"I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1997, when I was five years old. I always think I was very fortunate to be diagnosed at such a young age as I feel I was more adaptable and did not have to make considerable lifestyle changes that one would at a later age. With the support of my parents, I was able to learn about and adapt to my condition quickly.
Having lived with diabetes now for most of my life, it has become second nature to me and hasn’t prevented me from doing anything that I’ve wanted to do, which is something I cannot emphasise enough to any newly-diagnosed diabetics who may fear that it might stop them from doing certain things. Diabetes should not be a barrier to prevent you from doing anything you want to do – it might just take a little bit of preparation and planning beforehand.
I have just spent two months travelling around South-East Asia earlier this year with a friend. Although I have done a bit of backpacking before, it was only around Europe, so the prospect of somewhere further away was a bit daunting. I control my diabetes using a routine of four injections a day, with three rapid-acting injections of Novorapid, and my long-lasting one of Lantus before bed.
The main concerns for me prior to departure, and also whilst travelling, were that my insulin would not always be refrigerated, how the heat would affect my sugar levels and what I would do if my bags got lost or stolen with my insulin in. However, with a bit of prep, all went smoothly!
I took enough supplies from home which would last two months (plus some spares), and kept them in my hand luggage at all times. I also looked up and had printed out some useful phrases in Thai, Cambodian and French in case of an emergency, which thankfully were never used.
In a few hostels I was able to put my insulin in their fridge, and the rest of the time I had Frio bags which are designed to keep insulin cool for up to a month at a time. As we did a lot of physical activity, such as seven hour treks, I kept some glucose tablets and snacks with me at all times. I had an amazing experience and would love to travel somewhere else in the future.17 years on since my diagnosis, I am still learning new things about diabetes, whether it be through seeking information online, or by realising only through experience how factors such as stress and nerves affect my sugar levels. I believe the internet and technology has, and will continue to transform our self-management regimes.
Due to the growth of information technology and more available sources of information regarding diabetes and health, I think there is a lot more responsibility on individuals to obtain information themselves. This in turn can enable patients to be more involved in their own health research and decision making, instead of relying solely on healthcare professionals. I often lookup information online beforehand and bring it to appointments, so I am armed with answers and able to initiate and steer the conversation in a certain direction.
For example, through researching insulin pumps online, I have been discussing with my consultant the option of using one as I think that it could be more suited to my active lifestyle, including playing competitive tennis and long-distance running, and am hoping to test one this coming month. Undoubtedly this will be the most significant change in my self-management regime so far, yet it is one which I anticipate, and hope, could offer potential benefits for my future."