When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes I called my mother back in the UK (I was living in Sydney, Australia at the time). She was in the hospital visiting a friend who I didn’t know. She said her friend was in their mid 60’s and was the only type 1 diabetic she knew, and she wanted to learn more about the disease that her youngest child had been stricken down with. Unfortunately, her friend was suffering complications as a result of diabetes.
I contacted her soon after to find out how the visit to her friend had gone.
She was sad with the experience, as her friend had a warning and instructed her to tell me to be as vigilant as possible managing my disease. They said that they hadn’t looked after themselves as much as they should, often eating and drinking what they wanted with little to no regard of the impact on their blood sugars.
This had now resulted in devastating complications that was changing their quality of life and would eventually lead to a far shorter life than they could have had.
Dazed and traumatised by the experience my mother was deeply upset.
I did the only thing I could, which was to reassure her that would not be my life. That I was different and that I would be diligent in my management of my disease.
I could only hope that my words offered some sort of comfort to her, but after what she had seen, it was impossible to tell.
What stuck with me from this experience is although I hadn’t met my mothers friend, his words had a big impact on how I would move forward managing my disease. If I had not received the veritable ‘slap in the face’ about the potential consequences of poorly managed diabetes, perhaps I would be more carefree in my blood glucose control.
As it stands, I feel obligated to my mother and all my family, just as much as myself, to look after my diabetes and be strict with my blood sugars.
In hindsight, I can look at this early experience and contribute at least some of my ongoing actions to those words spoken by a fellow type 1 diabetic who I didn’t know and now, will never know. But his influence is so great and beneficial that I owe him a lot.
Moving forward, I now read daily posts and discussions on numerous diabetic forums on social media. People really are amazing, offering support and guidance at every opportunity, but I rarely see anyone willing to discuss complications from diabetes. Often, newly diagnosed diabetics ask the question “has anyone got complications?”, but the answers tend to be vague and certainly not forthcoming.
It’s completely understandable that diabetics who are facing the reality of further sickness brought on by their disease aren’t publicising their stories. We’re already responsible for managing one of the most prolific diseases of our time by ourselves, rarely under the care of a medical professional. So it’s inevitable that we’ll feel responsible if things don’t go our way.
Many diabetics are going about their lives living the same way as they did before they were diagnosed, but simply adding industrial quantities of insulin, and as we know, insulin is not a cure. If they understood the true potential for serious complications, then yes, it’s hard to swallow, but more importantly, they’ll be informed, and can take action.
As a community, we need to open up about our struggles with complications from diabetes. We need to allow others the opportunity to learn from our own mistakes, as hard as it is, because one day you may be the difference between success and failure for a young diabetic.
Believe the hypo