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Type 2 diabetes in young people - Shannon's story

Shannon by canal

Shannon Ball

Diagnosed aged 16

At diagnosis, it's hard to know where to begin. I know there aren't enough resources to give everyone the help they might want, but I feel as though I was expected to figure most of it out by myself.

Diagnosed in her teens with type 2 diabetes, Shannon spent many years feeling overwhelmed by her condition but signing up to one of our fundraising events, Month of Miles, gave her a new perspective. Shannon wants people to know that type 2 diabetes in young people is hard, but now she's ready to 'go, go, go!'

We've partnered with Tesco to help one million people find out their risk of type 2 diabetes. Learn more about your risk today. 


When I found out I had type 2

“I would go college and then fall asleep at home and struggle to wake up. I lived with my Nan who worried as she saw how ill I was. I started throwing up so I was taken to the doctors who performed some tests which confirmed I had type 2 diabetes, I was also diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) at that time.” PCOS is associated with an increased risk of developing health problems in later life, including type 2 diabetes. 

Find out more about your risk of type 2 diabetes

Journey with diabetes

Coming to terms with my condition

Shannon, 26, says she struggled to come to terms with and fully understand her condition. She felt she also lacked access to support that could have helped her make healthier lifestyle choices and coping mechanisms to manage the emotional burden of living with diabetes.

“At diagnosis, it's hard to know where to begin. I know there aren't enough resources to give everyone the help they might want, but I feel as though I was expected to figure most of it out by myself. Reading leaflets from Diabetes UK was helpful at a time when I was trying to get my head around everything. I was referred to a dietitian who talked me through the basics, but with diabetes there's so much you have to learn, and it's a lot of pressure."

Over the years, Shannon struggled to take her diabetes medication as prescribed.

"I wanted to try to manage my diabetes with diet and lifestyle changes, but the doctors said that metformin was just a little push to help me out. I do understand why they take such a strong approach with me, but mentally, I find taking my tablets a struggle. It's a constant reminder that something's not right. I was being told to take these tablets when I wanted to fix the situation by myself. When I don't take my medication properly, my blood sugars get too high, but it's a vicious loop. Getting off that spinning record is tough."

Life with diabetes

Juggling other health conditions

Shannon has other health conditions to manage alongside diabetes and PCOS. Born with a rare birth defect called Poland Syndrome, she underwent two rounds of surgery in her teens to correct an underdeveloped muscle connecting her chest to her arm and shoulder.

"I struggle to lift things. At school, I couldn't do PE properly because I experience weakness on the right side of my body," she says. "The support from my family while I was going through my operations and their painful aftermath was incredible. But mentally, the experience took its toll."


Month of Miles challenge

Keen to increase her activity levels to help manage her diabetes, Shannon decided to sign up to our Month of Miles challenge, which runs all year and invites participants to choose a distance that suits them and raise sponsorship.

"I used an app to count the distance I covered, and it was great to see the numbers add up, every mile was a little goal. Even if I only made it to my local park, getting out the door in the first place sometimes felt like an achievement in itself. In the past, I'd come up with excuse after excuse about why I shouldn't bother going out for a walk, I'd tell myself I had to cook dinner, or the weather was too bad. There were times when even getting my shoes on was a struggle but recently, there's been a change in my outlook. I've realised it makes me happy when I go out.

Seeing other people share their successes on the Month of Miles Face book page was really powerful, seeing their progress made me feel like I could achieve something too. It was nice to be part of a group where everyone understands what it's like to live with diabetes. One day I was out walking, and someone asked about my t-shirt, so I explained what I was doing. I'm not a social person, but my confidence has really improved thanks to these walks. That's been a huge boost."


Onward journey

"I know losing weight can be helpful when you have type 2 diabetes. I would love more practical advice from healthcare professionals about how I can make that happen. I use Myfitnesspal to help me track what I'm eating, and it's good for breaking down the nutrients in different foods. But a little bit more real-life support would be great.

All the changes I've been making have made it a bit easier to be in the right headspace to take my metformin. 

I know that, together with the walking, it's benefiting my health. The progress I've made recently has been very much me taking baby steps in the right direction. But it all adds up and makes a difference. I'm surprised at how my mindset has changed since I took part in Month of Miles. Now, I want to get out there and go, go, go."

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