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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Journey with diabetes

Here we share stories from people reflecting on their journey with diabetes so far. Whether you have the condition, or know someone that has, these open accounts of coming to terms with diabetes may help you find new ways to cope.

Zena smiling as she takes on the One Million Step Challenge

Zena GoughWalking in memory of her son, George

Learning to cope with my son's diagnosis

I’ve raised my kids on my own since my twins were 8 months old. When George was 4 I knew something wasn’t right. He was thirsty and tired all the time, so I took him to the doctors and asked if he had diabetes. The doctor said ‘well done mum’ and diagnosed him with type 1. At the time I was quite pleased with myself because I spotted it - I thought ‘we’ll get this sorted now.’ But I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. 

We spent 4 days in hospital learning about blood sugars, needles and more. It was a lot to take in. But I’d do anything now to go back to those days when I was in charge of his treatment. I worked full-time but I had my mum and dad to help, and between us we made sure that George’s condition was kept steady.

Losing George to type 1 diabetes

As George got older, his diabetes became difficult for him to accept. He got bullied at school for needing special treatment, and he had a lot of jealousy about his sister not having it. He was a very angry little boy, and he somehow thought that his dad had left because he had diabetes. I took him to rugby every week, just as a way to manage his anger. 

As a teenager it was clear school wasn’t for him, but he got a good placement as an apprentice. He did well and at 18 he had a car and a bit of money in his pocket. He got a new girlfriend, but he didn’t tell her about his condition. 

One night, he said he was taking her out to dinner and staying at her house. I was really uncomfortable about him going, but he was 18 and there wasn’t much I could do. I never saw him again after that night. 

I know they went out, and I don’t know what he ate and drank, but he became ill. He went to sleep at the girl’s house and he never woke up. 

Read Zena Gough's complete story
Steve smiling in his One Million Steps T-shirt

Steve HodgsonDiagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2016

Changing my life

I shared what I was doing with my employers and they made me the Lead for Health and Wellbeing at my work place. I'm an active member of the regional team, writing about my experiences for our newsletters and raising awareness about diabetes.

Being offered that role at work felt like a real acknowledgement of how far things had shifted. And because I’ve faced up to where I am and how I want to live, my mental health is a lot stronger too. For me, diagnosis was actually the start of a journey that made me a better man. 

Read Steve Hodgson's complete story
George West walking near cliffs

George WestGeorge West was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes four years ago

Navigating the pandemic

At the start of the Covid-19 outbreak I was in Australia completing one of my medical placements, which meant I needed to come home early. During the first lockdown, I decided to shield and didn’t leave the house. If I’m being honest, I did feel nervous about the implications of catching Covid given that I have diabetes. I wanted to keep myself safe and so initially did all my studies online, however in July we had to return to the hospitals as part of our clinical placements. As I’m now in my final year of medical school, I’m also working one day a week as a Student Doctor Assistant. 

Getting the coronavirus vaccine

I was still feeling apprehensive about returning to hospital life, but the coronavirus news coming out from Diabetes UK made me feel a lot more confident, and I wanted to get out and help on the wards at such a challenging time for the NHS. This obviously means taking all precautions and wearing full PPE, and because of my work in the hospitals I’ve now received my first dose of of the Covid vaccine with my second dose due in March. I know some people have been sceptical about receiving the vaccine, but for me there was actually an element of excitement. It feels like we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can safely say that I had no side effects and my blood sugars didn’t react badly at all. I really would urge everyone to get the vaccine when it’s offered to them.

Looking ahead

I now use a CGM, which has really changed the way I manage my diabetes. This clever bit of kit has helped so much in terms of my medical training, as I don’t need to constantly worry about going high or low when I’m on placement. However, I think using a normal blood glucose machine when I was first diagnosed, was hugely beneficial. I had to learn how to finger prick, how my body feels at certain levels, and get to grips with the numbers. 

It’s fair to say the past 12 months have been nothing short of madness. I’m going to be graduating this year, which I never thought would be happening in the middle of a pandemic. My plan is to do two years as a junior doctor and then apply for a surgical training programme. I think my ultimate goal is to pursue a career as an orthopaedic surgeon. 

In the past people have said things to me like, “Diabetes may affect you being a surgeon” or “Maybe you should choose a career better suited to your diabetes.” However, I won’t be letting diabetes hold me back. It doesn’t define me, and I want others to know there is nothing you can’t do when you have diabetes.
 

Read George West's complete story
Deborah wearing a beekeeper suit

Deborah Goodman

Attending the Diabetes Prevention Programme

The group sessions I’m attending as part of the Diabetes Prevention Programme are fabulous because you don’t feel alone. Having a group situation where we are all experiencing the same things does help.

The only downside to this is that I miss not interacting with people in real life, of course this isn’t possible at the moment because of COVID. But I wish we could go for walks after these group sessions to connect a bit more with the other participants as I know this is what usually happened in the past.

Apart from this the programme has had a great impact on me and my life so far and brought about real positive changes.

One of my hobbies is swimming. I never thought that I’d enjoy swimming as much as I do now. I’m even planning to taking out a membership at my local swimming pool. I’ve done marathons in the past, the New York and London ones but I have arthritis now so I can’t run as it’s too painful. So, swimming is my new-found love which is very beneficial for my diabetes too. This is also down to Jon because he always encourages us to get active.  

I also enjoy gardening and beekeeping (I have 15 hives over three apiary sites), that all keeps me busy in the summer.

Read Deborah Goodman's complete story
Michelle stands on a beach, smiling

Michelle Griffith-Robinson OLY

Growing up around diabetes

My mum, Cicely, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when she was 58. It wasn’t a shock at the time. My grandmother had died of renal failure relating to complications of type 2 diabetes in the 70s in Jamaica, and my mum’s sisters and some of my cousins have it.

Mum has always been active, but I would say lifestyle and genetics would have played their part. I wasn’t surprised because of her diet, our family history, and everything else. If I’m being really honest, I didn’t understand the implications.

My brother’s best friend has type 1 diabetes. I’d grown up with that, so that was the only type of diabetes I knew about.

I’ve noticed that if people have type 2 diabetes, in the black community, we don’t really speak about it that much.

When I was diagnosed with prediabetes in 2018, it came as a massive shock to me. 

Read Michelle Griffith-Robinson OLY's complete story
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