Inspiring women and diabetes – by Vicky Larkin

This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating inspirational women and diabetes. From the strong, courageous women who live with diabetes day in day out to the determined fundraisers and volunteers. Not forgetting the women who dedicate their lives to help others living with diabetes.

Young adults, Laura and Zoe

Laura, 24, and Zoe, 26, have been friends all their lives. Laura got a shock last year when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and Zoe was the person she turned to for support.

Zoe says “Laura’s bravery inspires me. She has taken this diagnosis with so much strength and grace.”


Clinical Champion, Elizabeth Uchegbu

Elizabeth is a Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology at Barnsley Hospital, and one of our Clinical Champions. She is keen to reduce inequality in diabetes care for people living with diabetes in Barnsley.

Elizabeth says: “Given our shared history of struggle, women hold a unique position in the fight against the global diabetes endemic. All of us, regardless of how long our voices have been silenced throughout the years, have a voice with the power to make a significant positive impact on the health of our communities, our nation, and our world.”


Medalist, June Showell

June, 77, has been awarded our Alan Nabarro medal for living with Type 1 diabetes for 50 years. She was diagnosed when she was a young mother aged 27 and struggled because of a needle phobia. Despite her difficulties, June who is a widow, worked all her life in local factories and shops in a variety of roles including glove-making and engineering. She has never had a day off sick.

Roz Rosenblatt, London Head at Diabetes UK, said: “It’s wonderful to hear June’s story and about how she overcame a needle phobia and other problems to make the most of her life and manage her condition. She is an inspiration to others.”


Welsh International athlete, Melanie Stephenson

Mel, 29, has been living with Type 1 diabetes for 16 years but has definitely not let that stop her achieve her goals. She is an international level athlete, blogs, carried the 2012 Olympic torch in her native Wales, and has been invited to talk around Europe about living with Type 1.

She said: “Working towards a career in athletics as a woman and dealing with my diabetes has been challenging, but incredibly worthwhile. Sport has given me the opportunity to show myself and others that diabetes is no barrier to achieving your goals and dreams”.


Volunteer, Angie Whitmarsh

Angie campaigns tirelessly for better diabetes services in her local area of Southampton, and recently won the ‘Supporting Others’ Inspire Award in recognition of her hard work. She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2005 and joined a local diabetes support group that she now helps to run.

Matt Hopkins, from our South East team, says “Angie has been a committed volunteer with Diabetes UK for a number of years, helping to ensure the local group is able to provide much needed support to people living with diabetes in Southampton. As a Service Champion and patient representative, she has made sure that the voice of people with diabetes is heard and that improvements to care have been made for people locally.”


Researcher, Dr Li Kang

We’re funding 35 incredible women scientists, who are working to change the lives of people with diabetes. Dr Li Kang is one of them. Current research into insulin resistance in Type 2 diabetes focuses on how insulin works inside cells, but Dr Kang is investigating the role of insulin on the outside.

She says: “I am very grateful to Diabetes UK for the funding, support and opportunity it has given us to find the answers to important scientific questions.”


Parent Group, Emma

When Emma’s son Olly was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, just a few days after his second birthday, it was a massive shock to the family. They got involved with Diabetes UK Northern Ireland and in March 2015 attended their first meeting at the Belfast Area Parent Support Group.

The group was made up of people with varying circumstances and experiences of diabetes but the information they gained just on one night was invaluable. Emma has since been delighted to be involved as co-chair and secretary for the group. As well as the Belfast Group, she is also part of a team of volunteers who assess the risk of Type 2 diabetes in adults, going out to visit local organisations and advising them on the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes and what to expect from healthcare professionals after diagnosis.

Emma says “I can honestly say that being a volunteer for Diabetes UK Northern Ireland has been my privilege. I have learnt so much from being part of the Belfast Area Parents Support Group and made genuine friends through the process.”

Find out more about children and diabetes.


Singer, Cara Dillon

Folk singer Cara Dillon was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2007. The award-winning artist grew up in Northern Ireland but now lives in Somerset, England with her husband and their three children.

“I’ve learnt that I’m brave, I’m proud of my achievements … sometimes every single day is an achievement and I’ve learnt to call myself amazing and courageous. I’m a hard-working, self-employed mother of three, I don’t have a personal assistant or a live-in nanny and my parents and other family are in another country. I know I’m a good example of how you can live a full, adventurous and uniquely demanding life with Type 1 diabetes. Sometimes it’s miraculous I do any of it at all … but that’s life.”


Fundraiser, Wareed Alenaini

Last year, 28 year old Wareed Alenaini took on our swimming challenge, Swim22, to raise awareness of the seriousness of the diabetes. “Most of my family have Type 2 diabetes, a serious long term condition. I do not want this for my future kids and the future generations. I really would like to increase the awareness of diabetes by taking on this swim and at the same time improving my overall health and fitness levels.”

Wareed, a PhD scientist who has studied the impact of different lifestyle behaviours on body fat distribution, added: “I know through my work that physical activity has a beneficial effect on health, and can help reduce the risk of developing the condition.”


Staff member, Libby Dowling

Libby has worked at Diabetes UK for an incredible 11 years providing clinical information and expertise across all our work. She’s also a media spokeswoman and teaches within the charity and externally to Healthcare Professionals. Her dedication to Diabetes UK is admired by many.

She became interested in diabetes after working in the NHS as a Community Children’s Nurse. She said that seeing the children at home rather than the clinic meant she really saw the challenges that Type 1 diabetes can bring, not just to the child but the whole family.  Her grandad who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in his 50s, when she was a child, was one of her inspirations.

Libby says:  “Care back then was very different than it is now and by the time my grandad died he was practically blind and only had one leg. But it didn’t stop him playing football with the dog! I think he’d be delighted to know what I do now.”

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