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Living with Type 1 diabetes
World Diabetes Day is marked every year on November 14 and is a day when people come together to raise awareness of the condition. To mark the day this year, three young people from across England will share their own stories on NHS England and explain what it is really like to live with diabetes. The first up is Ellie Huckle, here’s her story.
World Diabetes Day; the birthday of Frederick Banting. Banting was the man who co-discovered insulin and is the reason that everyone with Type 1 diabetes is alive today. He and Charles Best discovered insulin in 1922, completely turning around the prognosis for someone diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It went from being a slow and painful death to being a disease that can be controlled and one people can live with.
I live with Type 1. I have done since I was 11 years old. I decided from the moment I was diagnosed that I would do something with my diagnosis and be a voice for other people who live with Type 1. Diabetes is just an umbrella term for two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease; it occurs when the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells and renders our bodies unable to produce insulin. Without insulin, people die. That is a fact and is the reason that people with Type 1 depend on insulin injections. Type 1 has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle and normally presents in childhood and adolescence but also affects adults.
Type 2 is far more prevalent in those over age 40. It is insulin resistance; their pancreas still produces insulin but the body doesn’t utilise it as it should. Type 2 can also occur naturally because of old age. I just thought it would be helpful to provide a little bit of background information to kick off this series of blogs because it is essential people differentiate between the two.
I think the keyword in the sentence living with Type 1 diabetes, is living. Thanks to Frederick Banting and Charles Best this disease is not a death sentence anymore. We have the chance to live. A diagnosis of Type 1 means that we must become our own pancreases, we are essentially doing its job: producing insulin. People with Type 1 must mimic its behaviour. It’s relentless, 24/7 and sometimes things don’t always go to plan, blood sugar that is too high or too low is a daily occurrence.
But we have to get on with it. I could complain for ages about how hard work it is, how much of a nuisance it is and how I wish I could get a break from it; but that won’t change the fact that I have to look after my diabetes or the affect it will have on my health will be detrimental. Living with Type 1 isn’t just a physical battle but a mental one too. You can dwell on how difficult it is and at some stage in your life, as a Type 1 diabetic will experience diabetes burnout, especially when it becomes overwhelming. The fact that you have to keep yourself alive because your body can’t do it on its own is a hard pill to swallow.
Letting it get on top of you isn’t an option. Type 1 is 24/7 for a reason and we have no choice in the matter. If you let any aspect of your routine slip, you can become very unwell, there’s no way around it. That’s why I’ve chosen to adopt the attitude of not letting it get the better of me and it won’t.
I am the master of my diabetes. While it will challenge me, I will always overcome these challenges because I want to and because I have to. Letting diabetes get the better of us is not an option. It’s important to have that mindset, that it will not stop us from living our life. We, thanks to the discovery of insulin, have as much of a chance at a healthy life as everyone around us. There are so many people with diabetes, defying misconceptions and living prosperous and fulfilled lives with this disease.
That is why it is so important that NHS England is on board with raising awareness for Type 1 on this World Diabetes Day. While we can all stand up and be a voice for those who have Type 1, NHS England is a big voice out there, with others to get the message out loud and clear that Type 1 is serious, it is a challenge, it’s a relentless battle, but at the end of the day something that can be managed and lived with. That’s one of the important messages to get across this World Diabetes Day. Be aware of Type 1 and just what it takes to live with it.
I have lived with type1 for 56 years but my local clinical commissioning group have tilt me I am not eligable for bloodless glucose monitoring because I am not admitted to hospital as an emergency.Surely this is done by people who have no idea of living with diabetes and I include those so called specialists in my area.
Thanks Ellie. Exactly right. I was lucky to get through teenage and university years with Beta cells intact, but developed Type 1 aged 22. I was increasingly tired, thirsty and needing to wee all the time for about a month. An old school friend asked me if it might be diabetes. He had left school with very few exam passes and was working as a theatre technician, I had a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge. I said “No, I think you only get that at birth”. So when I was diagnosed, I had a lesson about the value of exams versus intelligence, as well as Banting and Best’s life-saving treatment.
I was issued with a reusable and none-too-sharp syringe that I had to boil between injections. Then Edwina Currie made disposable syringes free on the NHS, now we have pens, pumps and hopefully soon continuous blood glucose monitoring will be routine, rather than finger-pricking. I’m 54 now, still mostly in control and can still draw blood from my fingertips. Good luck !
I have just shed some tears to be reminded of all the people who bravely battle on with this disease.