Diabetes Week – 8th to 14th June 2014

Diabetes Week is Diabetes UK’s annual awareness and fundraising week. Laura Davis, one of the Sotonettes, writes about her experiences. She also runs a website for women with diabetes at http://www.womenwithdiabetes.co.uk/

As a type 1 diabetic, I wanted to share this with you and help make some noise about diabetes.

I have been diabetic for twenty one years. It is a condition that changes lives, and not just for the individual, but for their families too. It is a condition that you can never forget about. It is with you every minute of every day, all year round. 

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that affects the endocrine system in the body. It destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Insulin is very important to the body as it acts as a key to unlock the energy that is carried by glucose, which we absorb when we eat food. We need this energy to survive. For type 1 diabetics the body does not produce any insulin so insulin injections are needed every day. Type 2 diabetics may produce a small amount of insulin but will need tablets and diet to control their condition. 

I was diagnosed as a child and soon found myself having to give four injections every day to control my blood sugar levels. I had to learn about carbohydrate counting and how to treat myself when I was having a hypo (when you have too much insulin in the body and not enough sugar) and when I was having a hyper (too much sugar and not enough insulin). It basically became a balancing act every day. As a child this was quite a responsibility and even now as an adult it can be frustrating and difficult at times to manage my condition. I am very lucky that I now use an insulin pump which I have attached to me at all times and it delivers a small amount of insulin directly into me every hour. This means that I have more flexibility over what I do and when and what I eat, and gives better overall control.

The theme of this year’s Diabetes Week is ‘I Can’ – sharing stories and experiences of the challenges, tough times and break through moments of life with diabetes. A week to share and celebrate what can be achieved with diabetes.

Back in 2010 I felt inspired to challenge myself and my diabetes and basically prove to myself that having diabetes didn’t have to stop me doing anything! So I signed up to trek to Everest Base Camp in the Himalayas. I raised £5000 for Diabetes UK. The trek itself was a once in a life time experience. The beauty and magnificence of the mountains and peaks was awe inspiring. I never tired of opening up my tent each morning to be greeted by huge rock faces and snow covered peaks. The trek was hard, with warm conditions at the start and snow at the end. I was carrying triple the amount of medication and supplies I needed to care for my diabetes, plus a spare pump, loads of jelly babies to treat hypos, and special bags to keep my insulin at a constant temperature. I even had to sleep with my insulin at the bottom of my sleeping bag at night as it got so cold!  As well as being aware of altitude sickness, I also had to be aware of the effect of altitude on my diabetes (we were trekking to 17,000 ft.). It caused blood sugar levels to rise so I had to constantly check my levels. I also had to be aware of hypos, with all the walking I was doing. I reached Base Camp full of relief, pride and a sense of real achievement. It was a moment I shall never forget.

Diabetes WeekDW_2014_Logo_A is all about raising awareness and supporting those who are affected by the condition. It is about learning about what it is, how to spot the signs, how it affects people and how we can support each other, whether we have it or live with someone who does. 

Here are some facts from Diabetes UK:

  • Every 3 minutes someone in the UK learns that they have diabetes
  • 3.2 million people live with the condition, and a further 650,000 have diabetes but are either unaware or undiagnosed
  • 7 million people are at risk of developing the condition
  • The NHS spent over £10 billion on diabetes last year

Diabetes is becoming more common and affecting more people. Please take a look at Diabetes UK to learn more and help someone you know who has this condition. Spread the word too about Diabetes Week. It is a great opportunity to raise awareness and for those affected by the condition to share their stories, offer and receive support and stand strong.