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.


JonDiagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 5

Diabetes didn’t hold me back in life

Having diabetes didn’t stop me doing anything. My mum and dad were great like that. They never said: “Oh he can’t do that because he has diabetes.” But sleepovers made me nervous. I worried about doing my evening injection and having breakfast the following morning and standing out compared to everyone else.

I’ve always been of the opinion that diabetes shouldn’t hold you back. You just have to take extra precautions. So always making sure you’ve got some hypo treatment on you and having your meter on you so you’re able to test your blood sugar. When my sugar levels are slightly raised, I run and join in with the children or just have a bit more insulin and test again.

I've been a PE teacher for 18 years now. In the early years when I was fresh out of university and still living in those uni ways, I think my blood sugar control maybe wasn't the best. But as long as you've always got hypo treatment on you, there's no reason it should stop you doing anything. In my office desk I've got three or four tubes of Dextrose and a massive pot I keep cereal bars in.

Family life

My wife’s a nurse and when we first started going out – even before I’d said anything – she saw my insulin pens on the table. I thought I’m not going to get away with anything in terms of my diabetes now. 

Both my boys see it as normal. If they see me as having something because my blood sugar’s going low, it’s just known as Daddy’s having medicine because he’s not feeling very well.

My oldest is six and a half and I'll get him to help me. So he’ll scan the sensor on my arm or put my carb numbers into my meter. He knows if Daddy needs some sugar to either get me a drink or go and get the tablets – he knows where they’re kept. He’s got a girl in his class who has type 1 diabetes, so he doesn’t see it as something different. 

I like to keep my children active and be involved. Exercising definitely helps me in managing my condition. I notice this when I'm not as active, for example during the school holidays when I’m not cycling to work.

Bringing diabetes into the open and dispelling myths 

With the changes in diabetes technology, whether you’ve got something on your arm you can scan or a pump that's much more visible, the conversations are there to be had. And a lot of students are inquisitive. When I talk to them, somebody might say, “Oh, my uncle's diabetic, or I know someone, one of my neighbours is diabetic” and this sparks more conversations.  

"I think there's still a lot of education needed. I did a lesson the other week and the member of staff that had prepared it had actually got their information about diabetes wrong. But we then had a productive conversation about it, which was good." 

Occasionally there are still the odd comments, like, “Can I catch it? How do you get it?” and I remember a boy in secondary school actually say, “My mum says you're diabetic because you've eaten too much sugar.” 

Read Jon's complete story

Kaajal Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 5.

Diabetes didn't hold me back in life

Diabetes does interfere quite a lot with life but I try not to let it. There will be days when I wake up late and my sugar levels are high. I do get affected and irritable sometimes, but what can I do about it right now? There's always going to be something that's affected my sugar levels somehow. It's never the same each day because of things like my hormones, my body weight changing and the food I eat. So it does affect me on a daily basis, but I have to be mentally strong. I tell myself I have to do one of the jobs of my pancreas right now. So I need to be able to handle the stress that comes with it.

Being prepared

I'll go out and have a few drinks. But I understand that if I've had a little bit over my limit, I'd have to take less of my background insulin, or I need to make sure I'm taking more food. It does affect you for 24 hours. 

It's not like I can't have fun, but I have to be a little bit more aware of myself. I live such a full life: I design, I go to the gym, I go out, I've dressed celebrities. I never allow myself to be held back but I just make sure I’m prepared and in my bag I've got my testing equipment and little snacks, I've got my juice (for hypos), because you can't just tell your diabetes to hold on. Diabetes does come first and you can't ever take a break from it. 

Lack of understanding

I was on a date once and a guy asked, “oh, so you're diabetic? Is it transferable?” I didn't understand what he meant. What do you mean, transferable? I mean, like, is it contagious? And it just really baffled me, because that showed that there's such a lack of information out there.

Diabetes doesn't have to hold you back from the next stages in your life, whether it's getting married, having kids, starting a business,​​​​​​ travelling, going out - it shouldn't. I'm trying to battle those misconceptions. I'm trying my best now to speak out more about it. I’ve done so many things in my life, but no one ever knew that I was battling this hidden condition.


I’ve always wanted to be a designer. I tried to find work in the UK when I finished university. I couldn't find many opportunities so I started looking elsewhere. I happened to find an embroidery job in Zambia that allowed me to train and even to run my own department and train an apprentice. 

Embroidery has allowed me to build my own athleisure range. I started doing hoodies and caps and I started dressing local celebrities, DJs and musicians. My little logo is in quite a few places out in the southern African region. As a person with diabetes working for myself, if I get tired, I'll take a rest. But if something needs to get done, it needs to get done.

Read Kaajal 's complete story

Diagnosed with type 2 after having gestational diabetes

Living with the condition

These days I wake up and think right, where do I start? I check my blood sugars first thing in the morning and make sure I take my insulin. Before I get in the car to drive I check my blood sugar levels. I try not to think about it all the time, but obviously, it's always there. If I start to feel a little bit funny I have to go and check my sugars. Life isn’t quite so simple anymore. I can't just get up in the morning and go out the door. I have to think about everything I need before I actually leave the house. 

I try not to let diabetes take over my life but, obviously, I'm always thinking about it. I check my blood sugars and take my medication but I also try to incorporate lots of exercise and spending time with the horses and on the farm. 

Having diabetes is helpful when I go and see patients with diabetes as I can be much more empathetic towards them. I see people in their own homes so they're much more comfortable and it's much easier for them to ask me the questions that they perhaps wouldn't ask the doctors or the nurses when they go to their GP. They can ask me things without feeling intimidated or embarrassed.

Read 's complete story

LibbyDiagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 3.

How our life has changed since our daughter's diagnosis


We don’t really do much without the children because it’s so much easier if they’re with us, especially Libby. But there’s nothing she can’t do. For me it was nice going back to work and having a different focus to diabetes. But whenever we’re at work we’ve both got our phones on. 

There have been a couple of times when Libby’s been in school and needs a pump change because it’s failed or hurting her. And school’s only a couple of minutes away so I’ll go straight there and change it."

"At night if Libby’s blood sugars are on the low side, we’ll have to wake her up and give her a glucose tablet. Along with having a one-year-old, we don’t always get much sleep." – Mike


Other family members were pretty worried after the diagnosis. I don’t think we trusted anyone to look after Libby at first. We still have a bit of that. It's hard enough for us to learn how to look after Libby’s diabetes so we don't expect grandparents to know exactly what to do. Quite a few times we’re called on for advice if her blood sugar is too low or too high.” 

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

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
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