World #Diabetes Day 2017

So – in case you’re wondering, today (14th November) is a day that is very close to my heard … it’s World #Diabetes Day 2017!

I hope that you’ll forgive me, but this post is a little personal, maybe a little long – but I do hope that you find it interesting.

Signs and Symptoms

This blog post is not supposed to be about the signs or symptoms of diabetes. But these are important.  You can read about them here, or please, speak to your healthcare professional.

Diagnosis

For those who don’t know me, my name is Andrew and I’m an insulin-dependant Type-1 diabetic.  I was diagnosed on the 27th October 1989 at the tender age of 13 and on the 8th June 2013, the singular worst moment in my life was realised … my (now 7 year old) daughter Alana was diagnosed too – Type-1 at age 2-and-9-months.

I say “worst moment” – not for my sake, but for my daughter’s … diabetes is manageable, you can live a complete, fulfilling, exciting, challenging, and healthy life.  That does not mean however, that I would wish that on my worst enemy… least of all my daughter.

Dia-Proud

I’m genuinely proud of my diabetes!

I hear many people say that “diabetes does not define them”.  I disagree – it DOES define me, I WANT it to define me.  It’s affected my life in a deeply personal and intimate way, and I’m immensely proud of this.  But that does not mean that it is a “Bad Thing” (â„¢).  It means that I recognise and value the important changes that I’ve made in my life in to ensure that I live WITH my diabetes, rather than FOR it.

I’m a better and stronger for the experience.

Ambition

Diabetes has never held me back in any aspect of my life.

I married the love of my life and we have two beautiful children together.  I’ve emigrated from Australia to Ireland – where I now call home.

I’ve enjoyed many different sports from sailing, to cycling, to hockey.  I’ve played trumpet – and have even dragged it around the world to be taken out of the case every couple of years lol

I have saved lives and protected property in multiple emergency services agencies such as the Australian SES, Irish Civil Defence, and the Irish Coast Guard.

I’m one of the lucky ones who’s hobby and passion is their work … in my day job, I’m an IBM Senior Technical Staff Member (STSM) where I’m honoured to work with Europe’s largest and most important customers.

Diabetes has not held me back

Respect

No – diabetes has not held me back.  BUT – I have to, and do, respect it.  There are times when my health has to take priority, if only for a short while.  There have been harder moments than others – where my health has been tested, and I’ve had to leverage the support of my family and friends.  But it hasn’t stopped me!

Changes in care

In the 28 years since I was diagnosed, I’ve seen many changes in diabetes management:

  • I started injecting 2 times per day, then 4, and now I’m on an insulin infusion pump
  • I’ve been pumping since 2005 and I’m now on my 4th insulin pump
  • My first glucose meter took 2 minutes to complete a test – my current one takes 5 seconds
  • I now have a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) which is integrated with  my Medtronic 640G insulin pump

Those who know me know that I love numbers, data, statistics … so here are a few numbers for you to consider!

My T1D Footprint
My T1D Footprint

Support

When I was diagnosed, aged 13, my whole class wrote me a card wishing me well.  It’s hard to articulate just how important such a simple but meaningful gesture of support and friendship was.  I was not rejected, ostracised, ridiculed – I was welcomed back into the classroom with intrigue, interest, friendship, and support.

One of my best friends at the time, Alistair, wrote in my card “I bet you’ll feel like a pin-cushion by the time you’re 18” – you’ll see form the image above, just how true that was!!!  I always smile and laugh when I think of that comment!

The hardships that come with lack of understanding and even malice  came later, as is often inevitable when people simply do not understand.  But that is a different story for another time … short version – don’t let the buggers get you down, they’re not worth it!

There are times when diabetes doesn’t feel like my friend 😉  There are moments when I look back and wonder how my life would be if I had not been diagnosed.  But these moments of doubt, hardship, and regret are when I turn to those around me for support.  First it was my mum, my dad, my brother, then it was friends and wider family.  In 2006 I met my now wife, who from that very first moment has been by my side supporting me, and now our daughter.

And now, I’m supported by my daughter Alana too.  I’m privileged to share a very special bond with her.  I do think that daddy having diabetes helped her to adjust so quickly into the empowered and confident girl she is today – proud of her diabetes, and her “bop bop” (insulin pump with CGM).  I know she’s too young to realise it, but she’s an inspiration to me, and makes me a stronger person by being able to share our diabetic journey!

No-one quite knows what happens in our “Diabetes Club” (not even us!), but she and I have our secret handshake, and I absolutely love every time that we embark on another dia-mission together 🙂

Of course I cannot forget the importance of my wee boy Zach – who simply takes everything in his stride, watching with quiet curiosity, increasingly asking questions about my diabetes, learning how he can support his daddy and his sister – he now brings lucozade when daddy tells him that “I’m feeling wobbly” (hypo)!

Type-1 versus Type-2 Diabetes

There are many misconceptions about diabetes, and there is one that I’d like to highlight in particular here… the difference between Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes

Type-1 diabetes is an auto-immune response.  It is NOT the same as Type-2 diabetes, which is triggered by many other environmental factors – including diet.

Type-1 versus Type-2 diabetes
Type-1 versus Type-2 diabetes

I do not normally get wound up by, or upset by, people confusing Type-1 and Type-2 – most simply do not appreciate the difference.  But there is a difference.  And I would encourage non-diabetics to take a moment to educate themselves about the differences, and to understand why the parent of Type-1 children might get so sensitive about the topic.

Regretfully, many people, when identifying a diabetic child for the first time, and when knowing no different, automatically assume that the diabetes diagnosis is related to bad diet (“ate too much sugar did they?”).  One might consider this a throw-away statement, not not intended to offend … they might think that they are “just making an observation”.  But the unspoken implication is that the child’s diabetes is the result of bad dietary habits – and therefore “caused” by something the parents did (or did not do) when caring for their child.  it. is. not.

As a diabetic parent, a diabetic myself, I carry a lot of guilt – even if I understand the genetics, risk factors, and statistics behind the diagnosis, I still question whether “it could still be my fault”.  There is no fault, it’s “science” (even if we don’t fully understand it yet).  What it is NOT, is a result of the parenting my wife or I.  It is NOT our fault … it’s not anyone’s fault.

But even knowing this, I’ll always wonder … and so will all the other diabetic parents out there.

So please – by all means ask questions – any question!  Just please do not make assumptions 🙂

Epilogue

My diabetic journey has not always been an easy one.  But it’s genuinely been a fun one.  It’s afforded me opportunities that I might never have had – if I’d not been diagnosed.

Alana (my daughter) and I are not alone, we have the undying support of my wife, my son, and our wider families and friends.  We are fortunate to be be living in a society that is able to provide support and literally life-changing medical advances.  We are fortunate to be in a country that provides every citizen with free diabetes health care.  I have been fortunate in my life to have had the support and friendship of family, friends, and my diabetes teams.

I am thankful
I am proud
I AM a diabetic

tl;dr

My diabetes has shaped me, influenced me, and changed me.  And I am a better person for it.

A cure would sure be nice though 😉


Information on Diabetes

For more information on diabetes, there are loads of links and support networks… too many to list.  Below are just a few:

If you suspect that you, or someone you know has diabetes, please do NOT try to self diagnose.  Don’t use social media.  You MUST talk to your healthcare professional – in an emergency, going to A&E in hospital is absolutely appropriate.

3 Replies to “World #Diabetes Day 2017”

  1. Hi Andrew.. Thanks very much for bringing the awareness and sharing your thoughts . it is much needed for developing countries like India. India considered to be diabetes capital of the world. Around 3.5M death caused by high blood sugar. But the awareness is the most important thing. Your personal story is very inspirational and will send a clear message to the world that Diabetes is a NOT a killer decease. One can lead a normal life and achieve all your aspirations, provided they are aware of the decease and take proper medication and precautions. Once again thanks very much for your thoughts.

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