Date: 30 August 2016
I thought I knew about diabetes. My father had had diabetes and was insulin-dependent so I had seen at first-hand how tricky it could be to manage the disease. But such family connections can sometimes not prepare you enough. After a period of feeling under the weather during my twenties I had gone through various glucose tolerance tests. Although medical opinions were divided I was eventually not considered to be diabetic so gratefully abandoned the recommended low calorie diet.
As I got into my early sixties, though, with my husband being treated for cancer, life became very stressful. So much so that I put my frequent trips to the loo down to the stress, never thinking about the possibility of diabetes. Thank goodness, then, for GP screening for type 2, based on risk factors that include family history. I was called in for a blood test. My blood sugar showed up very high and off I went for another glucose tolerance test. This time type 2 diabetes was confirmed.
I think of my North London GP practice as an enlightened bunch, big on working in partnership with their patients. My GP and I agreed that tackling my newly-diagnosed condition is a collaboration between him and me. He provides the metformin and the monitoring checks. I focus on the diet and exercise, keeping a record of when I have various tests done and all the results. I take these with me when go to see him so we can review the pattern. I can discuss concerns with him at any time or use my judgement to wait until my six-monthly check-up.
One helpful aspect after my diagnosis was a one day DESMOND course which my GP recommended at the start of this process. I can’t pretend I was keen to go on the course, thinking I knew all I needed to know about diabetes and wary about the people with whom I would be obliged to spend the day. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The DESMOND day was excellent and very enjoyable. The training session involved great interactive materials, and the information was delivered in a lively, engaging way by staff who knew exactly how to inform and motivate a varied group of adults. I think we all went away from the course feeling much better informed and confident about managing our diabetes. It is important to me to be in control of the managing and monitoring my health, but I know – and GPs have to recognise this – that it’s quite a big challenge for some patients to manage their condition in that way.
So, to anyone who’s getting to grips with their type 2 diabetes, I would say this:
For more information, download On the Level: Evidence for Action on Type 2 Diabetes.
Jenny Stevens share her experience of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and offers advice to others.