In 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.
- Check my blood sugar.
- Bolus some insulin corresponding to the food I am about to eat.
- 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.