I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes two weeks before my 21st birthday, during my exams in my second year of University and just before a holiday of a lifetime to New York (not the best timing but I don’t think any time is great with that kind of diagnosis :-\).
It had all begun a few months earlier when I had been ill with a virus. After that I started to loose weight (despite still living on the usual student diet of pizza and beer!), but I thought ‘Hey, this is ok, who doesn’t want to loose weight right?’ Not once did I suspect that it would be anything to be concerned about. You don’t at 20 years old do you, you're young and carefree.
It was the following month when I went on holiday for a few weeks to visit a friend who’d been travelling around Thailand. I was constantly thirsty (which in turn leads to needing the loo, a lot!) and spent the entire holiday with a drink in my hand (mainly water but a few beers and cocktails might have snuck in too!).
It was my friend who first commented on how much I was drinking, even for the warm, Thai climate. I flew home wondering if it really was something I should be concerned about, so I spoke to the person every girl does when worried, my mum.
I told her about my symptoms and being a nurse her first conclusion was ‘Maybe your diabetic?’ I had no family history of diabetes and I wasn’t over weight, so I couldn’t be diabetic, right? WRONG! A blood test a few days later confirmed a dangerously high blood sugar level, with keytones - basically keytones make your body burn its own fat, I know that sounds good but believe me its not! It can lead to a coma and even death if left untreated. Thankfully my doctor agreed not to admit me as my mum agreed to stay with me for a few days and help me adjust to daily injections and blood sugar testing.
So that’s when my life changed forever. I now had an incurable illness.
My doctor was amazing but a lot of what you learn is through trial and error. Such as overdosing yourself on your insulin as you’ve forgotten through tiredness that you had already taken it (a lovely evening spent in A&E for that one!) or, how having a drink can cause massive fluctuations in your blood sugar levels, which are difficult to control. Ultimately though you do have to just get on with it. Which is exactly what I did. I wasn’t letting this illness cause me to not live my life as I wanted, to achieve what I wanted and to this day I haven’t!
I completed my degree, went on to work shifts in a busy hospital, before specialising in Breast Imaging. I then completed a post graduate certificate and a post graduate diploma, along with having a social life like any twenty something, buying a house, having partner and being a step mum to two wonderful children - all while constantly monitoring my blood sugar levels to keep them healthy and stable.
You don’t always know what life has in store for you, but my advice is just to live it and enjoy it, it might not be perfect but it’s yours!