Cyber community is support network for diabetes sufferer

Mark Walton is encouraging other diabetes sufferers to get support online. Picture: DAVE COX

Mark Walton is encouraging other diabetes sufferers to get support online. Picture: DAVE COX Buy this photo

First published in News by

DIABETES sufferer Mark Walton’s struggle with and profound anger at a condition he felt helpless to control reached an unexpected resolution thanks to the power of social media.

Mark, 26, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 12 but lived in stubborn denial of the incurable illness, gambling with his health and hoping the symptoms would just vanish if he ignored them long enough.

But two years ago his life took a radical turn as he found a valuable support network, advice and friendship from people grappling with the same feelings of powerlessness on Twitter.

He soon shared his experience coping with diabetes on his own blog and in chatrooms.

His foray into the online world broke his isolation, allowed him to manage his illness and improve his health.

Now on much more wholesome grounds, Mark, of Redhouse, has joined pioneering online peer support group, Diabetes UK Google+ hangouts, designed to provide diabetes sufferers a safe and non-judgmental space to share their concerns and benefit from others’ experiences.

The programme allows users to chat online on Tuesdays for an hour from 7pm.

“Many people living with diabetes can feel very isolated and alone and some struggle emotionally,” said the admin manager.

“My diagnosis was the start of a difficult time for me. Until about two years ago I was still angry about developing Type 1 diabetes and I wasn’t taking care of myself properly.

“I did not test my blood glucose levels very often, and I didn’t tailor my insulin injections to what I needed – I just always took the same.

“Then about two years ago I started talking to people through Twitter about diabetes, and started to learn more about how other people managed it.

“Other people with diabetes couldn’t believe my regime, so I realised I needed to speak to my diabetes specialist nurse about how to improve my approach to diabetes.

“This marked a big change for me. I moved onto a different type of insulin and really took control of my diabetes.”

He added: “By joining online communities, such as the Diabetes UK Google+ hangouts, I have realised I am not the only one.

“Diabetes can feel like it is taking over your life, overwhelmingly so.

“Being in contact with others is such an important way to make the journey to good diabetes management easier and shorter.

“I would really encourage other people with diabetes to take advantage of the online support available through Diabetes UK.”

Type 1 diabetes is a life-long condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high. It usually affects children or young adults, starting suddenly and worsening quickly.

For more about Diabetes UK Google+ hangouts, visit www.diabetes.org.uk/How_we_help/Peer-support, call 0843 3538600 or email talktosomeone@diabetes.org.uk

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