Keeping a step ahead on the radio – by Helen May


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I am scared by pretty much all the complications of diabetes. However, I find it easier to push the “internal complications” such as kidney problems and heart disease to the back of my mind by living a reasonable healthy life. You know the sort of thing: no smoking, eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, exercise… I can do all this but I cannot check kidney problems and heart disease myself: I have to wait for my annual check-up and blood test to confirm that I am doing OK.

But “external problems” such as feet problems really worry me. Because I see and feel them everyday so I should know if there is any problem: hopefully, any problems should be obvious. I say “hopefully” for two reasons:

1. Whilst my local health service is pretty good at checking my eyes and doing annual blood tests for cholestrol, kidney problems, etc., my annual foot check consists of the nurse asking if my feet are OK. My shoes and socks remain firmly in place.

2. I need my feet. If I cannot walk to work or climb or run, it will become harder for me to exercise so harder for me maintain a healthy lifestyle which will lead to more complications. (I was going to write “impossible” but then looked up and saw the paralympians on the television: those guys are amazing.)

It’s pretty common knowledge that feet are at risk from complications due to diabetes. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, one of my Mum’s first comments was something along the lines of “you might loose your feet”. Diabetes UK continue to push the message that foot-checks are one of the 15 healthcare essentials.

So, my feet are important; I can see them; I can feel them; and no one else is going to look after them. So I really should keep an eye on them. However, until my radio début, I did not know what I was looking for. Let me take a step back (pun not intended) and explain…

My involvement with Diabetes UK has been limited to reading Balance and writing this blog with a little bit of fundraising every now and then. I have never attended any Diabetes UK events. Some time ago I registered with the charity as a media volunteer. But as I am lucky enough to have no known complications or look cute enough to be in a video or yet to achieve my Olympic medal, I had no story.

That was until Diabetes UK asked about our experience of footcare. I responded with my experience and the local BBC were interested. They asked if they could film me for the day but I am camera shy (and didn’t think it would be very interesting viewing to watch me stare at a computer and talk on the phone) so we agreed to stick with the radio.

Before the show, there was a little bit of preparation: I spoke to the presenter and told them my story. In the background, I did some research: although I was not going to be alone (I was joined by a very knowledgeale Clinical Advisor from Diabetes UK) I didn’t want to appear stupid. So, for the first time in my diabetic life, I found out what I was supposed to be looking for in my feet: although I have been told how important it is to keep an ete on my feet, no one has ever told me what I was looking for. As always, Diabetes UK has some great material to help you.

A few days later, I received my call at 8:30am and listened to the BBC Bristol Breakfast news through the telephone. Then myself and the Clinical Advisor were introduced the listeners. Following a brief introduction, the Clinical Advisor explained why feet are important and then I described my experience and why I want healthy feet. There were a few questions and suddenly it was all over. I was probably on the phone for 15 minutes: not long but I do not think that detracted from the message we were getting across.

Some months later, I still remember my 15 minutes of fame and still check my feet regularly. If I was given the chance again, I would happily to support Diabetes UK as a media volunteer: as well as valuing the message the charity gives, the media practice will come in handy when I win my Olympic medal in Rio. I have four years to chose my sport and start training.

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Discussing feet and diabetes … good luck to everyone using their feet to run the Great North Run this weekend.