell

I was unaware that I had diabetes for a long while; I knew there was something going on but I just thought I was tired or that work was taking its toll. And because my symptoms developed in such a slow and gradual way, I didn’t really think twice about it being something more serious. 

I’ve always been quite a large guy, at one point I was around 19 and a half stone, and so I decided then that it was time to lose some weight. I went on a little bit of a diet and started to lose some of it, so I thought ‘ok, this is working’.

But within six months, my weight had dropped to 11 stone 5 pounds. It’s hard to explain, because at the time I didn’t really notice what was happening. Looking back, I know I should have - but when you’re living in the moment, it’s really difficult. 

It was only when I woke up one morning and couldn’t see properly that I decided to go to the doctors. They tested my blood glucose (sugar) levels and sent me straight to A&E. That’s when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, at the age of 50. 

Coming to terms with my diagnosis

It was a very surreal and frightening experience, and although my diabetes nurse was a great source of support - coming out of hospital and having to accept that your life has changed was difficult. I remember getting home, looking in the food cupboards and thinking, ‘what do I eat?’. 

In the first few months following my diagnosis, I went through so many different stages. I experienced depression about not being able to eat this and eat that, and I felt insecure and embarrassed about having diabetes. Then I went through denial where I refused to take my insulin because I thought I didn’t need it, or refused to eat so I didn’t need to take as much insulin. 

The hospital gave me two leaflets when I was diagnosed, and at the bottom of one was the Diabetes UK website. I visited it online, and from there - that sort of changed my life. Everything I needed to know was there, from support to recipes and information about managing my condition. 

Thanks to making changes to my lifestyle, and what and how I eat, I’ve been able to manage my weight and reduce my insulin dose by about 75%. I’ve worked really hard at it, and I’ve grabbed life by the horns. I still have my bad days like everyone else, but overall - I feel much more in control. 

Read Brian Lambert's complete story

Brenda RileyDiagnosed with diabetes at the age of 58 in 2005.

Well prepared

I was at the GP surgery and the nurse asked if I’d like a thorough check-up. When she tested my blood sugar, she said it was four or five times higher than it should be: “You’re definitely diabetic – although I’ll have to send off another blood test to confirm it.” 

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – and 10 months later, the diabetes healthcare nurse put me on insulin.

My father had diabetes and as child I remember he used to inject twice a day. And I knew there was a risk I might develop it myself. So the diagnosis wasn’t an absolute shock.

I know that if I’m having hypo symptoms, I need something sugary. But if my dad was having a hypo, he’d say: “I can’t have a sweet”. In those days, patients were given a diet sheet and told not to eat sweet things. 

Six years after my diagnosis, my consultant said: “I’ve got some news for you. You’re definitely type 1.”  The only thing that changed for me was that I came off metformin which I’d never got on with.

Read Brenda Riley's complete story
Jan smiling in her One Million Step Challenge t-shirt and medal

Jan MatherDiagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2010

Putting others first

I had thyroid cancer in my 30s, and whilst I’m really lucky to have recovered, it has left me with a very slow metabolism, so I’ve struggled with my weight a lot. At my heaviest I was 126 kilos. For many years I cared for my severely disabled son, which was very demanding, so thinking about my own health fell to the bottom of the list.

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 10 years ago, but I just took medication for it. I didn’t have much capacity for thinking about it beyond that.

Over the years I think we had fallen into the habit of using food as a comfort - we cooked and ate well, but it was all quite high in fat and carbohydrates, and large portions. When life is demanding, you just want to make everyone a good meal followed by apple crumble.

Read Jan Mather's complete story
Steve smiling in his One Million Steps T-shirt

Steve HodgsonDiagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2016

My family connection to diabetes

I had a close connection to diabetes growing up, as my dad has type 2 and my grandparents did too. They all worked hard, drank a bit, smoked and ate a fair amount of unhealthy food. I always had a poor diet as a child, and when I was recovering from an illness I was forced to eat vegetables. This led to me developing a phobia of new foods, and I stuck to a very narrow diet that wasn’t very nutritious. I ate too many takeaways and things like that.

Getting diagnosed with type 2 

Then about four years ago, I had been feeling unwell, but in such a gradual way that I’d not paid attention. It wasn’t until I was actually quite poorly that I made it to the doctor. I was given a blood test and told that my blood glucose (sugar) level was very high. After another blood test, they diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes. It hit me like a brick wall. 

I was playing out the worst-case-scenarios in my head, and feeling very down about it all. I know that you’re more likely to get type 2 if your parent has the condition too, but it made me wonder if things would be different if I had made different choices about looking after my health… it just made me feel very guilty about the effect my diabetes had on my wife and children.

Read Steve Hodgson's complete story
A young child in a high-chair eating food

MosheMoshe was 11 months old when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Diagnosed at 11 months

Moshe was 11 months old when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. For a week or so beforehand, he started showing all of the classic four signs of type 1 diabetes. He was getting very thirsty, and his nappy was getting very full. Then he started to get weak and he appeared thinner, too.

One Sunday, we were at the park with friends. At that age, most babies would be crawling or walking around a bit. But Moshe was lying quietly next to us. Our friends remarked that perhaps he was just a sleepy kid.

But by the next day, we were concerned enough to get him checked out. A friend of my wife has a child with type 1 diabetes, so when we went to the doctor, she knew enough to ask for a blood test. After that, we were sent straight to hospital.

On the way to hospital, Moshe suddenly couldn’t fight the ketones and sugar that were building up in his body. The staff at University College Hospital had to treat him, and then he was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital to stabilise him.

Then, we went to lessons taught by the UCLH paediatrics diabetes team to learn how to manage the condition.

Read Moshe's complete story
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