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.


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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Kayleigh Steel


Stigma and misconceptions

In early 2020 I was offered a place on DESMOND, a diabetes education course, but then we went into lockdown. There was an online option for DESMOND, but I didn’t feel like that was what I needed at the time.  

One year later, I returned to my nurse for a check-up, who told me, “You’re very young to have type 2 diabetes.” And that’s pretty much what every healthcare provider has told me. I’ve had other people assume that I have type 1 diabetes because of my age, and I’ve been asked, “Did you eat a lot of chocolate?” when I’ve felt the courage to share my diagnosis.  

When I had prediabetes, I was aware that my nan had it, but I too bought into the misconception that it was an older person’s condition. I have since learned that four generations of my family had received diagnoses of type 2 diabetes.  

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Sam Dottin



Until recently, I never really engaged with any services for diabetes. I didn’t have any symptoms and I didn’t really take it seriously. But I had experienced a bereavement during the pandemic, and some time afterwards I realised I wanted to take living with diabetes more seriously.  

Then in 2021 I joined Diabetes UK, and I developed a better understanding of what things I can do to manage my health, and how to say no to certain food that affects my blood sugar levels.  

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Katie Lamb's story


Managing independently

Because I was diagnosed so young, diabetes just became another thing I had to do. At school I thought it made me cool and unique, and my friends had the same attitude, which gave me a really positive start. I was never ashamed of it. My teachers were really supportive too.

I currently use the Dexcom G6 (since January) and the t:Slim X2 insulin pump, which I’ve used for 11 years. It’s taken a lot to give control to the pump, but it does a good job. It takes away some of the burden. I’m very grateful for sleep mode, and the diabetes tech that’s been available for me.

I had the same paediatric nurse until I was 19 and had a great relationship with her and the rest of my team. But when I hit my late teenage years, making the transition to adults, leaving school to move to university, and taking more responsibility it all hit me.

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