Fear of Complications or Inspired by Them?

22 Jan

I remember the conversations started a few days after I was diagnosed. A throat infection had masked the symptoms and I was admitted to hospital in a DKA coma, I would remain in hospital as the medics brought my blood glucose levels down and I have no memory of those first few days.  One of my first memories after diagnosis were of my Nan coming to the hospital to visit me and she told me that one of her friends had diabetes and she had to have her feet cut off because she did not look after her diabetes, that was the first of many negative conversations about diabetes throughout my life.  I was just 5 years old and this conversation happened in Basildon hospital in 1977.  I am sure that my Nan was trying to make me see how important it would be for me to take care of my health and my diabetes, I could not understand how something that made me use the sugars I ate that had broken in my body was related to the possibility of having my feet cut off but the fear she created in me with her well-intended comments has never really left me.

Please don’t judge my Nan badly, in 1977 the impact of psychology on physical health was ground breaking research and had not been adopted by health care professionals or laymen. Tools for managing diabetes did not really exist either, to put this into context there was no self-monitoring of blood glucose, that technology did not exist yet, I was prescribed just one injection per day of an insulin called Monotard, an insulin that was derived from cows or pigs.  We soon found out that I was allergic to cow (bovine) insulin and we switched to pig (porcine) insulin which I could just about tolerate.  The HbA1c test did not exist yet either, or if it did was not available in my hospital.  My expectations of life with diabetes were set at that early stage, it soon became clear that good ‘control’ was important but without any tools to bring about control or ways to measure that control we were unable to make any informed decisions to bring about any form of control, instead we were in a battle for daily survival.  As a teenager, I rebelled against my diabetes skipping injections, eating what I wanted, when I wanted, transition care for diabetes did not exist and I refused to attend diabetes clinic for about 10 years before I finally realised in my late twenties that if I wanted to live with diabetes on my terms I had to make some concessions.

I could write many stories about growing up with diabetes but in this article let’s move the clock forward to 2006. It is now 29 years since diagnosis, I am married to Denise and we have two daughters and we are now living in South Wales.  I am attending diabetes clinic regularly and I have settled into a routine with my diabetes, my family and my life.  I decided that I wanted to be an early adopter for an insulin pump and I had worked with my HCP team to make this happen in 2006.  My insulin pump provided me with the tools to improve my diabetes management, everything was good, I felt better than ever, my HbA1c dropped to 7% (that is 53 for all of the newbies out there) and life was treating me well.

I have secretly made a pact with myself that I am going to see my great grandchildren, my own daughters are just 4 years old and 2 years old at this time. I had already been told that there are changes in the blood vessels in my eyes that needed to be reviewed more carefully and more often and I had been seeing an ophthalmic surgeon once a year for the past 3 or 4 years.  On this day in 2006 I went to see the surgeon feeling surprisingly relaxed, I knew that improving my diabetes management via my insulin pump were going to stabilise the changes in my eyes.  After the examination, the surgeon would always chat to me about the changes he had seen, or not, and then we would tell me to come back in a year.

I could not have been more surprised that day when the surgeon said that there were significant changes that were threatening my sight since my last appointment. I explained that my HbA1c was better than ever, that I was on an insulin pump and his response hit me like a bolt out of the blue “that explains the changes we are seeing, in people with long term type 1 diabetes who rapidly improve their control we sometimes see significant changes in the eyes”.  This felt like diabetes giving me a real kick in the teeth, I had worked my arse off, brought my HbA1c into target range for the first time ever and this is the benefit?  The surgeon went on to explain that continuing to maintain, and even improve, my diabetes management was still essential in maintaining my eyesight and that the long term benefits would certainly outweigh the short term ‘bad news’.  The surgeon then told me that he needed to perform laser surgery on my eyes and he explained what he would do, how he would do it, what were the risks of doing the surgery and the likelihood that if the surgery was not performed I may experience a bleed that could permanently damage or destroy some or all of my vision.  As I began to process this news I asked him when would the surgery take place, I could never have been prepared for his answer when he said in about 10 minutes.

I was given another dose of the drugs which dilate the eye and I was asked to go to the waiting room to allow the additional drops to work. My wife and daughters were in the waiting room and as I walked out half blinded by the drugs in my eyes I knew that I wanted to see my daughters grow up and although my own children were only 2 and 4 years old I made a pact there and then that I would see my great grandchildren, I knew then that I would do whatever it takes to maintain my health for as long as possible.

The surgery went well and over the course of about 6 rounds of laser surgery my retinopathy was stabilised, the treatment I received was excellent and once I recovered from the shock I knew that the treatment approach was right, find a problem and deal with it immediately.

At the time of that surgery I was a 35 year old guy who was carrying too much weight and an active day was walking down the stairs at work, but only if the lift was broken. So, what has changed for me since then?  I started to become more active doing some walking (because I really hated running) in the hills and mountains in the UK and I then went on to do the Welsh 3 Peaks challenge and the 3 Peaks challenge, then after too much wine one evening in 2013 I agreed to run a 5k race, did I mention that I hated running?, and this inspired me to train for a run a half marathon.  I was now 41 years old, and I thought if I can run a half marathon after living with type 1 for 36 years anybody can do it.

On the 2nd of October 2013 I completed the Cardiff half marathon, I never anticipated that it would lead to a phone call from JDRF inviting me to join them for a little challenge and on the 21 June 2014 along with 16 others with type 1 diabetes I watched the sunrise from the summit of Kilimanjaro.  Throughout my training to climb Kilimanjaro I continued to run, did I mention that I hated running?  I found that my diabetes was easier to manage if I took part in regular physical exercise and running was something I could just about anywhere and this is a huge advantage when your job takes you all over the place.  I began to realise that the running was offering me benefits that I could have never anticipated, my blood pressure was now dropping, my cholesterol was dropping, my weight was dropping and I had more energy.  These factors all lower my risks of diabetes complications.

This year I celebrated 40 years of living with type 1 diabetes and to mark the occasion I ran 40 half marathons in a year (did I mention that I hated running), finishing the challenge in Swansea on 26 June 2017 just a few days before the anniversary of my diagnosis. My running campaign had a number of goals, for me personally it was an endurance challenge that pushed me and my diabetes well beyond my comfort zone but it was more than that, it was a campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes.

The next chapter in my story is that my retinopathy remained stable until a few months ago and it has now become maculopathy, I continue to receive excellent care and the situation is being closely monitored. When treatment becomes necessary for my maculopathy it will be dealt with immediately.  Will I get to see my great grandchildren?  I certainly plan to.  However, whatever complications that my diabetes puts in my path I will continue to make every single day count, is that my old fears of complications coming through or is it a realisation that my health is a gift?  I am not sure of the answer but I certainly like the results.

For the last few months I have been enjoying a rest from the running and investing my time into the creation of the website which is dedicated to type 1 diabetes and exercise (1bloodydrop.com). I am working to create a resource which answers the questions what should I do to manage by blood glucose before, during and after I exercise?  We have created video blogs which discuss long distance running, mountain climbing, swimming, weight lifting, football, 5-a-side football and we have some amazing interviews with experts in the field of diabetes and exercise.

What is next? 1bloodydrop.com is putting a team of type 1 ‘athletes’ (an athlete is anybody who is willing to give it a go in my book) together and we are going to set a new record for the most people with type 1 diabetes to run a half marathon together.  The current record is held by the team at 1bloodydrop and is 29 runners with type 1, now we are aiming to get 101 runners with type 1 diabetes to run with us at the Swansea half Marathon on 24 June 2018, join us at http://1bloodydrop.com/videos/swanseahalfmarathon2018/


Peer Support at IDF 2017

11 Dec

If anyone is interested or just needs a cure for their insomnia, here are the slides from the talk I did at #IDF2017 World Diabetes Congress on my experience of Peer Support.

It was also live streamed on Facebook so if you want to see it then feel free.

Type1 Peer Support Slides IDF 2017


Live Long and Bolus


Sliding Doors

8 Nov

Have you ever watched the film “Sliding Doors”?

Is about one person’s life as it is, and in parallel, how it could have been if one thing had happened differently.


How it is…..

Currently my left foot looks like this (yep, gross, but it will be fine).


I have Type1 Diabetes and as a result I do my daily foot checks.

I notice a blister and keep an eye on it.

It starts to look a bit rough, so I go to the practice nurse.

She cleans and dresses it.

She refers me to the Podiatrist.

Podiatrist rings same day with an appointment (that I couldn’t make but that’s not their fault).

Great care for an amazing NHS!


How it could have been…..

For whatever reason I didn’t get T1D.

I get a blister on my foot.

I don’t do daily foot checks, why would I?

The blister turns bad so I stick a plaster over it.

It gets worse.

I’m a typical bloke so I leave it as I’m too busy to go to the GP.

It’s agony now so I go to the GP finally.

Foot is cleaned and dressed.

Time goes on but it gets no better.

Back to GP I go.

To cut a short story long I get diagnosed with Type2 Diabetes.

My foot issue was the first physical indication I was aware of that I had T2D

I wish I’d know that I was at risk of T2D. I can’t guarantee that I would have acted if I had, but at least Id have had a chance to………


Know Your Risk!….

So help yourself, your friends and family but getting them to Know Your (their) Risk of T2D, and if needed, acting on it. Please!


Live Long and Bolus


Another Bloody Diaversary Blog

25 Aug

23 years ago today (unless you are watching on +1 or catch-up) my Type1 Diabetes was diagnosed with me.

Seen stuff recently asking “what would you have done differently?” or “What would you tell yourself if you could have?”

So here goes:

I was 90% sure what was wrong but I kept delaying going to the doctors.

So what would I gone earlier knowing what I know now?



I was a stubborn bastard then

I’m a stubborn bastard now


It didn’t worry me in the slightest

Would I react differently?



There was no drama.

No emergency.

My T1D was lucky enough to spend 25 years without having me inflicted on it, and I’d got as far down the path to so called adulthood as I was ever going to go.

I was the kind of person that is offensively calm about everything

I still am now


I didn’t involve any family, friends or work colleagues in any way

Would I if I went back in time?



I didn’t like people then

I don’t people now


I could go on but it’s all going to be the same

Would I do anything differently?



Because I’m the same person now that I was before diagnosis.

It has not changed me.

It never will.

I won’t let it

I don’t live with Diabetes, it lives with me!

I would however have made sure I was wearing shoes when I left hospital. The sudden realisation that you are crossing the road still wearing your slippers makes to feel like a total knob…….

Live Long and Bolus


Love Changes Everything

9 Feb


They say that Love Changes Everything.

Someone even wrote a song about it…..

Is it true though?

Personally I couldn’t give a toss if it is or isn’t!


It’s almost that overly commercial time of year where women receive skimpy garments that they would never purchase for themselves, bought by naive men that think it’s going to increase their chance of getting a blow job. All in the name of “Valentine’s Day”

 Call me unromantic, but guys, if you give that much of a shit about someone then just tell them. Every day. Show them. No. Not by sending them a picture of yourself trying to make your stomach look smaller and your know what look bigger, but just by being kind. Every Day!

Who knows, it might even increase your chances of getting laid more often……

So if you now wonder if your token Anne Summers purchase is a bit tokenistic, and that for some insane reason she will think that you bought it more for your benefit than hers, you can fix it…..

Buy the love of your life 11 roses.

On the card, explain why you didn’t buy her 12.

Tell her that you donated the money for the 12th to Life for a Child.

She will see that you have a heart, not just an erection………

 To donate, please visit:


 Live Long and Bolus



Finding My Feet

21 Jan



For the last 47 years I’ve been in a relationship.

A threesome……..


My relationship with my feet has changed over the years

We share the same birthday

We used to be close

We played together

I used to touch them a lot

They looked good naked!

I’d even give them a gentle suck…….


Slowly we grew apart (I’m 6 feet 2 inches tall they are a long way away)

We lost touch (I can’t touch my knees let alone my bloody toes)

Things got in the way (beer gut…..)

I paid them little attention

Even when they were naked

Just a passing glance

But I could still depend on them

They never let me down (except when I’m drunk and fall over)


As I said I’m my last blog post they took a bit of a battering

It’s rekindled out relationship

Every night I slowly undress them

My eyes cover every inch

I explore them with a gentle touch

I lovingly rub them with lotion

Then we slide under the covers for the night…..


Remember you daily foot checks!


Live Long and Bolus



Diabetes on Strike

14 Jan


So the other week the station staff on the London Underground (The Tube) went on strike for 24hrs meaning most of the stations were closed.
I usually have a 4 mile Tube ride through London, which i am not a massive fan of.


Because its public transport!

Why don’t I like public transport?

Because I don’t like the general public!

Especially before I’ve had coffee!……
Id already decided to get into London early and walk the 4 miles.

For the record. I do not like early either!
I kind of manage my Diabetes “on the fly” and tend not to plan things in too much detail.

Sound irresponsible?

I guess it could do, but in my head I’ve got 22 years of doing this shit stuff to fall back on so will be ok.

Also I’ve planned what I’d do to manage my BG’s in detail, but, my BG’s don’t follow plans….
I’m lucky enough to have an insulin pump and CGM so dropping Basal rates and quick checks of BG are mad easy and allows me to manage my levels on the move.
So in short,  I did a fuck load lot of walking and kept my BG’s in range.

No Hypos on the way there.

Dropping fast at the end of homeward walk, but what better excuse for a McFlurry right?
And this are my FitBit stats for the day…..

You wondering why I’m telling you this?

(Assuming you have actually read this far….)


I did a fair bit of exercise.

Burnt a lot of calories.

Kept BG’s in range.

Used less insulin than usual.

And I totally fucked up fucked up my feet!….

Blisters, cuts and sore as hell (which given they are numb due to neuropathy isn’t great)

Its ok. They will be fine. I’ve been dressing them and looking after them and they are on the mend.

I’ve learnt a few things though.

Diabetes management is not just about my BG’s, its about the whole me.

Sometimes I need to plan, even if its just wearing the right shoes.

I don’t hate public transport as much as I did.

However I’d prefer the public not to be on it…..

Live Long and Bolus