Friday, 17 June 2011

Diabetes Week 2011

Until July 2009, I knew nothing at all about type 1 diabetes. I have had to learn, as two of my three children have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes since then. My children are both otherwise fit and healthy, and it upsets them when other people confuse their condition with type 2 diabetes, or try to tell them things that are totally wrong about diabetes.

As it is Diabetes Week this week, I would like to make more of you aware of what type 1 diabetes is.

Please take the time to read this! This time two years ago, I was like you. This time next year, who knows whether you might be like me.

Type 1 diabetes cannot be caught.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas and destroying them, meaning that the body cannot regulate blood glucose levels on its own. It cannot be prevented or cured.

People with type 1 diabetes can eat chocolate, cakes and sweets!

This is what has upset my children most. Other children have told them, “you can’t eat sugary things”. Yes, they can. They both eat exactly the same healthy diet that they ate pre-diagnosis, with occasional treats, exactly like any other child. When they have sweets, cake or chocolate, they usually keep it and eat it after a large meal, and I make sure we adjust their insulin dose to cover it.

Type 1 diabetes cannot be controlled with tablets, diet or “alternative therapies”.

Only insulin can control type 1 diabetes. All the food my children eat is carb-counted, and I used to inject the correct amount of insulin into them to deal with it. This involved a minimum of 4 insulin injections a day for each child. Now they both have insulin pumps, which infuse insulin subcutaneously 24 hours a day, and only involve firing a needle into each child every 3 days. We still carb-count everything the children eat, do lots of fingerprick blood tests and input the calculations into their insulin pumps, which give the correct amount of insulin to deal with the food. Your pancreas does this for you whenever you eat.

People with type 1 diabetes do not need to go on a special diet.

My children eat exactly as they did before they developed diabetes. They have a small snack before any strenuous exercise (such as PE lessons) to keep up their blood sugar levels, which drop with exercise.

My children do not need to eat special “diabetic” foods.

The products, like “diabetic” chocolates, sweets and biscuits in the shops do not have a lower carbohydrate content, and they often have a laxative effect.

Type 1 diabetes does not only happen to unfit, overweight people.

Most people who think this are actually thinking of type 2 diabetes, which can be triggered by obesity, although it can also be triggered by other things too.

Type 1 diabetes is a life-threatening, life-long condition.

Unless a cure is found, my children will have type 1 diabetes for the rest of their lives. Every day will be a balancing act between carbohydrates and insulin for them. Their blood sugars can rise dangerously high or drop dangerously low within minutes if we miscalculate. Exercise, temperature, excitement, and many other factors can also affect their blood sugar levels. It makes life a lot less spontaneous than usual, and we have to spend a lot of time doing calculations, doing 8+ blood tests a day per child and using an insulin pump or injecting insulin, but otherwise they do exactly the same things that they did when they did not have type 1 diabetes.

Thank you for reading! If you want to find out more about type 1 diabetes, take a look at

We are doing the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes in Birmingham, UK, on 17 September 2011, to raise money to fund research into a cure. If you can spare a few pounds to sponsor us, please do so, either in person or at