Living with Type-2 Diabetes


A 51-year-old NHS England employee marks National Diabetes Week by talking about how she is now living with the illness after fighting it for three years:

Diabetes is a serious disease and if it isn’t managed correctly it can be devastating.

Many people are unaware of this and that’s why I’m writing this blog, to lend my support to the back to basics awareness campaign during National Diabetes Week.

I last wrote a blog in support of the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP) as it was gathering pace and gearing up for launch. These topics are of great interest to me and both have my full support and backing.

Why?  Because I’ve gone on to develop Type 2 diabetes, having managed to keep it at bay for three years. I did this by re-educating myself on diet and exercise to lose weight, to reduce my risk of developing the disease, because I knew about the dangers of Type 2.

For me personally, the NHS DPP is a great and essential step forward in the tackling preventable diseases such as Type 2.  The issue, as you know, is close to my heart.   My mum also has diabetes and she’s recently come off her medication after 15 years.  She’s now managing it through diet and exercise.  She’s my inspiration! I’m striving to do the same.

Many people don’t know that if Type 2 isn’t managed well, it can lead to sight loss and loss of limbs, not to mention stroke, kidney and heart problems. I don’t want to scare anyone, what I want is to alert people to the fact that diabetes is a life changing disease and if it’s not managed correctly, a devastating one. But there is a silver lining to this dark cloud – Type 2 diabetes can be prevented.

Diabetes UK’s approach of going back to basics and letting people know the dangers of this disease, during this national diabetes week, is also great. It’s not just going back to the basic facts and the differences between Type 1 & 2 it’s dispelling myths and misconceptions around it. .

Being from an Afro-Caribbean background diabetes prevalence is high, as it is in the Asian community.  What’s startling is that many in my community think they don’t need to change their eating habits and life styles for the sake of their health, because they have a pill to make it all better.

This attitude really saddens me because they’ve failed to realise that by making simple dietary changes and exercising a little, they’ll not only feel better, but they’ll improve their health and lower the chances of complications in the future.   For me it’s a no brainer – a change in your lifestyle in exchange for a healthier, diabetes free life is a fair deal.

Believing Type 2 diabetes isn’t such a big deal and can be managed through medication isn’t the best way to approach it.  I’ve been there!  I managed to stave off Type 2 for three years but old habits crept back in and with my age and ethnicity I ended up developing it.

I really do wish I’d had access to a prevention programme when I was told I was high risk.  If I had, I think I could have prevented it from developing.  Who knows?

I have seen first-hand the damage Type 2 can do in my community.  I know of people who’ve had an amputation or have serious sight problems: that’s why I am making these changes to my life, it makes sense.  My health is my responsibility and I have to do what I can, before it’s too late.

I would urge all those who have been identified as being at high risk to take heed and understand the disease.  Go back to basics, dispel the myths and the misconceptions surrounding the disease. Learn what preventative steps you can take to stop it developing. It can only improve your health. It really is in your best interest to do so.

When I was diagnosed as having Type 2 Diabetes my HBA1C was in the 90s, which was a very high and dangerous level – your HBA1C should be between 42 and 47. At my last visit with my Diabetic Nurse in February, my HBA1C had come down to 48.  I am well on my way to becoming border line again and managing my condition without the aid of medication.

I’m a firm believer in being the master of your own health and well-being.  I don’t want to suffer ill health because I didn’t follow simple advice.  Why let it get to that stage?

My other aim is to alert people, identified as being on the cusp of developing the disease, of the dangers.  I want them to be armed with the basic facts of the disease and to know that they too can stop it from developing and stop the potential devastation.

Dawn Liburd

Dawn Liburd works for NHS England.