I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 24 years old and my diagnosis story is unremarkable. I started noticing that I had an unquenchable thirst and was drinking glass after glass of water. I was going to the loo a lot. At first I just put that down to being really thirsty. I lost over six kilograms in a week. And I had bone-crushing exhaustion like I’d never felt before.
I tried to ignore it all with excuses such as ‘I’m really busy and just need to take a holiday’ and ‘I probably have a low level virus. I just need rest’ and ‘I’m planning a wedding, running a business and have a super busy life. Of course I’m run down.’
Except, after a couple of days, I was getting worse and couldn’t go for more than half an hour with running to the loo. I made an appointment to see my GP who sent me off for a blood test. A couple of days later, when the lab results came back, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
I saw an endocrinologist (diabetes specialist) that day and was started on insulin immediately, being taught how to inject the life-saving drug into my stomach. The situation was overwhelming – how could a diagnosis of a life-long medical condition be anything else? – but it was undramatic.
I’m glad it was unremarkable. I’m glad that I was not admitted to hospital in a critical condition or comatose. I’m glad my introduction to type 1 diabetes did not involve a dash to A and E or any time in ICU. I’m glad that I was able to stay out of hospital, only requiring day trips to my new diabetes team for a few days to learn about how to manage life with type 1 diabetes.
But that is not the case for a lot of children and adults. A lot of people are diagnosed under far more traumatic and serious circumstances. They may have had symptoms for some time – the same symptoms I experienced - and visited their doctor only to be told they had a virus or a urinary tract infection, and perhaps given antibiotics. Some children are diagnosed with ‘growing pains’ and told to rest up a little.