"It's really rewarding to know I'm helping others who are in the same position I was after my diagnosis with Type 2 diabetes."
Dolly was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes shortly after turning 50.
I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes back in 2002, after I had a stroke shortly after my fiftieth birthday. It was a huge shock particularly as I had recently been to my GP to be tested for diabetes and had been told I definitely did not have the condition.
As well as recovering from the stroke, it took a long time to adjust to living with diabetes. My family are from India originally and I was worried that I could not have any of the Indian sweets I was used to, as I thought they would be too high in carbs.
People like myself from an Indian background are more likely to get Type 2 diabetes so I think it's really important to raise awareness of the problem.
As I learned more about diabetes and grew more confident in managing my condition, I realised that in moderation I could eat anything I wanted. Over the past few years I’ve found I can eat Indian food sometimes and still manage my diabetes really successfully. Now I often forget I have diabetes!
The information and confidence I got from getting involved as a volunteer withDiabetes Voiceswas really key to helping me live well with diabetes. Now I want to help others to do the same, and that is what I am trying to do in Slough, where I live.
I joined Diabetes UK once I felt back to normal after my stroke, around ten years ago. At first I really wanted to find out more about diabetes so I could manage my condition better. I became a Diabetes Voice a few years later as I realised how important Diabetes UK campaigns are to making sure people living with diabetes get the care they need.
Helping out on Diabetes UK campaigns
I volunteer with the Slough Diabetes Support Group as well, and I make sure everyone in the community has all the campaign materials, like thePutting Feet First foot check leaflets and the15 Healthcare Essentialschecklist. These leaflets let people living with diabetes know exactly what care they need to be asking for at check-ups.
When I explain the 15 Healthcare Essentials campaign, people still often tell me that they didn’t get half the checks that they need. I tell them to take a leaflet, go back to their GP and demand them! The checks can really help avoid complications and support people to manage their diabetes, so we need to work hard to make sure everyone is getting them.
The best thing about these campaigns is that they empower people; the leaflets and posters give people living with diabetes the knowledge and the confidence to ask for the care they should be getting.
Making things better in my area
I’m also involved with Healthwatch Slough, and our new community group, Slough Diabetes Support Group. Healthwatch Slough is a body which gives local people a chance have their say on local health care services and help make things better. Slough Diabetes Support Group is a self-help group that anyone can join. I’ve found working with both groups so rewarding.
With Healthwatch we’ve done pop-up shops to raise awareness of conditions like diabetes and conducted hospital visits to make sure everyone is getting the care they need. Through Healthwatch then I’ve been able to both raise awareness of diabetes and make sure current care standards are up to scratch.
I know people like myself from an Indian background are more likely to get Type 2 diabetes, so I think it is really important to raise awareness of the problem. With better awareness and more information some people will be able to avoid getting Type 2 diabetes in the first place. But it is also vital that people who have any type of diabetes get the support they need to live well. Too often this still doesn’t happen and that is why we need Diabetes Voices working for better care.
If anyone has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, or wants to find out more, I’d really recommend getting involved. There is something for everyone and you can find out the right way for you to make a difference. It may working with the local group to distribute campaign leaflets, it may be organising a pop-up shop with Healthwatch or it may be joining a Patient Participation Group at your local GP practice.
I’ve done all of these over the years and its really rewarding to know I am helping others who are in the same position I was after my diagnosis. Even as a former nurse, I was unsure of how to live with diabetes and concerned about my care. I’m sure so many others feel the same and I hope through my work with Diabetes Voices and elsewhere I’ve been able to offer a little support.