It’s World Diabetes Day this week (Nov 14) and what better time to celebrate the theme of, “The Family and Diabetes”.
Over 425 million people are currently living with diabetes world-wide and about 1.7 million here in Australia. The great majority of whom have type 2 diabetes.
Family play a big part in helping people with diabetes, but for me, it’s more than just family.
Friends, work colleagues, neighbours and even our children play a big part in supporting us every day with diabetes.
My daughter is only three and a half, but she makes sure she leaves some ’emergency lollies’ in my bag just in case I go hypo… that is, after she helps herself to a handful.
I’ve lived with diabetes for over 30 years. It’s impossible to count all the support I’ve had from family and friends over that time.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was eight. At first, my parents noticed I had lost a lot of weight, I was taking huge glasses of water to bed every night, I was going to the toilet a lot and literally falling asleep all the time.
They put it down to the cross country training I was doing at school, so initially they didn’t think too much of it, until my symptoms got worse.
Other family members started to comment on how skinny I was and at that point my parents decided to take me to the doctor.
After a blood test, the doctor told us what no one every wants to hear – I had type 1 diabetes.
Worse still, had my parents waited one week longer to have me tested, I would have been in a diabetic coma.
I couldn’t have gotten through this time in my life without the support of my family.
But their support wasn’t the ‘wrap-me-up-in-cotton-wool’ type.
My family taught me how to get on with things, to look after myself and that diabetes was just one part of my life. It wasn’t going to stop me from achieving what I wanted to achieve.
My mum has been an incredible influence in my life. She taught me how to eat well, how to cook nutritious and delicious meals and to enjoy cooking.
Growing up, I used to watch my mum in the kitchen and help her make lots of yummy dishes.
There is much to be said about cooking at home.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy heading out for a nice dinner out, or having brunch at my local cafe, but for me, the one sure fire-way to keep my bloods stable, is to cook my own food and to not rely on take-out.
They’re often high in fat, salt and sugar, and it’s hard to accurately count how many carbs you’re eating because it’s not always obvious what ingredients are in restaurant-made food.
Food though, is just one part of it. My family support me emotionally and strengthen me to get through my bad days.
My husband in particular has been a huge support in my life.
When we first met, I was so scared to tell him I had diabetes for fear he would dump me.
But instead, he told me he didn’t care that I had diabetes. I found myself thinking, “how could you not care?”, I care that I have diabetes, I hate that I have diabetes.
But he didn’t.
He raised my confidence to embrace diabetes. Even now, whenever we go out to eat, I’m not afraid to do a blood sugar reading, or take my insulin at the table.
In the past, I had to rush to the ladies toilet to do it, but now I don’t think it’s that big a deal.
Of course I’m still discreet about it, more so because I still use syringes for my insulin and don’t want to scare anyone else around me, but I have learnt not to have to hide my diabetes.
My hubby taught me I don’t have to be ashamed of my diabetes, I have nothing to hide.
Diabetes is a long journey, there is no break from it, but with family and friends by our side, the steps are that much easier.
Working in healthcare, I realise now that I am not alone in the diabetes fight.
Many people around me are developing diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes. I work in western Sydney, a known diabetes hot-spots in New South Wales.
I’ve come to realise that once you’re diagnosed with diabetes and after living with it for several decades, you become a bit of an expert in the disease.
The one thing we, as those with diabetes, can do, is to look out for others who are at high risk of developing diabetes and to be there to give them with the same support we received.
Pay it forward.
This World Diabetes Day, say thanks to those who have helped you through your diabetes and look out for others who are newly diagnosed, or who may not realise they have diabetes.
Spread the word about the warning signs of diabetes.
To find out more about World Diabetes Day, visit the International Diabetes Federation