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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.

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LibbyDiagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 3.

What the future looks like

Jayne

People tell you you’re strong, but you don’t think you are. I was heartbroken. I would look at her when she was asleep and think I’ve lost her and who she was. With time it got easier and now my outlook is changing.

I thought I’d never get my little girl back, but she’s here and diabetes is part of our life now. We manage it, whilst she also enjoys her childhood.

"Libby is thriving. She is happy and well looked after at school. She attends gymnastics and swimming, things I thought she would never do with ease." — Jayne 

Everything just takes that extra planning. It’s not easy, I wish it didn’t exist, but as a family, we are miles away from those newly diagnosed days. Technology is forever improving, and I know Libby is going to be ok.

Read Libby's complete story
Natalie stands on a beach, with diabetes tech on her arm and leg

Natalie BalmainDiagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007, age 20

A new outlook on life

Diabetes is one of the worst and best things to ever happen to me. It’s like getting on a train with no stops – you’re not getting off, so you’ve got to just embrace the journey. It’s given me a whole new community and support network. To anyone who’s recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I’d say please don’t panic. The best thing you can do is to learn about diabetes and how to manage it – for me this made all the difference and was the point at which I changed my life for the better. Reach out to your friends, find diabetes support groups – there’s a whole community of people going through the same thing, and you’re not alone in this.

Read Natalie Balmain's complete story
Tara Lawrence

Tara LawrenceDiagnosed with MODY 3 diabetes 10 years ago

Having a baby during the Covid-19 pandemic

The past year’s been a bit of a strange one. I became pregnant in March 2020, so the last year has mostly consisted of pregnancy and looking after my new baby. So I’ve had to get used to that on top of a global pandemic. 

Being pregnant during lockdown was strange. I spent most of the first lockdown working from home, as I was considered vulnerable by my workplace due to my diabetes and my pregnancy. It was hard to access appointments, especially at first, but it got a lot easier to access them either virtually or in person towards the end of the year. 

It was also quite lonely at times, being stuck at home. I was living with just my husband, and we formed a support bubble with my sister and her daughter. But apart from that I didn’t see anyone else until I went back to work in September. 

Working and socialising from home

Working from home during lockdown was tricky because teaching is obviously more of an in-person job, so I had to adapt to teaching pupils online. It was a very different year for work, and strange to not see people and not work in a classroom like I’m used to. 

The biggest change for me was not being able to go out and do things as normal, which had a big impact on things like my blood sugars and my insulin doses. I wasn’t as active because I wasn’t getting out, so it was harder to control this on top of being pregnant. 

I had lots of plans for lockdown but lots of them went out the window! I was hoping to become fitter and healthier. I also wanted to learn sign language, but I didn’t finish everything I’d have liked to, which I think is pretty typical of the first lockdown. 

I also definitely experimented with some more foods, we’ve tried some different recipes and done a bit more baking. We all had to bake a banana bread last summer didn’t we! 

Not having the communication I’d normally have through events and meeting friends with diabetes was a big change too. As well as the typical Zoom quizzes during lockdown, I also took part in lots of the Diabetes UK voluntary teams events. 

Read Tara Lawrence's complete story
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Naomi Dindol

Family

I became a diabetes dietitian because I’ve had a passion for food from quite a young age and I’ve always enjoyed cooking and making family meals. And I was aware of diabetes in the family. 

I work across three hospitals in Birmingham. I do one-to-one consultations with patients to try to help them improve their diet. This will help them control their blood sugar and meet other diabetes related goals like reaching a body weight say, or looking after their cholesterol.

Life during the pandemic

It has been a bit strange during the pandemic. We’ve still been going into work, but clinics were running at reduced capacity so there wasn’t the same buzz and busyness.

It was hard for all staff to adapt initially. There was a lot of uncertainty about what we can and can’t do. How many patients we can bring in physically to the clinic. 

But as a team we’ve pulled together: the dietitians have supported nurses. And nurses have supported dietitians and doctors.

Feeling isolated

We’d be spread across different rooms and stay isolated from one another. So I’d go to work and go through my clinic list for the day. And it took away the educational work I do in patient groups which I enjoy – which was a big change.

I’d be speaking to my patients on the phone but less speaking to people around me. It has been a little bit lonely I have to say.

I was lucky that going into work helped me maintain some degree of normality. And I’m very lucky that I live with my partner who has been a rock.  If you’re feeling quite isolated at work, to have to come home to be on your own would have been very difficult. I wouldn’t have coped so well. 

I am quite an active person, but I managed to get more into my running outdoors and my walks. That was quite an enjoyable side of things for me.

Telephone clinics

It was quite a hard transition for patients who still wanted to see us face to face to move to a phone consultation. There's more trust on the patient side when they're speaking to us in person - as they can't see us on the phone. And we probably don't get to know them as well. 

And one of the other downsides was that patients can't come along to group sessions and meet each other. 

But everyone was at home, so they were all picking up the telephone. And we're spending more time writing letters and sending out pictures. We can still offer the same information – but not always in that initial telephone appointment. 

Read Naomi Dindol's complete story
Bupe laughing

BupeDiagnosed with type 2 during the Covid-19 pandemic

Managing to stay positive during lockdown

Joining the One Million Steps challenge made me rediscover my local area and corners I’d never explored before. Walking helped me not only physically but also mentally as it helped me to stay positive during lockdown. It kept me busy and connected with my community, because whilst I was walking I’d cross paths with friends and neighbours and say hello and talk about home-schooling and the challenges we were facing. 

At some point, I decided to combine walking with a bike ride. I’d go out in the morning for my walk and then out in the evening for a ride with my daughter. The best part of this was that one day as we were riding back home, everybody was out clapping for the NHS. My daughter and I used to say that we were on the finishing line of an Olympic race and we had our own fans cheering us home. We managed to time that just right and always came back to our street at 8 o’clock so that we could get our claps. And then when we got home we dropped our bikes and joined the clapping. It was so much fun and I can’t wait to do this challenge again this year. 

During lockdown I also learned two new hobbies: gardening and baking. I have an apple tree in the garden and thanks to YouTube and people’s tips I learned how to fertilise the tree better so that this year it gave me so many apples that I had to share them with neighbours and friends and baked lots of apple pies. Despite being a scientist, I’m not really good at baking and my kids always make fun of me. But during lockdown I found a recipe that was extremely easy and I was able to bake a vanilla cake. It’s been such a success that now I don’t have to look at the recipe anymore and my kids celebrated me on social media. 

Read Bupe's complete story
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