BEING diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes before her 16th birthday, at a time when little information or support was available was the beginning of a daily struggle to remain healthy and out of the danger zone.
But through the next two decades, despite initial difficulties, the condition never thwarted 36-year-old Abbie Mercer from her goals or prevented her from living a fulfilling life.
Along with fellow sufferers, the Sainsbury’s employee is determined to echo Diabetes Awareness Week’s message of strength and hope: “I can”.
At the age of 15, Abbie started losing weight at an alarming speed and was unable to satiate an unquenchable thirst. Soon she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes but with little support and limited information, the teenager was at a loss to control her blood sugar levels.
“It took me a long time to come to terms with it,” said the mother-of-one. “Fifteen was a tricky age at best let alone having something like this to impact you. When I was 15 some form of counselling would have helped me but there was no support or support groups then. It was a case of being left to our own devices.
“Nobody in my family had the condition and we had to learn quickly what it involved. It affected the whole family. Sometimes we got it right and sometimes we got it wrong. When I was younger I had lots of hypos which is very low blood sugar and it resulted in fits – I would go unconscious.”
Type 1 diabetes develops when the insulin-producing cells in the body have been destroyed and the body is unable to produce any insulin. No one can do anything to prevent developing Type 1.
As a result Abbie injects insulin into her body five times a day.
While much ignorance still surrounds Type 1 diabetes and its counterpart, Type 2, Abbie is keen to educate the people around her and ensure no barrier stands between sufferers and the public in a town where more than 1,000 people have Type 1 diabetes and more than 10,000 Type 2.
“A lot of time has passed since then and I am in full control of my diabetes,” she added. “ I’m at peace with that and I’m lucky I have a condition that can be managed and doesn’t have an impact on my life.
“But there are huge misconceptions of Type 1 and Type 2 and I’ve been asked before if it would go away if I lost weight. Type 1 is in your genes, I couldn’t avoid it.
“Most people with Type 1 want people to become more aware, it can only help if people around them ask questions and want to know more. I would encourage people who have questions to ask them. Information is power and ignorance will breed negativity and misconceptions.”
Type 2 diabetes develops when the insulin-producing cells in the body are unable to produce enough insulin, or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly. Family history, age and ethnic background can affect a person's risk of developing Type 2, and people are also more likely to develop it if they are overweight.
- To find out more about diabetes visit www.diabetes.org.uk