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.


Blood sugar levels worry

I constantly worried about Eddie for the first year, whether his bloods were in range, worrying when they weren’t and even worrying when he started to run around like a typical three-year-old would. I’d think, ‘oh no, he is going to have another hypo’. I didn’t want to stop him joining in with his friends and having a nice time so I just tried to deal with it as best as I could. 

We still find that so many things can affect Eddie’s blood sugars: being active, being upset, being excited, being hot or cold, being poorly, being tired.


One thing we find tricky is going on holiday with Eddie. If we go abroad, the heat affects his levels and the first time we went away after his diagnosis, his bloods went really low. He was also very active by the pool and so he suffered with some bad hypos which knocked him out. 

I found this so frustrating in the early days. It put a dampener on our holiday and both my husband, and I were constantly worrying about him. Now, we have learnt to follow the exercise guidelines much better, and we give him a carbohydrate snack before he exercises if he is too low. We then set a timer on my watch to top up his snacks every half hour according to the guidelines.

Coping better

Two and a half years in and I’m coping much better. I’ve been quite vocal with my friends, family, and the wider community about our difficulties as I don’t think people talk about their mental health enough.

I don’t believe anyone should feel ashamed to say that they aren’t feeling well, and I would encourage anyone in a similar position to talk to others and seek medical help if necessary.

We've met a lovely group called Gwent Children’s Diabetes. We meet a few times a year in Maesycwmmer and the group is run by an amazing group of volunteers who organise activities for the children and the parent and carers sit and chat over a cup of tea and biscuits.

We’re really lucky that at school Eddie has a dedicated teaching assistant who has been trained by the healthcare team, and who manages his bloods sugars in the day. She only contacts us if there are any problems.

We haven’t any other respite care as we can’t really leave Eddie with family and if Eddie wants to go on a play date we have to go with him. My mum helps out with babysitting and does as much as she can but at nearly 70, it feels a lot to ask. 

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Freya HaydonDiagnosed 2014

Living with diabetes and helping others

Not long after her diagnosis, Freya had to make the transition from primary to secondary school. She remembers times when she felt very self-conscious about having to leave the classroom or eat something if her blood glucose was low.

“I didn't want to stand out but sometimes I felt I had no choice.

“There have also been times when I felt very down because of the condition. I haven't looked at photographs of myself when I was nine before I was diagnosed because the reminder of how young I was would still upset me.”

Looking ahead, Freya is a very active volunteer for the Together Type 1 youth programme, passing on her experience of living with diabetes through primary, secondary and sixth form schools and also of navigating her teenage years with the condition.

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Paul Ibberson


Seeing results  

My three months were up, and the day arrived for my blood test.

All the work was for this moment, and I was rewarded with the best news that my HbA1c was 39 mmol/mol – my doctor was thrilled. I thanked him, as he had given me the motivation I needed, and I will forever be grateful for that. I’m also grateful to my wife as she forced me to go to the doctor in the first place.

I honestly felt like I was in my 20s again with more energy, sleeping well, and with more confidence. I was addicted to running, even in the rain, and all this in the space of three months. I also eliminated any anxiety I once had and felt balanced and content.  

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Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 16


I’ve been interested in gardening since I was a small child. My grandad was an old-school allotment grower.  He also loved a good rose garden so I learnt a lot about the growing season of vegetables and flowers. Though perennial flowers and wildlife were always my favourite part of gardening! Including having a pond. It was always a hobby of mine but then 8 years I decided to change careers. Garden design called to me and after a few courses and a lucky break winning a new garden design competition with the BBC and RHS, the rest became history!

The biggest challenge is the amount of travel and long working days. My TV work has me on set from 7.30am until sometimes 8pm filming the programme Garden Makeovers.

My own design practice has me travelling a lot to sites, and then consulting with clients, before spending time drawing up the designs. So I have a real mix of physical, creative and admin in my day. There are lots of last-minute tweaks and changes to my schedule as the weather, client needs or other work commitments appear. I'm pretty rapid at switching between tasks which I think you have to be when self-employed.


"The good news is that any form of gardening whether in a large garden or tiny balcony is both good for your mental health via stress relief and also physical activity, which is sometimes overlooked."

Digging in new plants, pruning and weeding are all low-impact cardio activities. So gardening is a far cheaper and more relaxed form of going to the gym! My biggest tips are to always have a snack to hand as time flies when you're enjoying mindful gardening. Meaning you don't need to keep taking off muddy boots when your blood sugar drops!

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CharlotteDiagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 17

Getting pregnant

With my first pregnancy, I came off contraception thinking it would take a while to get pregnant and I had time to plan. But I fell pregnant straight away. And the enormity of the situation hit home and what it all meant. I was terrified I’d already made a big mistake and something was going to go wrong with the baby. And I was quite tough on myself. 

The second pregnancy felt lovely and controlled and I went to the pre-conception clinic. Once I reached the target HbA1c I got the go ahead to try to get pregnant. And it happened quickly. I was offered the support of a midwife specialising in mental health and my midwife specialised in type 1 diabetes and knew all about insulin pumps. I felt like there were lots of people who could help me and I wasn’t on my own. 

How pregnancy affected my blood sugar levels

I wasn’t expecting there to be such huge changes in my blood sugars during pregnancy. The same things I’d been eating before I was pregnant now spiked them. And in my first pregnancy, food became my entire focus. You feel you’re doing something wrong. And there’s a bit of shame. 

Even if my blood sugar levels were slightly higher, it felt like the end of the world. You need someone to say: “You’re trying your absolute best – this is really difficult.”

I’m usually very active but I stopped all exercise because I was worried about hypos. I couldn’t tell if my symptoms were an actual hypo or anxiety – as they feel the same to me. It was very difficult as I drive to work and had to drive for work as a newly-qualified dietitian with the NHS. I’d tried a Freestyle Libre before but couldn’t justify the cost during my first pregnancy as I was paying for a wedding, saving up for a house and starting my first job. But I ended up putting one on the credit card in the last few weeks.

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