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I had a good base to work from when it came to looking after my diabetes

Susan's story

I was diagnosed with Type 1 at the age of four and a half - having just started school. That's nearly 60 years ago. My parents knew that something was wrong because I was losing so much weight, but no one seemed to know what it was. One day mum took me to our doctor and asked if he would test for diabetes.

There were no blood test then, it was from a urine sample. With a positive result it was off to Shrewbury from Market Drayton to the hospital there. The next day mum took my eldest sister, aged 6, to the doctor to ask him to test her. When the nurse brought back a positive reading, he did not believe her. He took out a brand new testing kit and tested the urine himself. There was another trip to Shrewsbury.

I'm not sure how the family coped, Dad worked shifts, my twin still had to go to school and there was a 5 month old baby in the house. My sister and I were in hospital for 6 weeks mainly so that I could gain some weight. Mum and Dad joined the British Diabetic Association (BDA) (now Diabetes UK) to learn more about the condition and what they could do to help us. Just because me and my sister had diabetes it did not stop us from joining in the numerous activities. We walked everywhere as we had no car. We had a strict diet, all protein and carbohydrates were weighed.

I was seven when Dad's work took us to Scotland, diabetes had become a way of life. We played on the beach at the end of our road with all the other kids, we went camping with the Guides and joined in all the activities that we could. We very rarely had a day off school, this I think is because we had a good diet and plenty of exercise, and no television.

After eight years Dad's work brought him south to Leeds. Here I joined in school and local activities. On leaving school I trained in Institutional Housekeeping an Catering, at Leeds Polytechnic, before moving to work at a London University Hall of Residence. I was now completely on my own for being responsible for my diabetes. As I remember this did not worry me as I had had such a good base to work from.

After eigteen months in London I moved on, it had been an experience but not one of the happiest times. I moved to an agricultural college in rural Warwickshire, to work in the Domestic Bursar's department. Diabetes care was carried out from the local GP practice, about 4 miles away.

Car and insurance

At the time I could not drive, so it meant finding someone on the staff who could take me, who was also free at the same time. It was great when I at last passed my driving test, I bought my mini but the next big problem was getting insurance.

A number of national firms turned me down, I wrote to BDA and they gave me three firms, I was horrified to see what they were charging (this was the middle 1970s, and I was earning just over £1,000 per year). While talking about it to a member of our team, the girl suggested that I contact her insurer. Bingo, they took me on, and though since I have enquired elsewhere their insurance is the best for me so I've been with them for over 40 years.In the earlier eighties the boss left, and as the new one did not arrive, as deputy manager I carried on running the department.

Over the next nine months I lost almost a stone in weight due to worry, not that I was sorry to lose it as I was 10 stone. No one had mentioned me being slightly over weight. With a new boss employed, I started to look as to where I was going with my career. I came to the conclusion that I would not get a managers job unless I had the qualifications needed. So I went back to college for a year.

Up to then things had been going OK with the diabetes, but then problems started. In the October, I was getting hypos, which I rarely had. At the same time I had diarrhoea. I was taken into hospital due to the hypos. The hospital were more concerned about the diabetes than the diarrhoea. Things got back to normal, but come June, exam time, the diarrhoea was back as well as the hypos. I spent the whole of July in hospital, undergoing test to see what was causing the diarrhoea as they had decided that this was causing the hypos.

Another diagnosis

Having done all that they could at the time I went to stay at my parents until I found a job. This is the only time I can remember feeling skinny as I had lost so much weight in hospital. With a new job in Stafford, putting on some weight, things seemed to be settling down. Within 4 weeks I was back in hospital with the same problems.

This time the doctors had a diagnosis, Coeliac disease. Since then with a gluten free diet things were going fine.

After another 12 years working in colleges I decided to move into the private sector and I spent the rest of my working life working in pub restaurants. This was a complete change as at first there was no early shifts, but always late finshes, so the diabetes regime had to have some changes. Up until this time I was still on 2 injections a day. When I came to work in the Taunton area things were not quite so good, as we worked split shifts, early morning and late evenings. I was finding around mid morning that I was getting hypos.

Having been sent to see the consultant at the hospital, she suggested that I would probably be better off on 4 injections a day. I asked did I have a choice, as I was not very keen on the idea. She explained it would be for better control, I agreed. Then I asked when it would start, the reply was Today!

Since then everything seems to be working out OK. Though a few adjustments have been made since I've retired.I say to people who want to know how I have managed "Treat diabetes as your friend, don't fight against it, as it will bite you back". Also with a few adjustments people with diabetes do not need to be restricted from doing what appeals to them. I say 'Get out and live life to the fullest! Diabetes does not need to stop you".

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