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Refusing to let Type 1 diabetes take control of my life – Sam Webb

Sam WebbIn the final blog to mark World Diabetes Day, Sam Webb, reflects on the impact Type 1 diabetes has had on his life and how he has learned to follow the same basic rules since being diagnosed with the condition.

I was eight years old. Sitting on a chair in the doctor’s office, in complete silence, the facial expressions anxious. The doctor moved quickly into the office,  she said; “I’m so sorry. You have Type 1 diabetes”. I had never heard of diabetes, and I don’t think I was even listening to what she was saying.  But she looked horrified, her eyes were watching my eyes, and when she told me I looked straight towards my mum.  Two hours earlier, my dad told me there would be no needles in this check up.  Hours later, I would be living with many needles for the rest of my life and my childhood would never be the same again.

Nine years later, I am writing this blog in a coffee shop in London, with a piece of cake and coffee. When I said life would change, it has but the Type 1 hasn’t taken control.  There’s a distinct difference, which is important to take note of.  My diabetes is a priority in my life. Before every meal, I follow the same basic principle that every diabetic should follow.

  1. Check my blood sugar.
  2. Bolus some insulin corresponding to the food I am about to eat.
  3. And then, eat whatever I like, providing I have bolused, or at least checked my blood glucose (BG).

I am fortunate to have an OmniPod, a wireless insulin pump which has made my diabetes so much easier to control, without the fiddling and the unpleasantries associated with injecting (thin needles, blood etc.).  It allows me to check my blood glucose levels, and act accordingly, usually by giving a certain quantity of insulin, or reducing my insulin delivery rate. For example, if I play rugby or football in the park, and my BG is low, I put forward a temporary basal, which is basically an adjustment of my insulin delivery for an expressed amount of time. In this case, I would decrease the amount of insulin, so that I can give my blood a chance to rise.

My mum always tells me, that in order to succeed with diabetes; you must follow the basic rules. I have never asked her what those rules are, but I assume they are simply to check your BG, and to give insulin when high, and correct with glucose, if you are low. This is the only way to establish positive and sustained BGs during the day. My mum is right; follow the rules, and you will get it right.

That’s not to say some days will be harder than others. Sometimes, if your BG is too high, indulging in a lemon drizzle sponge may not be the wisest thing to do. Sometimes, being too low, exercising, even with your pals in the park, may have to be put to one side, at least until your numbers have risen to a safer level. I find exercise difficult when I have a low BG. I can’t focus, and have blurred vision. Being low is also dangerous. If you treat it, then you will be fine. If you don’t treat it, you may fall into a coma, and die. It sounds melodramatic but it’s true. Diabetes is about making the right choices. So make sure you make the right choices too.

It’s a choice how you live with Type 1 diabetes. It’s not fatal, and it’s by no means the end of your life. It requires patience, discipline, perseverance and whole lot of support. I have always had that.

I don’t have advice on how to deal with Type 1 diabetes, because my scientific abilities warrant no such thing!  However I would say you have to be responsible. Your body is sensitive and control of your BG is a way of protecting yourself against heart, liver and kidney problems.  I can’t stress how important it is to take care of yourself and although it may seem trivial, simply going high once or twice a week, every week, could make you blind in later life.

Diabetes has taught me that life is harder than it should be. Life throws things at you that you don’t expect. The important thing is to embrace these things and move forward with whatever it has thrown at you.  Finally, don’t be afraid to ask; asking may be the difference between good control and bad control. I owe my control to my parents and their advice has proved to be indispensable.  The reason my control is good, is down to their commitment to helping me.

The most important thing I have learned from having the disease, is how you have to be determined to get it right and that some days, it will all fall apart. Don’t lose hope. Don’t fall apart with it.

I think the whole diabetes world can smell a cure for Type 1. It’s getting closer… So hold on tight, this may be the final strait.

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9 comments

  1. Christine Holmes says:

    Well done Sam. I have had Type 1 Diabetes for almost fifty years now and have seen so many changes in the way of treatment of diabetes. The Omnipod has been good for me too and has helped to improve my HBA1C and my daily routine greatly. I look forward to the day a cure for diabetes is found. Meanwhile, keep up the good work!

    Best wishes
    Chrissie

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful advice. My son aged 9 was diagnosed 4 weeks ago. He seems to have taken it all in his stride whereas me not so good.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So positive.
    Stay hopefull the future cure is can’t be far away

  4. Alice says:

    Well done Sam. You have the right attitude! I will show your blog to my 9 year old son who was diagnosed last year. Thank you for sharing your story.

  5. Angela Cartwright says:

    Well done. My son was diagnosed as type 1 when he was 8 too and he has never let his diabetes stop him doing anything. He is now 31 and recently opened his own gym. He has always been fitness mad and also follows a strict healthy eating programme he has always said it won’t affect his life.

  6. Antony says:

    I hope my 5 year old daughter grows with the fortitude and optimism that you display. Thanks.

  7. Isabel Chevis says:

    Hi, I have had type 1 diabetes for 50 years; I was diagnosed at age 12. I have never read such a straightforward and eloquent account of what it is like to have type 1 and so I would like to thank and congratulate you on such a well-written blog. Well done Sam and may you continue to keep in control of your diabetes and avoid all the complications and pitfalls. Thank you. Isabel

  8. SImon Chapman says:

    What a remarkable and inspirational guy you are, Sam.

  9. Tim Sanders says:

    Well said Sam. When I was diagnosed (32 years ago) it also stopped me taking for granted how our bodies work and all the amazing biochemistry that was still working perfectly.

    I thoroughly approve of the coffee and cake, Type 1 is definitely not a barrier to cake, especially if it’s before or after exercise. I’m lucky that when my blood glucose is high, I really don’t fancy treats.

    I find it’s best to test maybe half an hour before exercise, so you have time to correct and recover (eg. eat the cake). And when I had a pump, it wasn’t great to wear during exercise (maybe yours is better) but I could just remove it for an hour or two, because there was enough insulin in circulation to keep me going (I had an insulin pen for a small top-up if my blood sugar started rising).

    Good luck !