I Can… – By Helen May


I can dedicate this post to the Diabetes Nurse I met on 20th January 2004.

During the first 36 years of life, the most serious illness I had ever experienced was tonsillitis. In that time, I had broken no bones, had no fillings and, since birth, spent no nights in hospital. And that’s not through wrapping myself up in cotton wool: my hobbies included climbing; my holidays included camping in Madagascar; my home had been UK, Australia and Germany.

So, just over ten years ago, to suddenly be told I had a chronic disease, was quite daunting. Not having any family members with diabetes, I had no idea what it meant and what impact it would have on my life. To be told, I would have to inject myself multiple times a day to keep myself alive was scary. To have to calculate the dose myself was intimidating. To be warned about hypos and hypers when I got it wrong was frightening. To read of the complications I could experience later in life was horrifying.

Despite all this, the words I remember the diabetes nurse telling on that day are not how to use the glucagon or where to store my insulin or how to use a glucose meter. The words I remember from the diabetes nurse are “Diabetes should not stop you doing what you want.”

It has been those words that kept me going, four months later as I walked 26 miles through the night along the streets of London as part of the Moon Walk. It was those words that encouraged me to book a holiday to Uganda to track gorillas. It was those words that made me determined to skydive on my 40th birthday. It was those words that inspired me to continue with my climbing. It was those words that have given me the strength to further my career. It is the words I tell my friends, colleagues and my boyfriend when I first told then about diabetes: just because I have diabetes, doesn’t stop me doing the same as everyone else; there is no need to treat me differently. It was the diabetes nurse, who I have not seen for the last nine years, but continues to encourage me to live my life to the full.

Ok, it’s not all fun and games. I may have had to extend the message a little: “Diabetes has not stopped me doing what I want. I have just had to plan a little more than I used to.”

I hope she and all other health care professionals associated with diabetes continue to advocate this message and give the support and guidance needed for the planning.

Thank you Sally Wylie. I Can … dedicate this to you.

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