This weeks guest post is from Laura Cooke from Co Laois who has lived with type 1 diabetes for almost 30 years and just recently started a local Type 1 Meetup group. The group meets once per month, the last Thursday of the month and recently had to move to a bigger venue because the numbers attending increased. The next meeting is Thursday 27th September at 8pm in Parish Centre, Portlaoise. She also posts videos of her diabetes journey on her facebook page - DiabeticMe-T1
LAURA COOKE: MY DIABETES STORY
My name is Laura; I’m from Mountmellick, Co Laois. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in October 1989. My Mam told me I had been ‘brewing with something’ two weeks before my diagnosis, then I developed the classic symptoms of type 1 diabetes: drinking loads of water, getting up to the toilet during the night and rapidly losing weight. I remember that I was absolutely terrified!! I was in hospital and had to practice giving injections on an orange before injecting myself. When I went home, I cried buckets every time I had to give an injection. The old style needles did hurt but I was crying more for my old life that was lost. I was in shock: everything changed so quickly.
Birthday parties became ‘sugar’ parties, back then, there were little or no low-sugar/sugar-free foods. My stack of Easter eggs was reduced to one awful smelling ‘carob chocolate’ bunny that tasted worse! I went from an ordinary carefree child to being reminded every two hours that I had diabetes and was different.My class won a weekend in Mosney for a school project and my sugars were sky high from the excitement in the lead up to the trip. When I told my mother “now I won’t be able to go and you always told me diabetes will never stop you doing anything you want to do", she said I could go. She had explained everything to the teacher but I was so afraid the teacher wouldn’t know what to do, I managed everything myself.
I found my teenage years difficult because I didn’t want to be different from other teenagers and to be independent. To make matters worse, I was getting severe hypoglycaemic episodes where my parents or the doctor had to administer glucagon. Once I ended up in hospital for two months because the on-set of puberty was messing up my sugars so much. Later on, to be independent, I had taken over the control of my diabetes from my parents but I was in denial about my diabetes and was secretly eating sweets, chocolate etc. I ended up going into ketoacidosis at thirteen and I nearly died.
During my late teens/early twenties, I did a carbohydrate counting course and my regime became more flexible: it allowed me to decide how much to eat at each meal. Even though, I understood the importance of looking after my diabetes, I still got upset and frustrated because sugar levels were a hit and miss effort.
In my mid- twenties, I decided to apply to college to study science. It was a challenge: I learnt from experience that I couldn’t skip meals like my fellow students but that I had to spend more of my budget on food or I’d get hypos. Also staying up all night to meet college project deadlines and exams was out of the question as it meant my blood sugars went crazy. College was stressful, and as I now know, stress hormones raise blood sugars so I had a lot of high or erratic sugars.
I met my husband during my college years and he was a huge support to me and still is during diabetic meltdowns and burnouts. When we decided to start a family and it was taking longer than I expected to become pregnant, I started to doubt that "diabetes will never stop you doing anything you want to do". I was convinced that my diabetes was at fault, but then in 2015 I got my positive result and my motto was restored. I did everything by the book and my diabetes was in good control, I went full term and in 2015 our son Daniel was born and is perfect.
MOTHERHOOD WITH DIABETES
Since Daniel came along, I have less time to give to my diabetes and have found it more difficult to keep sugar readings in control. Changes in routine, lack of sleep and eating on the go don’t mix well with diabetes. The harder I tried the worse my sugar levels were, I was feeling frustrated and upset and couldn’t believe how raw my feelings about my diabetes still were after 29 years. I felt I had never accepted it, and was just dealing with it because I felt I had no other choice.
In February 2018, I attended the Thriveabetes Conference for the first time and it was amazing! I realised I was suffering with diabetes burnout and I was feeling isolated, frustrated and anxious about my diabetes. More importantly I realised the importance of face to face communication with other diabetics who shared my frustration and had similar experiences with their diabetes. It also helped answer my question as to whether it was time to change over to an insulin pump which has been a life changer.
I came away from the Thriveabetes Conference feeling positive, revived and most of all inspired. That inspiration led me to set up my blog page @DiabeticmeT1 about life with type 1 diabetes and being a type 1 Mum, This helps me immensely and I hope that by helping myself I will help others too. I'm on facebook, instagram and twitter and I am in the process of setting up a YouTube channel and a website. I'm also a member of numerous groups on social media which is great but doesn't quite replace face to face communication, so I set up the Laois Diabetic Support Group – Type 1 and we meet monthly on the last Thursday of every month.
There are days I still feel a certain amount of upset and frustration, some days more than others. It has been very emotional writing this story, and it upsets me when I read other diabetic stories and particularly when I hear people talk about their challenges. I feel their emotions as if they are my own. On a day to day basis there is nothing positive about diabetes and any diabetic will tell you that. However, on an overall basis I can attribute some of my finest traits to diabetes - brave, determination, courage, strength, empathy and organisation. It's not just me that has these traits its all with type 1 diabetes!
Be brave you never know who you’re helping or inspiring!
Thank you to my Mother who has been there from the beginning of my diabetes journey and still is the greatest support and inspiration today.
Thank you so much for sharing your diabetes story with us, Laura and we look forward to hearing more from the Laois Type 1 Support Group.
You can follow Laura on:
Laois Support Group on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1817200298302945/?source_id=135278060621108
Laura's uses the following Hashtags: #youarenotonyourown #dmet1