Friday, 2 December 2016

Thoughts

I find myself pondering life most days, my mind is a whirlwind of thoughts and questions, full of hows and what ifs. I suppose me and my thoughts, although not in constant agreement, have one goal, to make sense of this life and all that it is. I saw a quote earlier, from Scott Fitzgerald and it reads;

"I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life"

I like it.

Something that brings variety into life is my diabetes, spice up your life and all that, spicy Tuesdays eh Lydia?

Type One Diabetes is both a blessing and a curse, it is the reason that I have been a part of and experienced some really cool things, but it's also the reason that sometimes I lie awake at night wondering what impact it is having and will have on my life in the future. I try not to dwell on it though, I try not to get too concerned because otherwise it will consume my thoughts and all I'll do is have an internal panic about it all.

I can't panic or dwell on the fact that every time my blood sugar is not in the normal range it increases my risk of losing my sight, of losing a limb, kidney function, life. But no, I can't go there! But at the same time, I kind of have to go there? I have to remind myself of this every day so that I can give myself that extra kick to get and keep my blood sugar under control.

The difference is that I'm on autopilot when I'm doing that, my mind is programmed to think for the 100th time that day just what could happen to me, my subconscious mind, shall we say. Then the part of my mind that likes to overthink it will stroll up, that's where I have to reel it in.

I remember way back in Year 8, in a Religious Education class at school, our teacher asked us about responsibility and things that we have to be responsible for. I was only twelve, but I put my hand up and I said "I'm responsible for keeping myself alive because I have Type One Diabetes".

This disease brings so much variety to this life that sometimes you become very much aware of the thin white string that's keeping you here, probably otherwise known as insulin and a beating heart.
That realisation though, that deeper understanding of how precious this life is, is a blessing. I have Type One Diabetes but also thanks to insulin I have as much of a chance to live my life as everyone around me. It may be a struggle, but it's also a reason to be thankful!

I don't know where exactly I wanted this post to go, it's just thoughts though, a glimpse into the whirlwind that is my mind, a glimpse into my opinion on this equally enchanting and repelling inexhaustible variety that is life.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Insulin For All

World Diabetes Day falls on the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, the man who co-founded insulin, I sometimes think that while World Diabetes Day is a day to raise awareness for both types of diabetes, it often gets clouded by everyone just talking about Type 2 Diabetes and how we can "eat more fruit and veg and be healthy!" However, World Diabetes Day exists as a day to celebrate the birthday of a man who is the reason that people with Type One Diabetes are able to live their lives, so really, not to be cheeky, but, Type One should get a bit more attention than it does. Seeing as we do rely on insulin to live!

Speaking of relying on insulin to live, I saw a photo today with a quote from Banting and it said; "Insulin does not belong to me, it belongs to the world". And it made me think, Frederick Banting and Charles Best made insulin cheap, it was such a necessity that when it was discovered they sold the patent to the University of Toronto for $1 and hoped that insulin would be affordable. Unfortunately a lot of people needed insulin and still do, so the University signed contracts with large pharmaceutical companies in order to get large amounts of insulin made. In countries like America, insulin is highly commercialised and the insulin market is expected to top $48 billion.

This means the cost of insulin is constantly rising and for people with Type One Diabetes in America, who don't have health insurance or who don't have a very good health insurance plan, access to insulin is becoming increasingly harder. This shouldn't be the way. Type One Diabetics need insulin to live, it is a necessity and people shouldn't have to pay out hundreds and thousands of dollars to live. Insulin shouldn't be a privilege, insulin is a necessity, it is a must, it is life, without it, people with Type One Diabetes can't survive, our bodies cannot sustain life on their own.

Honestly it's just so disappointing that this is the way. I'm grateful for the NHS anyway, but knowing that people with Type One Diabetes in such a huge, modern, first world country like the US are struggling to get access to insulin due to it being so expensive, makes me even more grateful for our NHS, for our free healthcare.

If insulin access is such a problem in America, think about the state of it in developing countries...

The life expectancy of a child diagnosed with Type One Diabetes diagnosed in one of these countries can be as short as one year. We are all so grateful for the fact that Type One Diabetes is no longer a death sentence, and sometimes we find ourselves taking it for granted, discarding that last bit of insulin you can't be bothered to use up because there is a fresh vial in the fridge...it's no longer a death sentence for us, for those of us lucky enough to have access to it, but for people in developing countries insulin is a privilege.

Even if they do manage to get hold of insulin, it's cost is enormous.

So, as well as being a day to raise awareness of a life with Type One Diabetes, to raise awareness of Type Two Diabetes and try and steer it away from the stigma, to let the world know that our diabetes is not the result of a bag of sweets or a doughnut...it is also a day to remember the fact that there were two men who changed the lives of thousands and thousands of people and still continue to do so thanks to the discovery of insulin. What a precious hormone it is!

It's just a sad fact that Banting and Best would be turning in their graves knowing their $1 patent that they sold to the University of Toronto in the hopes that it would be made available to everyone, is not.

Monday, 14 November 2016

World Diabetes Day- on behalf of NHS England

World Diabetes Day; the birthday of Frederick Banting. Banting was the man who co-discovered insulin and is the reason that everyone with Type 1 diabetes is alive today.  He and Charles Best discovered insulin in 1922, completely turning around the prognosis for someone diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  It went from being a slow and painful death to being a disease that can be controlled and one people can live with.

I live with Type 1.  I have done since I was 11 years old.  I decided from the moment I was diagnosed that I would do something with my diagnosis and be a voice for other people who live with Type 1. A lot of people have the misconception that diabetes is a disease for the elderly, a disease for people who are overweight or live an unhealthy lifestyle, when in fact diabetes is just an umbrella term for two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease; it occurs when the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells and renders our bodies unable to produce insulin. Without insulin, people die. That is a fact and is the reason that people with Type 1 depend on insulin injections.  Type 1 has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle and normally presents in childhood and adolescence but also affects adults.  

Type 2 is far more prevalent in those over age 40. Predominantly it’s linked to lifestyle and diet. It is insulin resistance; their pancreas still produces insulin but the body doesn’t utilise it as it should. Type2 can also occur naturally because of old age. 

I just thought it would be help to provide a little bit of background information to kick off this series of blogs because it is essential people differentiate between the two.  

I think the keyword in the sentence living with Type1 diabetes, is living.  Thanks to Frederick Banting and Charles Best this disease is not a death sentence anymore.  We have the chance to live.  A diagnosis of Type 1 means that we must become our own pancreases, we are essentially doing its job: producing insulin. People with Type 1 must mimic its behaviour.  It’s relentless, 24/7 and sometimes things don’t always go to plan, blood sugar that is too high or too low is a daily occurrence.

But we have to get on with it. I could complain for ages about how hard work it is, how much of a nuisance it is and how I wish I could get a break from it; but that won’t change the fact that I have to look after my diabetes or the affect it will have on my health will be detrimental.  Living with Type 1 isn’t just a physical battle but a mental one too.  You can dwell on how difficult it is and at some stage in your life, as Type 1 diabetes will experience diabetes burnout, at some point, especially when it becomes overwhelming.  The fact that you have to keep yourself alive because your body can’t do it on its own is a hard pill to swallow.

Letting it get on top of you isn’t an option.  Type 1 is 24/7 for a reason and we have no choice in the matter.  If you let any aspect of your routine slip, you can become very unwell, there’s no way around it. That’s why I’ve chosen to adopt the attitude of not letting it get the better of me and it won't. 
I am the master of my diabetes.  While it will challenge me, I will always overcome these challenges because I want to and because I have to. Letting diabetes get the better of us is not an option.  It’s important to have that mindset, that it will not stop us from living our life. We, thanks to the discovery of insulin, have as much of a chance at a healthy life as everyone around us.  There are so many people with diabetes, defying misconceptions and living prosperous and fulfilled lives with this disease.


That is why it is so important that NHS England is on board with raising awareness for Type 1 on this World Diabetes Day.  While we can all stand up and be a voice for those who have Type 1, NHS England is a big voice out there, with others to get the message out there loud and clear that Type 1 is serious, it is a challenge, it’s a relentless battle, but at the end of the day something that can be managed and lived with. That’s one of the important messages to get across this World Diabetes Day.  Be aware of Type 1 and just what it takes to live with it. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Diabetes Awareness Month

I've been living with Type One Diabetes since I was 11 years old, I was diagnosed at the end of Year 7. Not only did I have to adjust to a new school, but I had to adjust to a whole new way of life, honestly, I've had 7 and a half years to "adjust" and sometimes I think I'm still not quite there yet. I don't know if you can ever truly fully adjust to a life with Type One, it's unpredictable and no two days are the same, you could have perfect blood sugars after eating pizza one day, then you'll get completely different results another day, it never fails to surprise you or lure you into a false sense of security before being the reason you wake up at 3am sweating due to low blood sugar. What happens though, is that it becomes a routine, one that you have no choice but to go along with, day in, day out.

With the injections, the insulin pump site changes, the finger pricking, the carbohydrate counting, the hospital appointments, comes your mind, comes the thoughts you're left alone with in the middle of the night. It's remembering that you're dependent on insulin for the rest of your life, don't even get me started on the fear of not getting access to it, a reality for many many people, not just in poverty-stricken countries, but in medically and technologically advanced countries like the United States where the price of insulin has soared. It's the mental battle of not wanting to rely on anyone or be a burden when you're feeling too unwell from high blood sugars to fully function, but the realisation that not feeling completely 100% all the time is your reality. It's reminding yourself to go and get your flu jab when winter rolls around because the flu could put you in hospital with Diabetic ketoacidosis.

Living with Type One isn't as black and white as an injection here and there, a finger prick and everything is alright, it's everything else that stems off of it, it's all the thoughts and the feelings that come along with it. Other than helping people realise the day to day challenges of a life with Type One Diabetes, it is also a good chance to educate people about the fact that Type One doesn't have to stop you from doing anything. I think our Prime Minister is a great example, her election sparked an outcry among a lot of people who doubted her ability to run our country due to her diabetes. So far, she has been fine. People love to make assumptions, but as challenging as diabetes can be, it is controllable.

Diabetes Awareness Month is not just about Type One Diabetes, although it is the type that makes up only 10% of all diabetics, making it the one that doesn't get it's chance in the spotlight very often, I think it's only fair that we talk about Type Two Diabetes too. I'm going to lay down a few key differences between the two main types before I continue:

Type One - Autoimmune disease, pancreas does not produce any insulin, dependent on insulin injections or infusion of insulin via a pump to stay alive, nothing to do with diet or exercise
Type Two - Insulin resistance, pancreas produces insulin or little insulin but the body doesn't respond to it as it should, can take tablets to increase insulin sensitivity, sometimes need to go on insulin injections, has a strong link to diet, however there is a strong genetic component also

I say this because people are very quick to judge people with diabetes. Diabetes is an umbrella term for Type One and Type Two diabetes. However, you and me both know that when people hear the word diabetes their first thought is a fat person with one leg, they'll think about a picture of chocolate cake or something else sugary, they will be thinking about Type Two Diabetes. So wrong! People have been conditioned to associate Type Two Diabetes with these images and although it is linked to diet, that is not how every body develops Type Two Diabetes, it has a very strong genetic component, it is also linked to old age, and operations, people have been known to develop Type Two as a result of a big operation. To immediately think, diabetes, type two, fat person, is so one sided and such closed minded thinking. That is why not only do we need to raise awareness of Type One Diabetes as an autoimmune disease, but we also need to raise awareness of Type Two Diabetes as a disease that is not exclusive to obese people. We are doing ourselves a disservice in shaming people with Type Two, at every opportunity take the time to raise awareness of both types of diabetes, maybe then people will be more inclined to differentiate between what type of diabetes they're talking about, and we won't all be lumped together in the umbrella term, 'diabetes' because it's just unhelpful.

Diabetes is rough whichever type. At the end of the day we're all at risk of the same complications. That is one thing Type One and Type Two have in common, that we're all working to keep ourselves healthy.

This Diabetes Awareness Month, lets try and be mindful of both types, let's make sure the world knows that Type One Diabetes isn't a joke, or to do with diet or bad eating, make sure people know that Type One is not a barrier, be aware of some people's struggle to get access to life-saving and life-sustaining insulin, be aware that diabetes is not black and white, it is not as straight forward as a few injections and a finger prick.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Connected

For every one of my diabetic friends, this one's for you.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Thorpe Park with my sister, her boyfriend and our cousin, it's a massive place, lots of people, filled with the noise of excited shrieks of people riding the rollercoasters, scrambling to the front of various queues, waiting to get splashed by the water as Tidal Wave comes surging down the drop...So many characters, so many people, all living very different lives. Upon boarding the boat on Storm Surge, a boy in front of me looks at me and says;

"Be careful with that...!" Puzzled, I'm like, "Hmm...be careful with what?"
"Your Insulin Pump!" ..."Oh right yeah, thanks!" Honestly at this point my first thought was, oh how cool that this boy knows what an insulin pump is! Then he pulled out his own; "Look, I have one too!" In my excitement I say "What are the chances?" and then...slap my sister's boyfriend on the knee- sorry, Jeremy! Later on in the day I saw another girl queuing up ahead of us, an omnipod stuck to the back of her arm. Then I realised that even in such a vast place, with so many people, I am still not alone in this, I realised that I probably walk past so many Type 1 Diabetics every single day and don't even realise it- 400,000 of us make up the 5% of people that live with Type 1 and so many of us have no idea that one another even exist!

Then it made me think about the Diabetes Online Community, and how brilliant it is that we are all connected. How many times have you heard/seen a post from a newly diabetic person talking about how alone they feel? I feel like that is one of the most common reactions, to feel alone in this fight, to feel like you're the only one out there who will ever understand what this is like- and it's so easy to feel like this, I think because this disease requires so much attention from the person living with it and you rely on yourself to act as your own pancreas 24/7, it can feel isolating. I have made so many wonderful connections, there are so many people I can turn to who will understand exactly what it's like. As much as our family help us, it's so hard for them to fully understand what we go through, so speaking and knowing other Type 1 Diabetics is such an important part of living with Type 1.

But that's because I'm engaged. A lot of young people will turn away from their diagnosis and refuse to engage in it, they will be in denial, they won't want to accept it. That itself is such a barrier, I know there are probably so many other people out there who don't have the same mindset as the DOC and so will never be open to it, will never discover this whole other side of a life with diabetes. The side that teaches you that you will have rough times with this disease but it will get easier, the side that teaches you that you are not alone, the side that shows you all the amazing things you can still accomplish despite your disease.

To all my diabetic friends, to every one I've ever connected with, even if we only spoke once, know that it's valuable, and that you're valuable to every other diabetic person you've ever spoken to. Even if we don't know it, subconsciously, it helps to talk, it helps to be connected.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

80,000

80,000.

80,000 people have, at one time or another read my blog, that's a hell of a lot of people. I'm doing my best to get back into blogging properly again. My blog is over 3 years old, but in the 3 years that I've had it, it has had a massive impression on my life in terms of advocating for Type 1 Diabetes and everyone else living with it. It's got my name out there in the diabetes online community, it's connected me to so many amazing people, it's inspired others, it's inspired what I want to do as a career, it's opened doors to amazing opportunities like going to and speaking Parliament and being a professional blogger for Diabetes UK at the DPC.

I still remember being in awe of 200 views, because at the time, that was a lot of people, that was a proud moment for me, so much so that I took a photo of my computer screen so I could relish in the moment for a bit longer. It's all relative isn't it, to how old your blog is, when you first start a blog any number of views is brilliant, any number is good enough to spur you to keep on going, to keep getting those views. As my blog has grown I've seen the numbers go up often with out me having to put in too much effort, I got it to a point where it could hold it's own, and people knew about it. I'm proud of me for that, I'm proud I managed to stick to something and actually get something out of it, friends, inspiration for other people, inspiration for other people and most of all diabetes awareness, because ultimately, that is what I'm here for.

There is no personal agenda here, no want to be the best blogger out there, just to be a good blogger, and for people to read my blog so that I can continue to be an advocate for Type 1 diabetes and continue to inspire and support people, and be the one who can get that message out there that even though diabetes is not easy, it's not your whole life, there is so much more. Things are a little bit different in the diabetes online community these days, I can't say it's in a bad way, but in a way that I want it to be how it was when I was 15 years old and being inspired by all these different blogs. If I could remember who's blog I was inspired by I would write it but I can't. I started my blog when the 'GBDOC' as a brand, or whatever you want to call it, was a baby! I am happy to see it continue to have an abundance of people involved, and see people connecting and connect with other people but sometimes I can't help but feel like I'm getting lost in a sea of so so many people that it's hard to see which direction it's going in. I will leave that point at, I hope it continues to be true to what it was originally started for. There is a bit of drama around these days and perhaps that's also contributed to why I took a step back.

However, I will continue to blog, I have been a bit torn about whether or not I will, but I have made my decision.

80,000 views later and here it is, here is my blog, my baby, and one of my proudest achievements.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

For me

When I started my blog I was in school, I was 15, and apart from having to do school work I didn't have much else to do or have much else on my mind. As I've got older, I had A-Levels to do, I got a job, I have other things on my mind apart from diabetes and blogging and it's something that I have not cared for properly at all these past few month or year even. Blogging has always been an outlet for me and when people actually started to read it I had even more of a desire to carry on with it. This is not a dig in anyway or a bitter remark, but as the GBDOC has grown, there are other, better blogs out there than mine and that added to my feelings towards stopping blogging all together. I have gotten myself into the mindset that I am no longer important in the world of diabetes and there are other blogs people care about- what even is my blog? Why do I do it?

Then I realised I do it for me as an outlet and I do it so others can learn and find insight from my blogs. I don't have a personal agenda. I do it so I can raise awareness and tell people what life is really like with Type One Diabetes. So I need to realise that, and start blogging again. Even if I don't have as many readers as I used to. So I don't have all the diabetes tech, I can't afford a Freestyle Libre every month and I don't have sensors with my 640G and I don't look at my blood sugar averages often and post about them, or compare pre and post exercise levels because quite frankly I don't exercise- I feel like everyone now cares about the tech and the data and how inspirational you are if you exercise or never have a down day with Type 1. I'm not like that, from me you get feelings, you get what comes from my heart and what I feel like on any given day due to Type 1. But maybe people don't want that, who knows. For now as I try and start up my blog again, I need to figure out what it is I need to do and what it is that will bring my passion back.

I am flattered by everyone who's told me I inspired them to set up their blogs and by everyone who's told me that my blog is good.

I don't quite know exactly what I'm trying to say in this blog, but what I do know is, I have to believe it myself, this is as much for me as it is everyone else.