• Michael McEntee

For Life… Not Just For Christmas!



Joanne, who lives in Birmingham, UK, has kindly offered to share her thoughts and feelings about living with her type 1 diabetes. Here, she shares the origins of her diagnosis, as well as how the Covid lockdown has impacted her, and those close to her.


"I was completely oblivious, of just how much my life was about to change!


"May 1991, had already been a consequential year. No longer being a child and becoming a women, I had officially hit puberty. Also the day after my 13th birthday I was hospitalised with a severe case of Gastroenteritis. Both of these events, could have been the trigger to Type 1 Diabetes. Which we have now leant to be an autoimmune disease.


"What is an autoimmune disease, I hear you ask?


"An autoimmune disorder occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys healthy body tissue by mistake. Research still cannot identify the exact cause, type 1 is most common in under 25's. It used to be thought that it was hereditary. However, 90% of type 1's have no genetic factors. Another common misconception is that it is caused through a bad diet of too much sugar and that diabetes has levels of severity like obesity. I have lost count of the amount of times I have heard the comment, "Oh you have got it really bad, haven’t you." I really do find the lack of general knowledge of the condition and the vast differentiation between type 1 and type 2 frustrating.


"Being a type 1 in the 90's is a very different experience to what you will experience now in 2020.


"The care my parents and I received from Birmingham Children's Diabetic Homecare Unit was absolutely outstanding, I don’t think any of us could comprehend the amount of education we would have to undertake at the start!


"I was kept home from school for a couple of weeks, as I needed to get used to, blood tests and injections which I had to draw up in a syringe from a vial and flick out the air bubbles. It seems ridiculous now to think that I was only injecting four times a day, three of which were fast acting insulin and one slow release before bedtime. These were your main meal injections, so snacks were not something to be encouraged. Also treats were frowned upon. I remember I had a little timing device as food had to be eaten 20 minutes after you injected.


"I don't know how I coped with the intense scrutiny and control I experienced, particularly from my mother. I empathise deeply with her situation, she was my main carer and she took that role incredibly seriously. She had to plan and weigh all my food, oversee that I was doing what I should be, but she didn’t have any medical training, so was just doing her best to keep me alive and well. As a 42 year old woman, I can now fully comprehend just what a mammoth task this was.


It’s December 2020, and don’t I know It!


"This year for all of us, has been different. We are all striving to see the light at the end of what seems to be an everlasting tunnel. I am sat writing this, listening to my favourite tunes and glancing over at my beautiful Christmas tree, which went up as soon as I could convince my husband that, “It wasn’t too early.” It is so important currently to create happiness, in whatever way that can be.


"At the start of this year, I recall my mother telling me about a SARS type virus, that was spreading from Asia, and remembered a few years ago, this happening, and that it had disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. So, I just put it, to the back of my mind and carried on. Plus, Mum has a tendency to over dramatise.


"In March, we had a family funeral, mum attended wearing a scarf across her face, gloves and treating everyone as if they had leprosy. After the funeral she left to go home, missing the wake. I was deeply embarrassed at her behaviour. I had thought it somewhat rude. Now though, I realise that she was just way ahead of the crowd.


"Two weeks later, I was told by my employers to go home with a laptop tucked under my arm. As a person living with type 1 diabetes, I needed to be protected. The rest of my team continued in the office, as our client facing roles were not 'work from home' jobs. April saw the whole team put on furlough, much like most of the country and I honestly believed we would be back in the office after the Easter break.


How wrong was I?!


"It was at this point that, “Shit got real,” the whole country and Europe were in lockdown; it was just so surreal. Everywhere I looked it was really scary. The news was on constantly and the death toll was rising. I could feel myself becoming overwhelmed by it all. I had suffered periodically, over the last fifteen years with anxiety, but had finally got to a stage where I felt I needed to try medication. I know that anti-depressants are controversial and not for everyone, but for me they were a lifeline. I felt they were the only thing, that could get me back to feeling like me again.


"So, I contacted my GP via Zoom, and they prescribed them for me again. My mental health was deteriorating rapidly. I was petrified, especially as someone with a chronic long-term condition. Every time I coughed or felt hot, I would go into a state of panic. I did not think things could feel any worse. Then I discovered that my sister who had been poorly for a few weeks prior with a cold, was now feeling really ill, she was displaying all the Covid-19 symptoms and a few more. I was desperate, scared and feeling so helpless. My sister is a single parent of a seven year old, living thirty odd miles away from any of her family.


"I was spiralling, I told my husband that he needed to deal with this for me, that he was to check in with my sister twice a day and then make a decision as to what information he told me. Three days past and I awoke to him informing me that the paramedics had been called out to her and that they had spent most of the night with her. Hysterical at the thought that she might die, I had to try and pull myself together and rationalise. It has been one of the most terrifying experiences in my life, but I also know how incredibly lucky I am that she eventually improved, but even after eight months, she is still suffering with some symptoms. She is now classed as a long COVID-19 patient. My heart goes out to the loved ones that have lost family and friends to this virus xxx


Yes, I did say the 'R' word!


"Redundant after working for a firm for fifteen years, I am not a fan of change. As you have probably already gleaned, another testing time in the year 2020.

After a few weeks now, I think it has sunk in. I have officially been terminated from my current role and have been thrust well and truly into unemployment. It has been an emotional roller coaster and looking for roles within my current job spec is scarce, the unemployment toll, keeps rising as more and more companies are struggling.


"I have applied for many jobs and I thought a few of them would definitely be calling me for interview, but no. It is tough out there at the moment.However, I am pleased to say that as rubbish as, things can seem, in the blink of an eye, your situation can change.

I have now secured another job, and I am also going through the interview process for a role with my previous employers. An opportunity has arisen to move into a team that I have always aspired to work within and could catapult me into a completely new, but very exciting career. So, keep everything crossed for me, and let’s end 2020 on a positive note!"

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