My name is Pete Davies and I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in November 1956 when I was 2 years old. Thankfully, we were home on leave from Kenya where my family lived and worked at that time. I had a good start to my Type 1 life as my mother was a wonderful nurse and I had a most supportive family. I was also fortunate to be put under the care of Dr RD Lawrence who almost died from Type 1 in 1923. Lawrence turned his life to diabetes care and set up the Diabetes Department at King’s College Hospital (where I still attend). He also co-founded the British Diabetic Association now called Diabetes UK. He was a wonderful, innovative and empathetic doctor – I owe much to him and his department at King’s.
“For me, early diabetes management consisted largely of urine testing (initially over a naked flame), U80 strength (animal based) insulin, injected using glass syringes with large needles. Hospital check-ups (sometimes scary) also seemed a regular feature. No significant changes occurred until the mid-1980’s (my early 30’s) when two dramatic advances occurred. For me, by far the most liberating changes (only rivalled by CGM introduction!) were the launch of the NovoPen and blood glucose test meters. It was truly life changing to no longer be forced to carry around delicate insulin vials, glass syringe kit which always smelt strongly of surgical spirit, as well as all the bulky urine test gear. It was brilliant to have a neat, stylish and simple injecting pen to use – one that could simply slip into a pocket and not be an embarrassment. I also found it astonishing that by performing a simple, personal test, accurate blood glucose values were obtained so easily. The former urine testing was not precise giving results for a period of around four hours prior to the test! That was the only tech we had but coped reasonably well with it.
We were certainly much more in the dark back then but I certainly feel that it is no easier to live with Type 1 today than back in the 1960’s. The challenges have changed dramatically as has the technology! Back in the day, we lived partly in blissful ignorance about blood levels but we did our best. However, I feel sure our Type 1 stress levels were lower then! Today, we have so much information from modern technology and the tendency can be to accept nothing less than perfect blood glucose levels. I believe that approach is impossible to cope with as well as unrealistic. Life has to be enjoyed and not governed solely by seeking perfection in Type 1 management. To me, a sensible balance is crucial to mental health and general health.
Technology has certainly taken off since the 1980’s and I still find it exciting to see the remarkable developments which have taken place quite regularly in recent years. I currently use a Tandem Tslim insulin pump linked to a Dexcom G6 CGM – a wonderful combination and such a dramatic difference to the one injection per day that I started with. I feel we have an exciting future ahead despite all the regular challenges we face!
Has Type 1 diabetes limited my life? NO WAY! I have had – and am still having – a really fantastic life! I am a retired Design & Technology teacher (such a great subject!) and I have two sons, a beautiful granddaughter with a second granddaughter on the way. Thankfully, to date I am still the only one with Type 1 in my family. I feel fortunate to be able to say I have no complications related to Type 1, apart from slight background retinopathy, which does not affect my sight. Yes, I have faced extremely challenging times and many thousands of hypos but above everything, I have always tried to remain positive. I do have to admit to neglecting my condition, mainly from late teens but eventually I came to my senses and refocused on looking after myself. One factor helping me to keep my focus is the fact that Type 1 has given me many positive and happy opportunities. Before 2014, I knew no-one else with Type 1 and simply muddled along with my condition – a lonely place I now realise. How things changed for me that year when JDRF UK invited me to climb Kilimanjaro with eighteen others with Type 1. When we all met, I was astounded by the immediate bond, comradery and profound understanding between us all. It was an amazing and totally new experience – simply wonderful! I missed out for 58 years and have been doing my best to catch up ever since! I now have a large group of remarkably close friends of all ages, from the Type 1 community and we thoroughly enjoy meeting up several times each year – it is like having great therapy!
I am delighted to be actively involved with Type 1 matters and not just for Diabetes UK and JDRF. I have travelled to many parts of the country to speak at events – typically in schools, at Discovery Days and in hospitals. It is always a delight to share a story of ‘Hope and Encouragement’ with others and to answer questions. I am a lay member of the ‘Diabetes UK Clinical Studies Group 7’, which considers and prioritises the research needs of young people and adolescents with Type 1 diabetes. It is always rewarding to be able to give something back after personally receiving such outstanding NHS care in my lifetime. Fundraising activities for diabetes charities is also something I enjoy and have played a big part in. I am definitely not a runner but I even ran my first half-marathon in Swansea in 2018 along with sixty eight fellow Type 1 people.”