Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A reflection

On Tuesday, my reaction at the physio at being told what was wrong with my back ("What's that?" I said "I never head of that muscle") sounded a bit familiar to me.

Later I realised where I heard it before, reading a blog about a kid being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes: "When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 8 years old, I didn't know anything about it. Who ever heard of insulin? A pancreas? What's that?".

In type 1 diabetes the pancreas (and specifically the beta cells located in the unpronounceable islets of Langerhans) stops producing insulin, the essential hormone that regulates glucose metabolism. Patients with type 1 diabetes depend on external insulin (most commonly injected subcutaneously) for their survival.

Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes is therefore a pretty dramatic affair. Often children (the disease is most commonly diagnosed in childhood, although it can develop at any age) and their families have to go through a tremendous learning experience, grappling with human physiology, carb counting, insulin treatment and dosing, blood glucose monitoring, and a whole new daily language to cope with the demands of diabetes. Diabetes is a full-time affair: it affects every aspect of your life.

For most parents the first few months after diagnoses are filled with emotional highs and low. From the initial relief of discovering what is making their kid sick (giving a name to the foe and discovering that it's a relatively common and well understood condition and that, crucially, it is treatable offers some comfort) to the inevitable anger and sadness at the realisation that diabetes is here to stay. They can not do anything to make their child better. It's heartbreaking.

There is no cure for diabetes. Unlike my psoas, the pancreas does not get better. Diabetes is a chronic condition, and as patients like to remind us "insulin is not a cure, just a treatment".

I think it's a pretty tough thing to take in if you are 8 years old. A lifetime with diabetes.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

Please donate generously to Diabetes UK, the charity organises local support groups for those important few months following a diagnosis, helping families meet other people who have been through a similar situation.

And of course, it supports research into a cure.

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