At the Diabetes UK Big Event on 14 July, one of the sessions we held was called Teenagers, transition and diabetes. During the session we heard a speech from Angela talking about her life with diabetes. Angela has been kind enough to pass the speech on to us so we can share it with you.
“I can’t remember how I felt when I was diagnosed as diabetic as I was only six years old. Ever since that day though diabetes has been part of who I am, with daily injections of insulin and countless finger prick blood tests there to remind me, in case I forget.
What’s not hard for me to forget is that diabetes is a very serious condition, with very serious complications if not taken care of properly. You cannot prevent type 1 diabetes, which usually develops in childhood; it’s not fully understood why it starts and is also the type which I suffer from. Type 2 diabetes is the more common, occurs later in life, and most of the time is caused by a lack of exercise and bad diet – but it can also be hereditary.
People often ask me how I got diabetes – was it because I ate a lot of sugar when I was younger? When they ask me this question it angers me because I don’t know how I got it, it just happened, like most things in life. Even though I take four injections a day, this hasn’t stopped me from living my life – it has instead made me a stronger person and has made me realise how precious life is.
As I have had diabetes since the age of six I don’t remember my life without it but one thing I do remember was when my parents told me that I would have it for life. Growing up with diabetes has given me a lot of ups and downs – it’s like having a relationship with a partner! I didn’t know how difficult it would be til I reached my teens and had to rely on myself to control my diabetes, instead of my parents.
Through talking to people about my condition they would often think it was easy to control – most people think that all I have to do is take an injection now and again. However when I tell people I have to take four injections and an average of four blood tests every day, they seem shocked – and that’s without telling them about having a hypo.
Having a hypo is one of the worst feelings ever, it feels like I lose control of my body. I start getting a sweaty back and hands, lose sensation in my legs and my words begin to slur. Having a hypo takes three hours of a diabetic’s energy, which means it leaves me very tired and weak. On average I have up to three hypos a week. However when my blood sugars are high it’s also a really nasty feeling as I start to feel sick to the point where I feel like vomiting and I get headaches so bad I need to lie down and sleep. This balancing act of high and low blood sugar is a really difficult and a constant struggle.
As mentioned before I have been through a lot of struggles with diabetes – ones which are completely out of my control and could so easily be fixed by the decision makers.
At the age of sixteen my disability allowance was taken away from me due to the fact they considered me to be able to take care of myself and my diabetes. On one hand they were telling me I have a disability and on the other they said I haven’t. I haven’t changed my condition, it’s still here and always will be. Even though the disability allowance wasn’t much, it still helped my parents buy me the correct food and drinks to help me through my hypos.
According to the government I am not considered to have a disability but according to my car insurance company I am being penalised – my insurance has risen due to the fact they say I have a disability. I’ve been fighting for my blue badge but wasn’t allowed one due to the fact they said being diabetic is not considered a disability.
Two years ago I became very unwell when I forgot to take my insulin – I felt sick and weak for months. Some days I wouldn’t even be able to get out of bed but to get myself better I went to the diabetic clinic in the hospital where they told me I was lucky to be alive as my blood sugars were very unstable. As a result of trying to get my control back to normal I had to test myself more often, but when I asked my GP for more medication they wouldn’t give it to me as they said I’d been using too many strips. This is ridiculous – someone with Type 1 needs to check their blood as often as they need to, especially when they’re ill – why are there these restrictions? So I contacted my doctor in the diabetic clinic and she rang and emailed my GP – but I still didn’t get the medication I needed. It got to the point where I had to ask my diabetic friend for strips. Up until this day I still have to fight for my medication.
The final point I would like to make is that throughout my secondary school years I wasn’t allowed to eat my lunch with my friends in the canteen as apparently students were scared of me because they thought I was an ‘Heroin Addict.’ This was because they were not educated at all about my condition. On a number of occasions I had my parents come into the school to discuss this situation, however nothing got dealt with so I therefore spent five years of my life eating lunch with a nurse. This obviously made me feel isolated from other peers in my class. I believe that there should be more education given to students about diabetes from teachers and parents, to prevent anyone from feeling secluded from society.
Diabetes is an ongoing battle for everyone who has the condition but I feel that if more money was given to research it could make my life and other diabetics’ lives easier – even if it was an insulin that we could do once a day would be amazing. But the government has decided not to put the money into research but by doing this, it is allowing more money to be spent on treating the complications from diabetes instead of making it better.
But it’s not just all doom and gloom – as I said before diabetes has shown me how precious life is and will never stop me from doing anything I want to do. I have just graduated from University with a 2.1 in Journalism, I go to the gym and keep fit, I socialise, I do anything my friends do – I’m even the personal barmaid to the Chelsea football team! It goes to show that with this condition you can still live an enjoyable life.
Thank you for reading.”