“DIABETES has not stopped me from living my life and it shouldn’t stop you.”
These words encapsulate Type 1 sufferer Elaine Wood’s philosophy as she attempts to raise awareness of her condition during Diabetes Awareness Week.
The journey to a healthy, fulfilling existence was initially paved with its fair share of obstacles.
But with more widely available information, support and an array of technological advances, the 41-year-old telecoms employee from Grange Park now sees diabetes as just another thing in life she has to deal with.
At the age of six, Elaine became unusually tired, prone to illnesses and experienced unquenchable thirst. On her father’s birthday she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
The early days of injections and checks feel like a world away for Elaine, who now uses a pump releasing insulin into her system and connected to a Bluetooth machine, feeding it information about her blood sugar levels.
Mentalities were also very different 35 years ago.
“I think there wasn’t as much acceptance of it in the community where I lived in Chippenham,” she said. “There was a lack of information to help people, unlike now, so I had to be on a strict diet.
“We used to store needles and my mum had to boil them. It was very hard back then to have flexibility.
“There was no support group. But it got better over time. I got through it.”
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.
From travelling or walking nearly 30 miles along the Ridgeway to touring music festivals or rock-climbing, Elaine’s hectic life, as she describes it, may seem surprising to those who wrongly see diabetes as a handicap rather than a manageable condition.
Like most sufferers, Elaine is keen to show that not only has diabetes never stopped her, but it has in fact given her renewed determination.
“Some people think you can’t do certain things but you can lead a fulfilling life with Type 1 diabetes as long as you look after yourself,” she said. “It has not stopped me. Sometimes I think I am more determined to go out and do things because of it.
“And they sometimes call it an illness but it’s not – it’s a condition. You have to live with it but you are not different.
“People also think you can’t eat certain foods but you don’t need to be on a special diet, it should be healthy and you should eat your five-a-day. It’s a diet everyone should be following.
“It’s just always there in the background. You have good and bad days and it can get you down but you pick yourself up and get on with it.”
To find out more about diabetes and for advice on managing the condition visit www.diabetes.org.uk