14th November 2019 by Mike Brennan
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 6 years old. Admittedly, my memory of the events leading up to my diagnosis is vague. Unusually, the only symptom I had was bed wetting – just twice. Fortunately, my parents, both with medical backgrounds, spotted this sign and acted promptly.
After a few hospital appointments (no admissions thankfully!) and still not fully grasping what was going on, it became clear there were going to be some changes to my daily routine. I was going to have to be more aware of what I ate, test my blood sugars regularly and have daily insulin injections. My mum gave me some profound advice, a simple but extremely powerful sentiment that I continue to live by to this day: “you control the diabetes; the diabetes does not control you”. Even at such a young age, this proactive outlook really resonated with me. Suddenly, the concept of four to five injections per day really didn’t seem all that daunting (I was injecting myself unassisted by age 8). For me, successful management of my diabetes comes down to one thing: being organised.
Ever since my diagnosis, I have never viewed my diabetes as a hindrance. Rather than thinking “can or can’t I do this activity?”, I ask myself “to be able to do this today, what minor adjustments or planning are required to prevent my diabetes being an issue?”. To me, it is just part of my daily routine. If I need to drive somewhere, I make sure I test my blood sugars before I leave. If I’m going to exercise, I ensure I have enough carbohydrates during and after training to keep my blood sugars stable. This may sound like an over-simplification, but as long as I have my insulin pump, glucometer and a bottle of Lucozade, I’m prepared for pretty much anything.
Presently, I am working in medical communications full time and playing semi-professional rugby, and my diabetes is as well controlled as ever. Is it always easy? No. Do I always get it right? Definitely not, and I would be lying if I said that having diabetes didn’t frustrate me at times. Ultimately though, thanks to good habits, a positive outlook, a structured routine and a great support system around me, I have managed to make diabetes a part of my life, rather than allowing it to dictate how I live it.
14 November was World Diabetes Day. Find out more