Looking back over the 14 years I’ve had Type 1 diabetes, it hasn’t held me back says Laura.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 4 days before my 39birthday. It came as a complete ‘bolt from the blue’.
At the time, I was doing 2 part-time jobs and 2 courses, so put my feeling unwell down to stress.
In retrospect I realised I had all the symptoms and can track them back 2-3 months before diagnosis. I remember congratulating myself on finally cracking the drinking at least a litre of water a day! I also experienced deathly tiredness, blurred vision, going to the loo a lot, especially at night and weight loss.
It was another bout of thrush and an awareness that my urine smelt strange (ketones, I now know!) that finally took me to the GP. I was trying to get pregnant at the time, so I was worried that I had an infection that would prevent me from conceiving. The unexplained weight loss was also niggling me. I went from someone who put on weight just looking at a chocolate bar to losing a stone in about 6 weeks! Deep down, I knew there was something wrong, but diabetes never even crossed my mind. I didn’t know anyone with diabetes and it wasn’t in my family.
So, off I went to my GP, urine sample in hand. I explained how I was feeling and he did a dip-stick test of my urine. Within half an hour, I was in a taxi on my way to hospital. I’d never been into hospital before and I was scared. Once there, I was poked and prodded and tested for everything. Some hours later, it was confirmed that I had Type 1 diabetes. I was given a pile of leaflets and was given lots of advice. It was too soon for the advice. I was in shock and couldn’t take it in. Why were they telling me I had to look after my feet and never walk barefoot? What did that have to do with anything?! My main concern was whether I could eat and drink, as normal.
Living with Type 1
I’ve always been someone to take things in my stride, so I just got on with the business of trying to understand the condition and what it meant for me and my lifestyle. Many years of dieting prepared me well for understanding the impact of food on my blood sugars. Though, I have to say, this is an ongoing learning process. One of the challenges of living with Type 1 diabetes is that the condition isn’t static. No two weeks are the same and you are always learning about how you and your body and your blood sugars respond to experiences.
A turning point for me was attending aDAFNE course, 8 years after diagnosis. I nearly didn’t attend because I thought I knew everything there was to know about diabetes! It was great. I learnt aboutcarb countingfor the first time and finally got my head around why I needed to look after my feet! I also gained a huge amount from the peer support and shared learning. It taught me that improved knowledge can really improve quality of life.
One of the hardest things about living with Type 1 diabetes is that it needs constant attention. You can’t leave the house without planning, making sure you’ve got your testing kit, insulin, glucose tablets, snacks etc. You can’t spontaneously decide to go for a run, stay out overnight or miss a meal…without considering the impact on your blood sugars. And then, there are those days when your blood sugars stubbornly stay in the high teens, without any explanation. All this can lead to burn out. I’ve learnt tactics to help avoid burn out. Practical things, like keeping spare supplies – insulin, glucose, snacks at work, in my bag, by my bed, wherever I spend a chunk of time. And getting support of family and friends and particularly from others with Type 1 is important too.
Looking back over the 14 years I’ve had Type 1 diabetes, it hasn’t held me back. I have a successful career, I’ve travelled extensively - sometimes alone. I’m pretty active – even climb the occasional mountain! I eat a balanced, healthy diet, but occasionally indulge in chocolate fudge cake and take-aways, though not usually at the same time. I also enjoy a glass or three of wine! I just keep a close check on my blood sugars and adjust accordingly.