Living with diabetes
Diabetes is unique among serious illnesses. It is not curable, but with proper attention it can be brought under control, so that its effects on the body can be minimised. Doctors determine the proper course of treatment, but its daily maintenance lies in the hands of the patient.
Diabetics have to maintain a daily balance between what they eat, how much insulin they inject, how much activity or exercise they will do, their stress levels and even monthly hormone changes if you are female. No one gets it right all the time and this is where the support from the medical professionals at your local surgery or hospital and Diabetes UK really helps.
Diabetes is a growing problem, with obesity, diet and an aging population all contributing to the rise in numbers diagnosed. 90% of diabetics are Type 2 where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. Only 10% of diabetics are Type 1 and it occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin and this usually happens to children and teenagers, not adults.
When I was diagnosed in the 1960’s glass syringes and non-disposable needles were normal. Needles had to be sharpened and they were so thick compared to what is used today. Blood glucose testing was only done in hospitals and at home urine testing with fizzing tablets in a test tube was normal. The results would be blue, green or orange coloured depending on the level of sugar. Orange results were not good so perhaps that is why I still dislike the colour orange.
Before insulin was discovered in 1921, people with diabetes didn’t live for long; there wasn’t much doctors could do for them. The most effective treatment was to put patients with diabetes on very strict diets with minimal carbohydrate intake. This could buy patients a few extra years but couldn’t save them. Harsh diets (some prescribed as little as 450 calories a day!) sometimes even caused patients to die of starvation. When I was a teenager and learning more about Diabetes in the early 1970’s it was very rare for anyone to have survived with diabetes for 50 years. Now it is not uncommon for people to live with diabetes for 80 years.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes before my 4th birthday, so I have few memories of a time when it wasn’t part of my daily life. It was definitely more difficult for my parents than me to begin with. They had the trauma of having to give daily injections to a daughter who didn’t want to sit still to receive them. I soon learnt that it was less stressful and painful for everyone if I just sat still!
My parents were quick to join The British Diabetic Association, which is now Diabetes UK. We received invaluable support and advice in my childhood, teenage years and during my pregnancies. They even gave me a medal 50 years after my initial diagnosis.
I want to support the research they fund and the help they give to anyone affected by diabetes, so that all diabetics are able to live a full and healthy life.
If you would like more information about diabetes, Diabetes UK or would like to support research please click the links below.