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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Life with diabetes

Living with diabetes can be difficult, but you shouldn’t need to put your life on hold. Here are stories from people who have learnt to adjust to life with the condition.

Natalie stands on a beach, with diabetes tech on her arm and leg

Natalie BalmainDiagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007, age 20

Learning to live with type 1 diabetes

When I was first diagnosed I didn’t really understand what food I could eat, or how much. I felt like I was winging it when it came to managing my blood sugars – I didn’t know what I was doing. I was having hypos at night and would wake up sweating, and I didn’t understand why.

Four years after my diagnosis I burst into tears during an appointment – I realised I wasn’t coping. The turning point for me was going on a carb counting course. It gave me the tools and the education to manage my diabetes well. That course was the first time I’d ever met anyone else with type 1 diabetes, and being able to talk to someone who was going through the same thing made all the difference. I think this was the real start of my recovery.

Read Natalie Balmain's complete story
Mike smiling into the camera on holiday

MikeDiagnosed with type 1 in 1976

Life with diabetes

Looking back, I used to spend most of my time just sitting around. The council was running a health scheme that was designed to help you get moving, so I enrolled and went over to my local gym. But when they started going through the different machinery and exercises, there wasn’t much that I could actually do because of my wheelchair and problems with my feet. 

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I’m the chair of the local diabetes support group in Scunthorpe, so when I saw the Get Moving course advertised I thought I should give it a go. It said that the movements would be low-impact, and that I could do them from my chair, so it seemed achievable and like a good next step for me. 

Read Mike's complete story
Tara Lawrence

Tara LawrenceDiagnosed with MODY 3 diabetes 10 years ago

Being pregnant during lockdown

Pregnancy, as most diabetics will know, can be stressful because your blood sugars have to be very tightly controlled. Having to be so on top of my blood sugars was a massive change for me. 

The change in my routine also affected my blood sugars and made my doses go a bit strange. I needed to change my insulin pump settings and wear sensors a lot more to make sure my blood sugars were in the right place. I also had a lot more appointments to make sure my levels were in the right range. 

It was scary in lots of ways to begin with, but it became normal quite quickly. Once I got used to being at home more and working from home and knowing who I could contact about different things my diabetes control was okay. 

I think the biggest thing that helped me was finding other people in the same position. I sought a lot of support through Facebook groups to talk to other diabetics who were also pregnant. It was quite nice to be able to see their pregnancies progress as well as my own, and the babies that have all come from it. 

It was also great to be able to ask the silly questions about who’s getting what insulin resistance and how they’re coping with blood sugar levels, since you can’t usually ask these questions in general Facebook groups. 

My advice for anyone who’s going through something similar of having diabetes and being pregnant is to find support groups online or in person if you can.

Coming out of lockdown

The first thing I did when lockdown began to lift was book swimming lessons for my daughter, as we hadn’t been able to book any baby classes in lockdown. I’ve also taken advantage of being able to go and see friends and family. It’s been great to see people again, and I’m definitely looking forward to things opening up a bit more. 

We've got lots to look forward to now, like a friend's wedding in the summer that we're hoping to turn into a mini-holiday within the UK. I'm re-enjoying life and appreciating things more, whether it’s being able to go to a café with a friend, or sit in someone’s living room instead of the garden. This year has really made me see the smaller things for what they are rather than taking them for granted. 

I also think I’ve realised how important health is to me. Of course, it's always been important, but in the past I might have said to myself ‘oh, my levels are high, but that’s okay because it only affects me’. But now I’m looking into the longer-term future, and my levels might be high, low or in range but that could have a knock-on effect in the months and years to come. And I want to be able to play with my daughter and watch her grow up.

So it’s put my health into a bigger focus in my life, knowing that I need to be here and healthy for my daughter as well, not just for myself.
 

Read Tara Lawrence's complete story
Liz crouches on the floor holding some heavy looking weights

Liz CromwellDiagnosed with gestational diabetes in 2009

Understanding type 2 diabetes

One thing that really helped me was being referred to a diabetes clinic that I had to attend every three months. Having more regular check-ups helped massively. I didn’t realise I could request extra appointments and when you think you have to wait a whole year between appointments, you can fall off track so easily. Me and my nurse became so connected. She talked to me about how to manage my diabetes better, using food and activity.

I also started to do my own research into type 2 diabetes, using the Diabetes UK website to learn more about food and nutrition.

In late 2020, I was able to stop taking my metformin tablets.

Read Liz Cromwell's complete story
George West

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

Staying connected

To help raise awareness, George started an Instagram account called @LearnDiabetes with a few other NHS doctors. Through this they post information about diabetes, and hope to reduce misconceptions and stigma about it by sharing the facts.  

He’s also found social media a great way to stay connected with others during the pandemic.   

“It’s been great to see everyone in the diabetes community come together and support each other through the pandemic. Creating my own Instagram account has really helped me stay connected with other volunteers and the diabetes community as well as the ‘Our friends in the North’ Facebook page.” 

Read George West's complete story
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