Me and Diabetes: My Journey and Tips for Coping

In this article, we are pleased to pass on some inspirational thoughts from Sue, Editor of Desang magazine, a free online magazine for people with diabetes with the latest news, views, reviews, features, free samples and giveaways. Check out the latest issue here, and read about how Spirit is supporting the NHS during COVID-19.

Sue Marshall, Editor of Desang Magazine

It’s been a while

I have been living with Type 1 diabetes for nearly 50 years, having been diagnosed at the age of five, so I have pretty much always had to take care of myself. It is scary being told you have diabetes and it’s a steep learning curve for all the family.

Constant injections became just a part of my normal life and I was lucky to have a dad who was an engineer and a mum who was a nurse so keeping track of doses and weighing food also became part of the family’s normality.
Back then, blood test meters were not yet available. I got my first one when I was 17. We had tablets to drop into a test tube with a urine sample and which fizzed up and changed colour to show how ‘sugary’ you were. Then later the much nicer urine test strips that I had to pee on, and they would similarly change colour.

These days I am able to keep my diabetes under control using a pump, CGM, great support from my diabetes team at the clinic and live a full and busy life.

I always keep blood testing and injecting kit with me at all times along with a sugar source, remembering to replace supplies of blood tests strips, needles, and insulin supplies as they get used up.

I worked in PR and journalism and constantly carried my diabetes kit around to press events and conferences, I came up with the idea of designing a ‘kitbag’, something to stick all my kit in. Back then, and we’re talking about 15 years ago, diabetes carry cases and wallets were not as easily found as they are today. I strongly felt that my diabetes kit deserved a nice place to ‘live’. It was after all ‘life-critical’ to me, more than just a lipstick or a packet of tissues.

Over the years I developed the brand name Desang (it roughly means ‘of blood’) and the Desang range of diabetes kitbags. The kitbags are made of leather and last for ages!

I started to write about all the kit that goes into kitbags – blood test meters, insulin pens, hypo treatments. Then, as products evolved, I wrote about insulin pumps and CGM sensors.

Over time, I reverted back to my old love, publishing. What had started as a newsletter out to my tribe of ‘kitbaggers’ evolved into a ‘flippy’ online magazine with a focus on kit as well as information about how to live well with diabetes.

I am extremely proud that I can give something back to the diabetes community and have certainly adapted to the challenge of living with diabetes.

Tickets please!

As we enter summertime, by this time of year I usually start writing about advice on travelling with diabetes. Not this year though.

I have many happy memories of travel, for both business and pleasure. For many years I have encouraged people to buy kitbags for travel, especially when security measures become more rigorous. It helps to have one bag with all your kit in it to show someone at Border Control.

Although, looking at this holiday snap, maybe I had already started to plan ahead!

Moving on…

The recent and ongoing coronavirus outbreak has increased my gratitude for my circle of friends and the healthcare professionals who support me as well as the great people I know and respect in the diabetes arena. It is my belief that while there are some competing interests, in the main we’re all heading in the same direction, which is to say improving the lives of people living with diabetes until cures or a definitive prevention is found.

Seven tips for lockdown are:

  1. Keep a good eye on your diabetes supplies of kit and medicines. Order earlier than you would normally.
  2. Have a ‘sick day plan’ written down that helps others to help you if you need it, including your usual medications, timings and doses and numbers of your GP or clinic.
  3. I’ve invested in some medical ICE ID (in case of emergency) that I wear all the time now.
  4. Keep as active as possible. Climb the stairs until you are a bit breathless. No stairs? Construct one simple step and just use that. You don’t have to do an hour at a time. Five minutes four times a day is better than nothing.
  5. Keep an eye on food portions. Either boredom or anxiety (or even both) are likely to make you feel hungry. Keep your eyes and brain engaged — use the same plate, measure things out. We’ll all come out of lockdown a bit tubbier than when we went in, but let’s not make it too much!
  6. Stay connected! Whether it’s phone calls, letters, or learning to use Zoom or any other means to see people and keep in touch. I’ve had to learn Zoom, Skype and Team Viewer. Initially a bit of a challenge, and there’s always a few issues with technology at some point, but, really worth it to see the ones you love.
  7. Stay home as much as possible to be certain of not being exposed. Wear a mask and gloves if you do go out. Stay alert to symptoms and do not delay if you have any worries at all about your diabetes. The NHS is not shut to other conditions needing attention other than COVID-19.

Life is a journey, I just happened to undertake mine with a kitbag full of diabetes bits and bobs. So, while am I not going to go on holiday for a while, I shall dig out my old photo albums (remember cameras with films in them?) and reminisce about some of the places I’ve been before and hope I will see again one day soon.

The Desang range of kitbags can be found at www.desang.net
It’s free to sign up to get Desang’s online magazine, just send an email saying ‘sign me up’ to info@desang.net

See the magazine at www.desang-magazine.co.uk

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