DiA-Gadgets

Last week I was invited by Medtronic UK to come up to their head quarters, in the delights of Watford, and attend a meeting regarding their latest development in diabetes technology and the world of insulin pumps, the MiniMed 640G.

Pump

Personally I’ve always been a more straight forward type; for example in my days on the football pitch I was never the pink boots, twinkle-toes and make-up type of player… I was always the sleeves up and battle hard type, coming off the pitch drenched in mud and blood. And that’s the mentality I’ve always had in diabetes too really, to get stuck in and get on with it.

In the time I have lived with diabetes I have seen some major changes and developments in care come about, which continue to progress – this latest meeting with Medtronic being an example of that. There are insulin pumps as an alternative of the multiple daily injections I have always been on, continuing blood glucose monitoring systems, developments of an ‘artificial pancreas’ and all kinds of improved devices in terms of blood sugar meters and even insulin pens (check out Timesulin who have a simple but effective cap for insulin pens, so you don’t forget when you last injected insulin).

With all the diabetes ‘gadgets’ now in the world, I recall Alex Silverstein saying: “it is an interesting time to have diabetes!”

Indeed it is, especially when you consider once there was a time when people would take a slash (urinate) on an ant-hill and see whether their natural liquid was sweet enough, with high glucose, to attract the ants out to it.

In the modern world, personally, I’m not all that technically minded it is fair to say. I have some key skills in creating events and organising crazy challenges, as well as the heart to succeed in those challenges in my fight against diabetes; yet, I’m very old school for a young adult. An example, I prefer to listen to The Rolling Stones way ahead of One Direction. The fact One Direction now twice got a mention on my blog offends my pride. There’s simply no comparison between those two. None at all. In light of my old-schoolness, I have always remained on multiple daily injections, where in being an active diabetes advocate in the Western world, I have had opportunities to make a change in the past and go onto the insulin pump.

Last year with the United States tour for Marjorie’s Fund I had my first DiA-gadget taste. Firstly, I am absolutely delighted to hear that the funds we raised on that adventure will be used by Marjorie’s Fund to help support diabetes supplies in Gambia this year; with Dr Baker working with my IDF Young Leader pal Lamin on that!

In the U.S Tour I was on Dexcom’s G4 Platinum continuing blood glucose monitor (CGM). It was a good experience for me. The first time I wore the sensor I had an incident with some blood drops coming out, but after support from the #DOC passing on advice, it was easily solved. And I never had a situation like that with it since. What I really liked about the Dexcom was how it detected whether my blood glucose levels were rising or falling – I think that is key for anyone with type 1 diabetes.

It’s importance increased really for me given that I do not have very strong hypo-awareness symptoms. Once upon a time I used to have strong symptoms, which probably acted in a similar way to the CGM in terms of awareness: I’d get shakes and shivers when dropping low in blood glucose, and alternatively a quench of thirst and a regular need to urinate when rising high in blood glucose. In not having those symptoms come on too strongly anymore, having a device that beeps, vibrates and makes you aware of that is a great advantage. I successfully completed the 7 marathons challenge of running around Long Island and Manhattan, New York, and only had 2 hypos in the process, which isn’t bad considering 180+ miles of endurance…

I did kick myself for those two hypos though as they both came on the very last run! I injected my normal rate of Levemir basal insulin without thinking, where I usually lower my daily intake by 55% on a split dosage on run days (see, mathematical skills enhanced through diabetes..).

In travelling to Watford, home of the Hornets who Crystal Palace of course beat 1-0 in the 2013 Championship Playoff final, to attend Medtronic’s advocacy group meeting, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew all other attendees were on the pump and so I wasn’t quite in the know as they were. My technological terms are along the lines of “sticking the needle in” and so I had to quickly adapt! I guess what has put me off from going onto an insulin pump over the years has been two things really:

1. The idea of being attached to something

2. How will it affect me in sport?

From the latter of those two I know most in sport and exercise talk fondly of the pump – it is something that helps their control better for that. A few years ago I remember seeing Dr Gallon and he was strongly in favour that someone doing the level of endurance I was should be on an insulin pump. However, I have built many experiences up and have loved gaining the knowledge of control on injections – it is what I know and what I do. So why change? Has always been my question.

In the meet it was great to see numerous familiar faces and also meet people that I knew of through their online advocacy but had never met in person before. And Kyle Rose was there, of course, he is every-bloody-where I go! The Alps, San Diego, Melbourne, Watford…

In hearing all about this Medtronic MiniMed 640G, initially my thoughts were… who names these devices? Dexcom G4 Platinum, Medtronic MiniMed 640G… my assumption is J.K Rowling. The evidence is in the Nimbus 2000…

But actually from what I was hearing, and granted what I was hearing needs to be released (end of Feb in the UK I believe) and proven, I was really impressed. Their aim was clearly laid out to provide people with better health in diabetes, improving both the short term risks and long term control in health. What appealed to me the most regarding this device was the ‘SmartGuard’. Now I’d never heard of a SmartGuard before, it sounded to me like Stephen Hawking in a Red Coat outside of Buckingham Palace. The concept of the SmartGuard in this insulin pump of Medtronic really did intrigue me and seems a potentially great step forward in diabetes. And where I am concerned, a great step forward in sports and exercise for diabetes management too!!

It uses modern technology such as the cgm’s ability to predict the increase or decrease of blood glucose levels. It notifies you when dropping high or low, and this alarm can be altered, say if slightly hyper after dinner (as often expected) and turned to vibrate so you don’t have the annoying beeps continuing. Then this SmartGuard operates to keep your levels safer from hypoglycemia – stating that it will prevent 80% of hypos. When the blood glucose levels (in mmol/ls) are 3 mmol/ls above the level you put in for your HYPO mark (say 3.9 in most cases) and decreasing , it will automatically stop the insulin into the body to prevent the hypo. You don’t have to do a thing.

My question was: “What about in exercise where your levels might be dropping at a much faster rate than normal?”

And the answers I received suggested that this device will automatically adapt through the SmartGuard, calculating how rapidly the levels are decreasing and acting to prevent the hypo. I also asked about whether you need to tweak your insulin for the exercise and the response was that no you do not. The system works to prevent hypos in any way, shape or form and the further remark was that you wouldn’t even need to load up on carbohydrates beforehand to prevent hypos with exercise. Medtronic seemed very confident in this.

I made a suggestion at the other end. If this is effective and prevents 80% of hypos, brilliant! In terms of hypers, currently they are able to alert you through vibration that the levels are increasing and reaching your high threshold level. This allows for you to then act and stop the hyper yourself. The suggestion I made was whether they could also prevent hypers from happening, automatically releasing insulin at a certain level. This isn’t in the device, yet, according to Medtronic, that is the next step. They might owe me a few drinks on that one!

From what I understood in being at the meeting is that the DiA-Gadgets are so advanced now that anything is possible for the future. This MiniMed 360G really does appear a great way of bettering control of diabetes both short term and long term and I was really impressed by Medtronic’s ambition here.

Would I go on to the pump? Who knows… que sera sera!

(with Dave, Mike, Lindsay, Lesley, Kris and Kyle – the Taxi Team of diabetes advocates heading back after the Medtronic meet. Step aside Ellen DeGeneres!)

Pump Team

Running with Diabetes

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Running is the ultimate competitive hobby, even for those not intending to compete. From taking on races in actual competitions, 100ms like Usain Bolt, relays, 5kms, 10kms, marathons… to going for casual runs in general, there is always a purpose: to succeed. To run to keep fit, there’s a purpose; to run to lose weight, there’s a purpose; to run for the thrill of it, there’s a purpose! For those living with diabetes, every time they run they are competing against their diabetes…

Type 1 diabetes can have short term challenges in sports and exercise, for the blood glucose levels can lower and present a risk of hypoglycaemia. Type 1 diabetes management in exercise takes key decision making and understanding; an accurate consumption of carbohydrates per hour and precise intake of basal and bolus rates of insulin, to correspond with the level of exercise, is where the answers sit.

Constant rates of exercise will lower blood glucose levels gradually, however, with type 1 diabetes the body cannot dictate how much insulin is supplied. A basal rate of insulin is what a person with diabetes injects to replace a daily level of insulin to work in the background, which means in exercise if there is too much insulin stored in the background it will work with the rate of exercise and lower blood glucose levels rapidly. Injecting a reduced rate of basal insulin therefore proves key for control in an exercise such as long distance running.

On the contrary, particular exercises can trigger the opposite effect, otherwise known as the ‘adrenaline effect’. Blood glucose levels can actually be made to rise during exercises, by triggering the liver to release natural storage of glucose into the bloodstream. This can take place through sudden bursts of pace, such as altering the pace from a slow jog into a sprint. Contact sports such as football are quite common to cause hyperglycaemia in blood glucose levels; however, the level of exercise takes a delayed effect and hours later can crash the blood glucose levels lower.

Low blood glucose levels isn’t normally a problem that connects with type 2 diabetes but exercise  brings many advantages for it long term, which it can do for type 1 diabetes likewise. The benefits which a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise provide go without saying in general; exercise boosts a healthy blood flow and blood sugar levels, reducing risks of further complications developing such as cardiovascular disease.

Running is a hobby for enjoyment and for fitness, from casually taking in the scenic views to competing for fulfilment; running with diabetes adds a whole new level of interest to the hobby, it is all about control.

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Pharmacy Fridge

Does anybody have an old/spare FRIDGE hanging about that they wish to rid of?

Following my second trip to collect my diabetes prescription, the charming (in a sarcastic tense) boss lady of Lloyd’s Pharmacy in Pickford Lane, Bexleyheath, stated (not for the first time) that her fridge is not big enough to keep my things…

Now, I would have been apologetic but for the fact I have already mentioned this was my second trip there, and I had previously been to collect all my essentials on the 19th December, when due. On a wasted trip to get my prescription previously, they did not have the full amount there on time, “no worries,” I said as I was fortunate to have spares remaining in going away the following morning, “I’ll have to collect after Christmas though, as I am going away.”

Personally I do not mind the fact that the decent employees of Lloyd’s Pharmacy in Pickford Lane, Bexleyheath, regularly load up a bag with the wrong insulins or with test strips missing, as it rather amuses me to correct them. I do not mind that they quite often have to ask me to come back a day later, for the right prescription to come in. I DO mind, however, being spoken to in a rude, undermining manner with little respect.

I am very fortunate that in the UK, where I am from, access to insulin is quite comfortably available and therefore, even if I sometimes have to wait an extra day, I am going to get exactly what I need to keep on top of my health. Other countries around the world, over 90 years after the founding of insulin, are not remotely so fortunate and this needs addressing. But, living with diabetes is not my fault and not something I can help too much, although with a positive attitude I can turn it into a positive input to my life too; for this lady to talk to patients in that tone is unacceptable.

I have an answer! If I can get hold of a Fridge, I will generously wheel it up to Lloyd’s Pharmacy, Bexleyheath, and present the charming boss lady there with it. Maybe this will be one less problem for her charms to handle… just a thought.

small fridge

How I envision that ‘small fridge’ she always talks about…

15th DiAversary

Diathlete Barcelona

2015: a new year, a new start… well, kind of. I am still going to be living every day with diabetes, of course, there’s no retirement from that just yet. In fact I’d much prefer to rewrite that opening phrase to say: a new year, a new opportunity. 

As a Millennium diagnosee, January 2015 means to me that I am now 15 years with experience in living life with type 1 diabetes.

…And nobody bought me a bloody card for it!

One of the most vital things that has always gotten me through life with diabetes more easily is a sense of humour. Diabetes is, no question, an extremely serious condition which requires constant management, similar to having a young child in your responsibility every day. You have to look after that kid, however annoying that little brat might be at times… but humour was the first way I managed to really begin to accept this condition into my life, all those years ago.

It is indeed not funny to prick a finger, draw blood to keep on top of blood sugar levels around ten times per day, every day. Nor is it funny to inject insulin into the body multiple times per day via a needle to ultimately stay alive, having measured out carbohydrates and worked out mathematical equations beforehand to predict how much insulin is needed for each meal. The effects of a hypo or hyper blood glucose level, which brings both short term and long term risks in health, also aren’t comedy zones. Yet, in being someone who lives with this every day, I believe the best advice was once sung by dear old Charlie Chaplin:

‘You’ll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile.’

In school my best friend Matt and I both played for the school football team in defence. Matt is of both Chinese and Caucasian genetics and our nicknames at the time, as a tag team, were ‘Needles and Noodles’. This could be deemed ‘racist’ as well as ‘diabeticist’ in the modern day, yet, we made these names up ourselves. And it felt good for the first time in my life to reflect a different view of diabetes, not focusing on the negatives that come with daily cans and can’ts, dos and don’ts; I was in the driving seat, which made it a whole load more positive.

Hypos? I’ll treat them if they happen and, once treated and in a fresh state of mind, recap why the hypoglycemic level happened in the first place. Did I inject too much insulin? Was there less carbohydrates than I anticipated? Was it related to exercise and if so, what form of exercise? Many more could be added to it, such as how long after exercise did my blood sugar levels drop?

And the same for Hypers… How? When? And, Why?

In time, 15 years personally that I have now come to celebrate, you build a little thing which is a big deal called experience. And in that experience, it doesn’t always go to plan. You have your ups and your downs in life the same as every living person, and this of course is echoed by blood sugar levels, which in a body that doesn’t produce insulin is always going to have the ups and downs! Within that key word, experience, the advantage you gain is to remain positive, relaxed and to use your knowledge of your own body in order to resolve any problems. Keeping positive is key and it becomes a lot easier in time to do.

There will always be challenges in diabetes, as there will always be in life. Diabetes adds to the challenge, you could say. As somebody who rather enjoys a good challenge, I can see the positives there too. In a recent DiAthlete Facebook Page post I shared my view that ‘if you find your inner determination, then you have found the key to unlock anything deemed ‘impossible’ in life.’ And I truly believe that. Success comes from within and in having diabetes within me, as many readers will do too, it only serves to make me all the more determined.

Over the Christmas holiday period I have been away and have also managed to keep my fitness levels respectable, with some high altitude hikes and runs in the Alps. I say respectable as in currently writing this, after the New Years celebrations, I am in no doubt suffering with the Irish Flu…

2015 is here now, my Happy New Year wishes to you all, Feliz Año Nuevo. New challenges arise whilst the old the challenges continue. I say, challenges… accepted.

In the words of Sir Winston Churchill:

‘A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’

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Global Belief

My thoughts this evening are with those families now grieving in loss and the people of Sydney who innocently went to a coffee shop, to start their days off, only to be disturbed by ONE fool of man-kind with a gun.

What point does it prove to the world, if this attack was in an extremist name of ‘Islam’? Muhammad was a Prophet sent by Allah to guide humanity the right way; therefore, attacks such as this only dishonour his given purpose. My thoughts are also with the innocent person of Muslim faith, who now in Sydney, or elsewhere, might walk down the road and be misjudged as a result of one foolish person with a gun’s actions.

And on the contrary, with the West’s responses, particularly in air-strikes which do not always hit and kill the intended targets but also mistakenly end the lives of innocent people around areas of the Middle East, what exactly does that achieve for the world? It is in the writing of Christianity that Jesus of Nazareth said: “you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.” Therefore, it can only be said that by engaging in wars which result in mass deaths, the only aspect people of the world succeed in is defying their own faiths.

I do not wish to bang on about all the religions and contradictions in the world, personally I am not a religious man – so what do I possibly know?

Well, what I do know is the power of belief. If I did not believe in myself, I would not have been able to have once endured running 900 miles in the space of a month, whilst obtaining the small task of successfully managing a disease. Belief is something that every human-being needs in their life, in many different forms. Whether it comes from a faith, or whether it comes from within, if you wish to achieve you need to believe. For that reason, any form of belief is a human right to be respected.

My point is that whether you are white, black, brown, yellow or even turquoise in skin colour, underneath the skin our blood is red and we each share that, to the air that we breathe, in common. Corruption in the world, a misguidance which leads to hate, is what turns people of mankind into utter fools, ready to draw the colour of blood (which they themselves have) from another’s life. Whoever you are, do not become a fool.

It was slightly over a year ago when I saw people of all nationalities, languages, skin colours, cultures, religions, beliefs come together to share an experience of a lifetime when in Melbourne. This was all for the diabetes cause, but it was a fine example to the world of how we can all get along together. We all share our lives in the same world, after all, so why not share respect?

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DiAvation

The idea has always been to go out there and bloody-well have a right good go at it, old boy.

Thanet 2008 fin

Back when I first started running it was just something to try and support my local diabetes clinic with, they needed a bit of help at the time. What I instantly found was how quick people were to put you down, whether it was from old fashion knocks on doors to try and gather up some sponsorship and getting abruptly rejected, to concerns in general regarding my health. The GO ON SON, YOU CAN SMASH THIS attitude was often lacking.

Fortunately, that is rather more within my own character and it has been a key ingredient towards succeeding. With every big endurance challenge I have taken on, there has always been that element of doubt or negative vibe from elsewhere, from writing off my chances to labelling me foolish. To the negative minority, I say the words thank you. It is always an added bonus to have more points to prove.

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I have diabetes and in having it, I can achieve anything I set my mind to do in life; the same as anybody.

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There always comes a point during the challenges when you have to dig deep down within yourself, to find that will to continue, to keep fighting, keep pushing on. The pain barriers grow the further you go and that’s when character takes over; how much can you take? What more is left inside of you after your body has physically endured every limitation imaginable? This has nothing to do with diabetes in the sense of it causing any problems, by keeping on top of it more often than not diabetes doesn’t result in interfering with the strides; what this comes down to is how much mental strength and determination you have in the mind. Ultimately, that is where diabetes has a big role to play… because of living my life with it, every day, 24/7, I am much more determined to succeed than your average person is.

Run

And when the finish line comes into vision, everything comes out. The fists clench up, the teeth lock together, the legs widen out and the pace powers forward into a finish of shire passion.

It means everything.

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Running was never something I looked to as an interesting hobby, initially. It seemed boring compared to football; which as a teenager years ago was my life. However, once starting it, it gave me that buzz like no other. From the passion that just comes out the more you go on, to defying the medical condition, the disease, which consumes time and thoughts every day in life, it all comes out. Running for me has become this method of expressing myself and striking back in my own way.

jdrf running

If anything, the blood sugars and challenge of keeping control makes it even more interesting. From working out the amount of insulin I need in my body for the level of endurance, to the calculations of carbohydrates per hour, per mile, it becomes highly fascinating. And all in all, when succeeding by crossing that finish line at the end, it makes the taste of victory even sweeter in knowing you worked out how to keep on top of diabetes whilst doing it.

55km finish point

When I run I always have one competitor, my diabetes. And I am a competitive individual. It is not all about the exercise, the taste of victory at the end means that we can take on any extreme in life, down any path of life and diabetes can be beaten by not holding us back.

Be the DiAvation.

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The Eiffel Effect: adrenaline and diabetes

On recent travels the DiAthlete ventured to the French Capital of Paris. And there, whilst tasting the suspicious delights of snails during mealtime and calculating the amount of carbohydrates to go with that, I also went to face my one phobia in life… heights.

Paris tower

How facing your fears can make blood glucose levels rise

It was many years back where the fear first began for me. I had never been keen on being around heights to tell the truth, but flying had never been an issue, just going near edges. Then, as a very young school boy on a trip to the Isle of Wight, I went up for a 30ft abseil. I went too early, fortunately my harness was attached but the rep at the bottom with the ropes hadn’t given the order to go. All I recall was slipping instantly and then dangling from the 30 ft edge in my harness, too petrified to pull myself together as I gazed downwards. I was up there, hanging on, for some time.

Despite the phobia, I’ve always been the adventurous type. If I don’t succeed, I’ll keep trying. I recall going straight back up the stairs to give the abseil another go after that experience and I must have been no-older than 7 years of age. At 8 I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

I had the experience of Paris once before, where I was probably around 9 years old. This entailed the Eiffel Tower and my phobia very much getting the better of me.

So, to be back in Paris, I decided to take it on once again. To begin with the queue for the North side was ridiculous and much more expensive. So it made sense to take the smaller queue on the South side and pay less… then, once making the top tiers, walking around and seeing the North side any way.

E twer

We did just that. Before climbing the thousands of stairs it was also common sense with diabetes to take a blood glucose test. It registered at 3.9 mmol/ls. Hypo!

Lorea wanted me to treat the hypo there and then, but I knew what was coming. This would be a very unorthodox way of treating a hypoglycaemia and highly inadvisable, but I’ve always been the type to enjoy experimenting my body as a form of self-research. My view was that when climbing the extreme heights of the Eiffel Tower, I was very much facing my fears. In doing just that, blood glucose levels would increase. The reason I believed this was because of the ‘Adrenaline Effect’ where in sport, for example, a change of pace from a jog to a few sprints can cause the liver to release natural glucose into the blood system. This causes spikes in blood glucose levels for people with diabetes. My view was that the fear-factor would trigger the same effect, regardless of the exercise in climbing the stairs.

Up and up we went… and the further we got, the more my phobia kicked into place. That twinge feeling, the hairs standing up on the neck, almost feeling sickly from inside the stomach. I was wearing my Dexcom CGM which proved to be a useful tool in this ‘experiment’ as it reflected with the arrows how my blood glucose levels started to rise.

Eiffel Tower stairs

One of the parts I hated the most was reaching the first tier. As beautiful as the views might have been, there was this one part toward the centre where you can look down and see the people like ants queuing up below you. Maybe this added a mmol/l or so on to my levels…

Eiffel 2

And then, going up again, my phobia increased all the more. By the first tier my blood glucose levels had risen from 3.9 to 5.6. As I continued upwards, I really got the shakes and it was nothing to do with hypoglycaemia, as reflected by my CGM. The main part that got to me was the holes in the floor and the cage-like views, it was a long way down. When it comes to aeroplanes I am absolutely fine. And also, recently in Slovenia, I was climbing and walking along a castle wall, the fear element was there but not the way it was when up the Eiffel Tower. The level of height is what caused my phobia. Regardless of that… I kept on walking forward, perhaps cursing once or twice (speaking the native French there) and made it to the top of the stairs.

5.6

When up there my blood glucose registered 7.0 mmol/ls.

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7.0

And then it was the climb downwards. I done this part quite well, moving fast. But I think that part freaks me out the most, as you’re always looking down. Once at the bottom my CGM indicated that I was 7.9mmol/ls and increasing…

Eiffel 1

I guess the points made here are that firstly, fear can trigger off the adrenaline effect! And secondly, living with diabetes cannot prevent you from doing anything. By this I mean to say that despite my levels increasing during, I was still able to get to the top and that was despite my fears also. Don’t let diabetes ever stop you from getting to the top!

Post Adrenaline Effect Blood Glucose Levels?

What happens to the blood sugars hours later? Similar to a game of football really… I crashed toward a hypo!

In a football match I used to find my blood glucose levels would spike quite high, something frustrating as this can affect mentality and performance. It was caused by this effect, through the constant changes of pace during a game. Yet, hours after the match, when my blood levels may have registered a high level, I would then CRASH to a hypo.

My way of counteracting this effect in football was by upping my basal insulin to prevent the extreme highs during a game and then would instantly dig into the sandwiches after the match.

When climbing the Eiffel Tower, it wasn’t a game of football and I didn’t go hyper. It rose to around the 9.0mmol/l mark before calming, but I still had done a lot of exercise – climbing nearly 4000 steps to go up and down. I did crash. Also being in Paris, we were making the most of it and seeing all the places to see, so there was plenty of walking. Eventually we found this cushty little restaurant close to the Arc de Triumphe called Le Hide. Excellent food, one must say.. and that was where the snails were tasted.

The key advice here would be to keep on top of things. Know your levels and keep tabs on them as much as possible, especially when you’ve been active in the day.

DiAthlete’s Mother

 

There’s no doubt about it in my opinion, in being diagnosed as a child if it wasn’t for my parents support and ability to adapt to the condition instantly, I would not have achieved anything that I have done in life today for the cause.

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Parents play a crucial role for children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes

Both my parents, Mother and the Old Man, did not have a clue what diabetes was back in the time of the turn of the Millennium, where the-Boy-Me came down with the distinctive symptoms of constantly having a quench of thirst and the need to urinate. Type 2 diabetes just 15 years back wasn’t as known as it is today, let alone type 1 diabetes.

They had to between them learn all about type 1 diabetes, what it meant for my health, what each day the requirements were for my health – injections, blood sugar tests, diet, exercise… they had to learn it instantly.

15 years is roughly speaking a fifth of a life-time, so in that respect, it is a fairly long time to live with something. The changes toward the world of diabetes in that time have been vast, with many developments in care. On the eve of World Diabetes Day this year I had a chat with Mother. It is incredible how different things were…

“You had to have two injections a day on that mixed insulin and it was in a pot with a syringe. In the night, I would go up and prick your finger whilst you slept. Sometimes the levels might have been hypo, so I’d have to wake you up and give you something, even at 2 or 3am now and then.”

I remembered it. I remember some nights waking up and milking it a bit, having a biscuit and some energy drink in the early hours. If Mother hadn’t of stayed up and tested me, I would have slept right through a hypoglycaemia – which is a serious risk factor. An untreated hypo can lead to, at worst case, a diabetic coma if untreated. You can’t treat a hypo yourself when asleep.

I could be a miserable git, when having a hypo. The Old Man and my Sis didn’t always understand whether I was being rude or having a low. I wasn’t a rude kid, so it was kind of obvious, but it took a bit of getting used to. Mother was always good at recognising it.

In regards to my control, I am grateful for the team I had at my local clinic. They were positive the nurses. Whereas in my early years with diabetes, there just seemed to be plenty of negatives associated to diabetes. Although they were positive, I was always under the impression my control was good. It wasn’t. My A1C has regular 8.0+% and even a 9.0 in the records. This is largely down to being on that ‘Mixed Insulin’.

Mixtard 30 and NovoMix, were the two insulins I had, one first and then changing on to the other. I believe that neither are in existence today. Basically it was a concoction of long acting Basal and quick acting Bolus insulins in one mix. It meant that I had to inject twice daily at specific times and eat my meals, 3 meals a day, at certain times also. I never injected insulin during school.

As I grew older, this progressed to 3 injections per day, morning, evening and one after school time.

Diet-wise, the instructions Mother received was to load me with carbohydrates to prevent hypos in the daytime. I’d constantly carry sandwiches with me. If I went hypo, sandwiches were the key treatment… so it is no wonder my A1Cs were not perfect, I was up and down like a Yo-Yo.

Having said that, my control wasn’t terrible. I had an understanding and did not rebel. I made sure I always took my insulin each day and I tested my blood sugars. Maybe I should have tested more regularly than I often did, but I wouldn’t go a full day without testing at least. It is largely down to my very active lifestyle which helped me keep some form of control in tact. I’d constantly be on the go, running, playing football, involved with all sports.

I generally think sport saved my life to an extent. My A1C could have been a lot worse in light of the insulin and instructions in my early DiA-life.

But I do look back at things such as football and in speaking with Mother, I was quite proud of what I achieved. To play as well as I did as a boy, in consideration to my blood sugar levels, well, it opens up speculations of ‘what if’. I would lower my insulin for the day on a football day. Now, in my sports experience today, lowering insulin for football is something I would not do. Blood sugar levels tend to spike during a football match and it is often found that blood sugar levels after a game can be quite hyper. A crash usually takes place in the hours to follow after a game, that risks the hypo. Being hyper really pesters concentration levels. So with me, reducing my insulin in fear of the exercise impact and risk of going hypo, I was actually most likely boosting the hypers during the game. And I was quite a decent player in my boyhood prime. I regularly won Man of the Match for my club Crayford Arrows and every time I played for my School. I went on to successfully get in to Dartford FC’s youth academy too. In playing well in spite of battling blood sugar levels, begs the question really, what if my levels were fully stable during and I had full control of myself in a game?! England could have won the last World Cup…

But I achieved on the pitch and diabetes never prevented that in my youth years. I’ll always be proud for doing that.

The biggest of concerns, in my opinion, was in my mid to later teen years, when I finally come off the mixed insulin and began on what I am currently with today – basal and bolus in separate multiple daily injections. The insulin itself is the best for my control, no question about it. But the instructions given back then are nothing short of disgraceful once leaving the children’s unit of the clinic. I had a daily rate of insulin to inject for my ’3 meals a day’.

To put that in perspective, my insulin regime consisted for quick acting bolus:

Breakfast injection: 6 units each morning before eating breakfast meal.

Lunch injection: 5 units each afternoon before eating Lunch meal.

Dinner injection: 14 units each evening before supper.

We are talking those units of NOVORAPID!!! And this was combined daily with 30 units of a Basal insulin injection, Levemir.

For those unaware of units in insulin, 6 units that I had for breakfast would account for 60gs of carbohydrates personally to me today. Two whole slices of bread probably make up just under 30gs…

There was a lack of education for me back then, to say the least. Through running ultra challenges, aged 17 when I started, I learned so much about my own body and diabetes. How the food can boost levels, what kinds of food last longer or shorter. How fast my blood sugar levels can drop or change, what levels of insulin effect me the most during exercise. I tested my blood sugars regularly when running and noted my recordings, to educate myself.

At the time, the Doctor said stick to this amount of insulin per breakfast meal, lunch meal, evening meal… and we listened. I could have eaten a salad for dinner and injected 14 units for it, as though it were a very large, carb-filled, pizza!

And of course, my parents were given this education. This was what seemed the right solution to my health. In the best interest of every parent, who has the biggest fears brought on them when their child comes down unwell and then is diagnosed with a serious, life-long, disease, they are going to listen to every word the doctor says. They are going to do everything in their power to keep their child well. So I do look back and think WHAT THE HELL WAS I BEING TAUGHT FOR MY CONTROL!

Eventually I went on my own. And though this was not the safest, most ideal or health beneficial process, I kept on running big challenges to support people with diabetes and through it learned so much knowledge for my own control.

The most important part personally to me was the support I had from my parents and family. Even some close friends too. At every run you might see from my early days pre-Diathlete, you’ll find loads of people there cheering me on. That was what got me through the toughest times for my control.

Thanet run group

A warning came once, weirdly enough, from behind the grave evidently. I happened to see a Median one time, not because I wanted to, but I was staying with my cousins and aunt and they had booked a big group trip. So I tagged along. The spirit that came through, according to the Median anyway, had a message: look after your body.

My next A1C result was up in the 8s.

6 months later, it was 7.8. I recall the Doctor saying “why is your control poor?” in response to my A1C result.

A part of me fancied saying “why is your nose bleeding?” and then biffing him one. Rest assured, I behaved for once. I decided that I didn’t want to see this chap any more and re-joined my clinic. I had been 2 years without any real medical professionals support.

After completing the 30/30 challenge my A1C was at 8.0%. 3 months later it was 7.0%. 3 months after that 6.8% and then 6.7%. Unfortunately I have just had an appointment and it has climbed to 7.4%, which is disappointing.

However, I ran 7 marathons in 7 days 2 months back, toured the USA and have toured Europe. So a lot of travels, meals out (that I may not have understood exactly what was in them all!) and also a problem where my insulin in the USA went bad. So there are some excuses and I believe that I will be back on track soon. I feel that my knowledge for control, not only in sports but in general, is high standard. That is a confident statement and good… you need to be confident about your own control. I bet you all my next A1C is within the 6s and soon enough 6.5 or below!

In running marathons levels can go all over the place, especially back to back marathons to the extreme of 7 in a row, or 30… but two things: firstly I have 43 challenges worth of experience to date, I’m well capped to succeed in that respect. Secondly, I have a very supportive family and for that reason in diabetes, I cannot fail.

My message to parents out there with children who live with type 1 diabetes, just be there. That is your duty as a parent, diabetes or not. By being there for your child, of course with diabetes it brings fears, it brings pressure and worries to the core. But you are the rock. I feel in the present day carbohydrate counting is taught, better access to resources are available in the UK (and countries such as USA, around Europe, Australia and New Zealand) and developments in technology are coming through all of the time. Be strong and keep positive and your child will follow in your footsteps. Anything from there, as I hope to have proven in my accomplishments to date, is possible in life with diabetes.

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The Diabetes Flame

“It was a moment in my life which represented the light out from the darkness. Initially diabetes was something I viewed as a negative but over the years it became every bit a positive.”

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The ‘Olympic Bus’ paraded us around the streets of Thanet, in Kent. It wasn’t my home area but I knew the streets well, with my family living there. This was no ordinary day in Thanet… there were thousands and thousands of people out and about, united with Union Jack flags proudly waving in an air of excitement. The London 2012 Olympic Torch was coming to town…

In having the honour of being an Olympic Torch Bearer that day, it was as though I’d woken up and switched places with Prince Harry. I may have even pulled off the Royal Wave from my bus window to the cheering subjects lining the streets!

Sat next to a 4 time Olympian, former swimmer Karen Pickering, it was an incredible experience. There was this giant smile that I couldn’t help but beam from my face all day long. The bus dropped us off individually at our destined drop-points, where soon enough the Olympic Flame would arrive for our moments to remember.

On my Stop, the bus doors opened. I was handed my shining Golden Torch, which had 8000 holes in the design to represent each Torchbearer selected across the UK. There was a moment when I paused, almost in shock, before exiting the bus. I could not believe how many people were cheering for me. The organiser on the bus had to give me a polite shove to get off.

Dropped off 10 minutes in advance, there was time for me to address the public! Posing for photographs – even signing an autograph at one point! My family and some friends were there to support. They had told us not to let go of the Torch at any point, nor let any person get a firm hold on it. Quite rightly, there weren’t any replacements made! However, I had to bend the rules on one moment. A chap in a wheelchair and his family asked for a photo, so I welcomed him to my street – which at that moment was more or less mine, with the crowds being on the pavements behind the barriers – and let him have a firm hold.

It is hard to describe the feeling. Nerves has never really been a thing I get, although I guess an element of nerves was there. The best description is happy. I just felt happy all day long. It is difficult to say what was going on with my diabetes control in the moment – for I didn’t really, as irresponsible as it may sound, have the chance to fully concentrate on it. Before boarding the bus I had a blood glucose check and saw that things were running smoothly, after that it was a case of screw diabetes for a bit I am going to enjoy this!

The Torchbearer before me arrived to my scene, as we met and high fived. He then lowered his Torch and I met his with mine, as we posed for a photograph. And then it was my turn to carry the Olympic Flame – a once in a life-time opportunity and moment to embrace.

I didn’t quite know what to do, so I waved at every person I saw – and there was a lot of them. With some emotion, I punched the air and shouted out “come on!”

The Torch wasn’t heavy, it felt light at the bottom, yet, had some weight gathered at the top – where the gas cylinder was placed. This meant it was best to keep two hands on it if possible, yet, most of the time my spare hand was occupied waving at people. I used hair products back then, which I’m more about the wild-look these days… so at the time, maybe there was a flammable risk if that Torch shook too much!

The Torch Relay and being able to participate in it was incredible. It made me proud of my country and proud of what I had previously achieved. And that was the main reason I was there… I had achieved things in my life and the reason behind it all was through living with type 1 diabetes.

In the beginning with diabetes it was not easy. I never really shared any emotion to it, I just bottled up some negative feelings and fears. This made it more challenging for my parents as well, for I was just a young child when diagnosed. There wasn’t ever any talk of ‘why me’ which is positive, yet, you do feel that to begin with. This was something I bottled up and never let out in my early years – I think it is important for people to not bottle emotions and be more expressive, even if just to a parent. Some name callings took place during my early years with diabetes, not from just one individual but multiple. Once ‘diabetes’ was used as a method of cussing me, that was it. I couldn’t contain the anger – there was a few right hooks exchanged to say the least.

And although this may be something you could look at and say, good for you. Something which could be viewed as standing my own ground, it is also something I look back at and think there was a reason for the reactions. At the time, diabetes was not something I accepted in my life.

It took time to build that acceptance as a boy. A good few years among the changes of primary school to secondary school and settling in. Once I accepted my diabetes then it is fair to say I found the world in a whole new light. I enjoyed life. I realised I had the ability to do anything, I could play football, go out with friends, even get away with the odd treat in meals. Diabetes could never stop me from fulfilling my dreams. It sure takes daily responsibilities and isn’t something you always ‘enjoy’ in doing what you have to do for control, but the fact is we can take control. For that reason, I feel I am fortunate.

My diagnosis led me on a path in life. It led me to become ‘DiAthlete’ which is still growing and I fully believe my future is now in. It led me toward meeting so many brilliant people in similar situations, it led me to be able to in some ways help and lead them – sharing motivation. It led me to see many places in the world and opened up a door of adventure. So I mean it when I say, if I was not diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in my life I would not have lived much of a life at all.

This may need to be statistically proved, but I do believe that my London 2012 Olympic Torch is the most held from all of them in the games – I have brought it to many events in the years to follow, even took it back across the UK in my 30/30 challenge last year! The way I see it, my Olympic Torch is one for diabetes – a symbol that suggests by keeping positive with your diabetes you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Never give in.

World Diabetes Day

Friday 14th November 2014 is World Diabetes Day #WDD

WDD

Put the WORLD back in World Diabetes Day

#INSULIN4ALL

Proud to be supporting this campaign for World Diabetes Day during Diabetes Awareness Month. Every person deserves a chance at life in my view; in living with diabetes, every person should have access to insulin in order to take that chance.

Full respect to T1International and The Pendsey Trust for uniting the world and standing up where it counts!

It is 2014. This means that 92 years ago, I believe, Dr Frederick Banting founded the discovery of insulin, in being able to inject the hormone into the body. He’s finding changed the world for the good, meaning that being diagnosed with diabetes was no longer a death sentence. With insulin, we can live! For that reason, come the eve of the 14th I shall toast a beer in Dr Fred’s honour. However, 92 years after the discovery of insulin… why in the current day are there so many areas of the world where human-beings with diabetes struggle for access to it!!!???

Forget any recent media talk of ‘a cure‘ – a cure is already as close as out there, in my opinion; I have insulin access and the education and experience to know how to take control! Sure type 1 diabetes management on a daily basis is very challenging, but I can get by. I can get by and run the length of the United Kingdom in 30 days in the process! I can get by and run 29 miles in 3 hours and 1 minute! I can get by and achieve anything I set my mind to do, diabetes adds to the challenge but also to the motivation. The essential reason I can do all that I can, is because I have access to the resources I need for my health. I believe EVERY person with diabetes should have that same opportunity too, before we can talk anything regarding a cure that isn’t here yet.

The biggest positive with diabetes for me is all the people in the world I have met with it. That is not a good thing in the sense they each have or are affected by diabetes, but in terms of the community we have – we are an army. We are a force. A lot of the wrongs in the world, in my opinion, comes down to money. As a global community in diabetes, we can rise above these challenges we face by uniting together in all regions of the Earth; we ARE the driving factors toward making a change so that our DiA-brothers and DiA-sisters, wherever in the world, can live life to the fullest too.

A lot of people often ask me What is next? In terms of my DiAthlete adventures. At this point there are no guarantees as to what next for me, but know this, I INTEND TO RUN AROUND THE WORLD. I intend to do this in 80 ‘blue circle’ marathons, hosting 80 diabetes community events and recording one almighty and truthful diabetes global documentary. With a team of DiA-legends involved, possibly you, we just need to get the sponsorship… and then make a big change to the world.

I always fulfil my intentions!

Happy World Diabetes Day everyone, in celebration of insulin. May one day, soon, we each have simple access to it, with the education and support required to live healthy and live our DiA-lives to the fullest. Together let’s fight this battle.

My sincerest thanks to both Ana and Jenn for supporting. I owe you both a beverage!

Serbian Tennis Sensation, World No.5 in the Rankings, Ana Ivanovic showing support for the diabetes cause on World Diabetes Day!!! #Insulin4All

Professional Pool player from the United States, Jennifer Barretta, showing her support for World Diabetes Day! #Insulin4All

Put the WORLD back in World Diabetes Day. See the Campaign by clicking right here!

Insulin4all