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Advice for people with diabetes and their families


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.

Jan smiling in her One Million Step Challenge t-shirt and medal

Jan MatherDiagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2010

Changing my lifestyle

My son is a lovely boy, but he has very high needs and caring for him didn’t give me much room for myself. When he was in his 20s, we found a really wonderful residential place for him, and now he is happily settled there.

My life opened out into a different rhythm, where I would visit him, work and spend time with my husband and daughter. 

Three years ago my husband and I were just getting to the stage when we thought life would become calmer - he had retired and I was working from home in a job I loved, when he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. 

It’s quite advanced, but he is having excellent treatment and doing very well. He is a very positive and proactive man, and he decided he was going to do everything he could to make sure that his treatment had the best possible outcome. 

So last summer we decided to change our lifestyle. My blood glucose (sugar) levels were very high, so I knew it would be good for me too.

We cut pretty much all sugar, fat and processed food out of our diet. Eating better improved our energy levels.

And because a friend of mine had done the One Million Step Challenge the year before, when I saw it online I signed up immediately.

Read Jan Mather's complete story
Steve smiling in his One Million Steps T-shirt

Steve HodgsonDiagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2016

Struggling to make changes

At first, everything seemed daunting. I knew that I’d need to reduce the amount of stress that was in my life, get more sleep and sort my eating out. But changing the habits of a lifetime doesn’t come easily. 

My wife was keen to support me, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it. I was still very much in denial. We improved the way we would eat as a family, but then I’d pick up McDonalds or eat a packet of biscuits on the way to work. It’s hard to explain, but it was a very low-point for me and I don’t think I was very self-aware because I had not come to terms with my condition.

Read Steve Hodgson's complete story
A young child in a high-chair eating food

MosheMoshe was 11 months old when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

What research means to our family

The dream of every single parent of a child with type 1 is that there will one day be a cure. It’s like a big puzzle that needs to be solved. As every piece of that puzzle falls into place, we hope we can gradually build enough knowledge to solve the entire problem.

There’s only one way that a cure will come about, and that’s through research. To us, research means hope.

My hopes for Moshe are that, as his parents, we can manage his condition well enough to allow him to be or to do anything he wants. Obviously, he can’t have sweets for breakfast! But whether he can eat something, or do something are never questions asked around him. Our focus is on doing everything in the background to enable him to do and be anything he wants. If he wants to be a circus acrobat, then so be it and we’ll make sure that his sugar levels are managed in a way that allows him that freedom.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and a cure for type 1 diabetes won't be found in one either. It takes a collective effort to get to the result we want. I don’t want to talk up my role too much. Perhaps my role as a patient advisor is just giving these researchers some morale support. Because we’re not going to get the results we want without everybody pitching in.

Read Moshe's complete story
George West walking near cliffs

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

Adapting to life with diabetes

I think the challenges actually increased after I was diagnosed. As a typical bloke I bottled things up and thought I could deal with it. I told myself it was just a case of injecting insulin and I would get used to it. At the same time, I was using textbooks to teach myself how to manage the condition and how to count carbohydrates

My medical school advised me to take a year out, learn about my condition, and then return the following year. My response to this was “absolutely, no way.” I had six weeks off over the summer and I was determined to return in September and continue my training. 

However, returning for my second year wasn’t easy. I moved out of university halls and in with friends, who I don’t think fully understood my diabetes. I couldn’t go out drinking as much with my rugby team, I couldn’t do physical sport because I hadn’t learnt to control my sugars, and the sweets I would leave dotted about for hypos would be eaten by my housemates, who didn’t really know why they were there. I was also struggling with injecting in public. 

I remember going to a rugby pre-season session and everyone looking at me as if I had changed and that I wouldn’t be able to join in anymore. But I hadn’t changed, I just had a new condition that I was living with. Things were starting to feel too much. I had an appointment a few weeks later with my diabetes team and I think that’s when it actually hit me: everything isn’t ok. That was the turning point. 

Read George West's complete story

Abdul RaisAbdul Rais was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1999 at the age of 46

Living with lockdown

I’m a member of my Diabetes UK local group, so we meet online once a month and I usually still try to find good speakers like an eye or foot specialist. And of course I’m doing my walking and I have a weekly radio show in Urdu for Pendle Community Radio, which I do from home.

Coronavirus vaccine

I was expecting a letter about the vaccine – like my dad had. But I just received a text message from the surgery one Thursday in January to say to make an appointment. I rang straight away and I went that afternoon. The injection was very quick. Afterwards, I was fine. For the next couple of days I felt a bit tired, that was all. 

I was excited about getting the vaccine because I want to be safe so I can get on with my life. As a Diabetes UK volunteer, I’m used to going into mosques and giving talks about diabetes – or talking to people one to one. 

Most people in my community don’t know what diabetes is or that it can cause things like heart attack or stroke. It’s my mission in life to raise awareness and challenge myths. But I haven’t been in a mosque since last February. I don’t want to be sitting and talking to people on Zoom – it’s not possible for many people in the South Asian community to get on these technologies.

Read Abdul Rais's complete story
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