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Diabetes is who I am - without it I'm not me

Type 1 diabetes hasn't stopped Darren from being a world champion kick boxer. Here he tells his story.

I often get asked about being diabetic from those who know  about my condition and how I overcame it and found myself as a 2008 World Champion.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and I can truly say as a Type 1 diabetic, I don't regret it and wouldn't change it for the world. It's who I am and without it, I'm not me. I started Martial Arts training in 1984 as a lanky, skinny, practically blind 9-year-old who was forever being bullied. Every day I was pushed around and picked on without fail. Then one day my parents decided enough was enough and thought some self defence training would help me or at least boost my confidence which was at an all time low. I joined a Kung Fu club and really enjoyed it. I was rubbish at first but was well looked after. I met new friends and those new to the club, like me, had started a journey which ended up hugely successful.

The bullying seemed to stop and I think this was largely due to the fact that my reaction had changed to those that bullied me. I guess they got bored. After five years I was a black belt, the highest colour belt possible. I even had started to compete. Although now at 15 I was around 6'5", still skinny and with incredibly poor eye sight, I didn't win much, but enjoyed it all the same.

I kept training every week and by the time I was 26 I had moved to Worcestershire and started kickboxing. I loved it and competed every month, sometimes winning semi important titles but nothing major. At competitions the first thing you have to do is weigh in on arrival. Usually I weighted around 86kg until one day

I woke up feeling slightly odd on a day of a fight. I went along anyway and when I got on the scales I couldn't believe my eyes - 74kg I had done nothing different. I wasn't dieting or doing anything unusual. I just couldn't work it out. Stupidly, I competed anyway and lost. I felt I had no energy to defend myself and could have been really hurt. I didn't drive home that evening but on the hour's journey I was constantly thirsty and then needing the toilet. I couldn't get enough drink inside me and then we just had to keep pulling over to find somewhere to go the toilet.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and I can truly say as a Type 1 diabetic, I don't regret it and wouldn't change it for the world.


It dawned on me on that journey that something was seriously wrong. I had a diabetic grandmother and uncle who had passed away because he didn't look after his diabetes. I rang my mother and said I think I had some bad news -I didn't need diagnosing.

I think that phone call to my mum was enough for us to realise my life had just changed forever. It was late at night when I got home and maybe in hindsight I should have probably gone straight to hospital, but I went home and called the doctor first thing in the morning.

The doctor told me to come straight in. When I got to the doctors I had a test and immediately my blood sugar level was around 30mml. I was immediately sent straight to hospital and put on a drip and kept in for a couple of days while they got me used to the biggest change of my life. 

I came out feeling my life was over. Hypos, hypers, insulin, blood tests, humalog, humalin, blood sugar, finger prick tests, non-surgary food, feeling low, feeling high, feeling so tired, everyone tip toeing around me. What was happening to me?

All these things, 48 hours before didn't have any bearing on my life, now they were my life. Although this was all bad, I thought of the rest of my family. Many smoked, many drank and I didn't do any of those. So that got me thinking! If anyone in my family had to become a diabetic I was glad it was me. I didn't have any bad habits, such as my uncle who lost his life at 44 through complications with diabetes, who also smoked and drank. I was not about to let it control my life. I control my life, not the diabetes....

It took a while to get used to having hypos, but I guess those who experience them, never get used to them and we seem to come out the other side without a clue in the world what has previously been going on! Those around us at the time are our true saviours and for anyone who has helped a diabetic through a hypo, I certainly salute you.

I eventually got back to training. My weight returned and I was confident to compete again and now wanted to prove to myself more than ever that diabetes wasn't the only one going to lose a fight against me. In November 2006 I became WUMA British and European champion, 2007 British and 6 foot series overall champion and in 2008 I hit the jackpot by winning the British, European and World Championships in Greece against fighters from all over the world who had absolutely no idea that I was a diabetic.

At a fight I have to be 100 per cent fit and healthy. I have to have tests almost every 20 minutes to see what my levels are doing and during rounds, drink some sugary energy drinks to keep me topped up and test again at the next earliest opportunity. I have found this has worked well for me and with the help of the DAFNA course (Dose Adjustment For Normal Eating), I am now in a great position where I can eat whatever suits me and be of the knowledge to give the correct dosage of insulin and avoid any lows whatsoever.

My diabetes is something that I live with and you know something? It's not that bad after all.

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