20 Years a Type 1: Real Life Musings on Diabetes Mellitus

I consider myself lucky in the sense that I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 5. If you didn’t already know, five years old is the perfect age to change your life. You’re like a little chameleon made out of sponge, ready to acclimatise and adapt to whatever weird and un-wonderful things life throws at you.

I spent a week in the children’s ward (no longer there) at Perth Royal Infirmary, with my amazing mum. She stayed with me in my hospital bed because I refused to sleep on my own. She tried to sleep in the chair beside me but I was not having it. Kind of awkward when I peed the bed and she had to get hospital jammies.

Me being cute. Don’t know why it’s black and white, I’m not that old.
At the tender age of 25, I’ve now been a type 1 for 20 years. The nature of the condition means that no matter how many years experience you have behind you though, every morning you wake up you have to work just as hard as the first day you were diagnosed. Okay, so maybe you’re more savvy and you might have some cool tech to help you out now, but essentially there is no ‘cumulative effect’ when it comes to managing your diabetes. Each day is individual.
Banff, Alberta 2015

Just recently I was reminiscing with my mum about when I was first diagnosed. Things have come along way since I was on cow-insulin (ewww!) and mum was chasing me around the house with one of my daily injections. I kind of took it for granted, but it must have been a real challenge for both my parents and my brother, who had to eat all the chocolate at Easter time with little or no help from me. It makes me wonder about the people who have diabetes who are diagnosed at a later stage in life or don’t have the support system that I did.

I took part in a study at Ninewells Hospital in 2002 called Sweet Talk. At that time I was on 3 injections a day – intensive insulin therapy – and I was assigned an insulin pump. At this stage, very few diabetics were on pumps and they really have only been made widely available on the NHS in the last 5 years or so, as far as I can tell. I’ve been on the pump ever since.

I now have a Minimed pump of some kind or another, but it’s essentially the same as the original but with a colour screen. Pump manufacturers are limited as to what features they can integrate. For example, a touch screen on something so close to your body could lead to accidental dosing with disastrous results. A lot of children are on pumps now too, so the button locking system needs to be secure and there can’t be too many automated features incase something goes wrong or we make a mistake.

I’ve experimented with a lot of diet and exercise regimes in an attempt to find the holy grail of blood sugar control. I have struggled with my weight at various points which is something I think a lot of diabetics battle with. Insulin is a storage hormone and high insulin levels have a particular impact on visceral fat stores in the body, that’s the fat around your vital organs or the ‘spare tyre’ to you and me. My theory on this is that diabetics are:


  • eating more carbs to correct hypos
  • failing to alter their diets to allow for decreased insulin sensitivity (note that insulin sensitivity is not directly correlated with Type 1 as it is with Type 2 diabetics)
  • struggling with control, so insulin levels are higher across the board with corrections that are not an issue for non-diabetics
In this blog series, I’ll discuss my experience with the follow diet experiments and their affect on my blood sugar:
  • Dr Bernstein: The Diabetes Solution
  • Paleo / High Fat, Low Carb
  • Raw Vegan
  • Low Fat / High Carb
  • Effects of High-Intensity Training on Insulin Sensitivity
I have some interesting things to say on each. I’m not a yo-yo dieter but I’m always curious and have a rule that I approach polarised viewpoints with an open mind. There are lots of people out there who treat their diet like a religion and I can see why. Certain things really work for specific people, and that’s great. But there is always something to learn and I’ve had my hard and fast certainties blown out of the water several times.


Some topics I plan to write about are:

  • What it’s like being on an insulin pump
  • Diabetes through my twenties (you know, booze, bitches and ponies – the usual)
  • Diabetes and solo-travelling
  • Type 1 Interviews: experiences from different people with type 1, diagnosed at varying stages in life and the positive or negative effects the condition has had on their lives and what they do to manage it


‘Working’ on a farm in BC, Canada in 2015
Diabetes has never stopped me doing anything. I put that partly down to the way I was brought up and partly down to never actually knowing any different. If there are any topics you’d like to see me cover or you have questions about anything I’ve touched on in this post, PLEASE leave your comments below or contact me in confidence using the links below or my contact page.

Thanks for reading, keep your eyes peeled for the next post.