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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.

Shannon with her daughter on her shoulders, laughing in the countryside

ShannonDiagnosed with type 1 while 28 weeks pregnant with daughter Bronwen

Giving birth with diabetes

I was told that because I had type 1, I would be induced no later than 38 weeks because of concerns that the baby might grow too big

Two days before my induction date, my sugars kept dropping. I was needing no insulin. I called the consultant and he told me to come into hospital to be monitored, as it’s a sign that the placenta is starting to detach. When they examined me they found out I was already in early labour.

The next day, I was induced. I’d heard all these horror stories about induction taking days, but I had the pessary and within ten minutes I was in full-blown labour.

I’m fine with injections, but cannulas have always been an issue for me. I didn’t want to be managed using a cannula, so me and Dan monitored my sugars throughout the birth. I was only in labour for six hours, and out she came. Bronwen was 7lbs 1oz and she was perfect.

Those first hours after birth are crazy. I was given some toast, but Dan was starving so he ordered a pepperoni pizza to the delivery room. My sugars just went wild after labour. I didn’t understand at that point that if my sugars were high I could take insulin and have food. So if my sugars were high, I just wouldn’t eat. It’s ridiculous looking back, I was sitting there after labour, starving, and watching Dan eat pizza! 

After coming out of hospital, I ended up this little bubble where I was just looking after me and Bronwen. I had such a shocking pregnancy, but the birth and afterwards were so good. 

When Bronwen was small, I missed every appointment or deadline or timeframe that I ever needed to keep. You need to be 5mmol/mol to drive, and half the time I’d get ready, test my blood sugar and realise I couldn’t drive. I’d get my sugars up and then Bronwen would need her nappy changed. I’d think, ‘I’m never going to get out of this house!’ On some days it would really get me down. I’d think life was always going to be this hard. To a degree, life is harder now. I have to be more organised, which doesn’t suit me that much. I like to be quite spontaneous, but you’ve just got to accept it.

Read Shannon's complete story
Jayne smiling into the camera

JayneDiagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 30

My advice

I think my advice to anyone else with diabetes would be to listen to your doctors as they know what they’re talking about. I’ve learnt that I’m not as invincible as I thought I was, but I hope that my story can encourage others to take their condition seriously. 

Read Jayne's complete story
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Heidi QuineDiagnosed at the age of 12 in 2001

Support

I got used to having diabetes as a teenager and my friends were always very understanding. Before PE, I would eat a Kit Kat for energy. And when I went swimming, I would eat a digestive biscuit every half an hour – so I would leave a tub of them with the lifeguard. 

However, as I headed into being a young adult, I was more embarrassed about always telling people I was diabetic. I had to manage food so much in my life which led to hypo anxiety. I didn’t want to eat extra stuff, even when my blood sugars were low. Although any high intensity activity always caught up with me, I just kept exercising. I wasn’t eating enough carbs which made it hard to manage my diabetes. 

Counselling

I had an eating disorder at 19 and through most of my 20s. Because of this, I had bad hypos where my body would not wake up properly which led to really bad fits. About three years ago, the hospital provided me with more support and I finally saw a diabetes specialist counsellor a few times which was a big help.

The counsellor knew what I was going through, providing me with advice and information to read to help educate myself. I read a book called “Overcoming Anxiety” which really helped me learn about dealing with my worries and the voices in my head. Following my passion for sport, I went on to learn more by qualifying in personal training and nutrition.

Being a decent runner and cyclist, I have learnt that if you want to compete if you have type 1 diabetes you really have to look after your body.

Help from peers

I  wish I’d known other athletes with type 1 when I was growing up. About four years ago I got in touch with a T1 Diabetic who was a Triathlete and had completed an Ironman race. She kindly rang me and we shared experiences: tips on fuelling for endurance, sharing experiences when our blood sugars go low during sport and how we manage this. 

And now I also follow other fitness individuals such as Matthew Carter via Instagram who Diabetes UK put me in touch with post Prudential Ride 100 2019.

It always gives me confidence that type 1 diabetes never stops you achieving anything you want to, especially when you can share these dreams and goals with others. 

Read Heidi Quine's complete story

Snita SharmaDiagnosed with type 2 diabetes 10 years ago

Diagnosis

I had gestational diabetes with my eldest son. Afterwards, I was told I could develop type 2 diabetes later in life, but at the time, I wasn’t made to feel that it was really important.

I ate all the time, I’d cook a healthy meal for the family, but then I’d tell my husband I wanted to go out for pizza or fried chicken. I think a lot of the time I ate because I was bored.

When I was 40, I visited a relative who had type 2 diabetes and told her that I was feeling unwell and tired all the time. She urged me to go to the doctor and a test at my GP confirmed that I had developed type 2 diabetes.

I asked my doctor if I could try to manage it with my diet, but she said my blood glucose levels were too high and that I needed to bring it down with medication. After I was diagnosed, I was in shock. I was almost afraid to eat anything. Everything seemed to have sugar in it. But I started taking the medication and eventually I thought, ‘well that’s taking care of everything’.

So, after a while, I pretty much went back to the way I was eating before. I still ate loads of unhealthy foods.

Exercise

After my initial shock, I didn’t think too much about my diagnosis. I took my medication and would eat what I wanted. This would often consist of high in fat Indian foods, takeaways and unhealthy snacks such as crisps and fizzy drinks.

Within five years, I was taking the maximum dosage of metformin and was advised by my doctor that I needed to start taking more medication. I begged for some more time and went home to talk to my family. My husband suggested I join a running club. I hadn’t done any exercise since school! But I had nothing to lose, so I joined a beginners’ running club, which I came to really enjoy. I even learnt to ride a bike and swim and started doing triathlons. But my diet was still really bad.

As I approached my 50th birthday, I sat down with my sons to make a list of things I wanted to do before entering a new decade. One of the things they suggested was putting my diabetes in remission but I said it couldn’t be done!

Read Snita Sharma's complete story
Diabetes UK

Chloe GillumWas diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2002

Work and diabetes

I always wanted to work with children, because of what I’d experienced when I was diagnosed aged nine. There were things I wanted to make better. I think the personal touch makes such a difference. If I went to my diabetes clinic around the time of my birthday or Christmas, there’d be no mention of it. So, I try to make a fuss of my patients at those times. I’m keen to celebrate the things that are going on in my patients’ lives that are outside of their health. 

Before I was accepted onto my nursing course at university, I had to do an occupational health check to make sure I was fit to work. That involved talking about what my requirements were, how much support I needed and making sure that my diabetes was well managed enough that I could live independently. 

When we started looking at nursing placements, I was allowed special compensations as a type 1. For example, I said that if my blood sugar is low in the morning, I’ve got to wait an hour before I can drive a car, so there wouldn’t be any point in putting me in a hospital that’s a two-hour drive away, because that would make me late for work. 

You don’t have to work nights as a type 1, so I could have opted out of doing nightshifts, but I was keen to try them. 

It was nice to know that I had the option of not working nights if I didn’t get on with it, or if my sugars weren’t that good as a result, but I’ve always done nights, both during my university placements and as a qualified nurse.

I got on with them quite well, even though working nights can mess up your hormones. I’m on an Omnipod insulin pump, but I guess if you’re on injections, it would be hard to work out when to do them. It took me around a year to figure out how much of a temporary basal to put on my pump and all those other bits and pieces.

When I worked nights, I did have a couple of lows when I was sleeping, because I forgot to put on a temporary basal. But, generally, working nights was less stressful and less busy, so I had more time to eat and to manage my own health on nightshifts. 

Read Chloe Gillum's complete story
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