When mother-of-two Kim Henshaw was eight, her life was changed forever. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, an auto-immune condition where the body wrongly destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. A disease for which there is no known cause or cure.
Thirty years on, and with two healthy children and a husband in tow, the Victorian reflects on her life post-diagnosis.
“It’s relentless. There’s no real break from it,” Kim tells Mamamia. “It feels there aren’t any real changes on the horizon… I don’t even remember my life without diabetes, this is just the way it is now.”
It's believed 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, of which 10 per cent suffer with Type 1, also known as juvenile diabetes.
Sufferers face the precarious task of balancing their blood glucose levels at all times. A sudden dip or spike can result in extreme lethargy, blurred vision, dizziness, headaches, mood swings, and muscle cramping. A compromised immune system commonly sees Type 1 diabetes sufferers battle persistent skin infections and drastic weight changes.
While the exact cause is unknown, research shows there is a strong hereditary link, meaning parents often pass diabetes onto their children.
It's this fact that plagues Kim, who fears she has inadvertently given her disease to daughter Aspen, 11, and son Jarrah, 5, who are both currently healthy. The anticipation is so intense, Kim describes it as "a constant underlying feeling of guilt".
"I always have a background worry that one day [Aspen and Jarrah] will get diabetes too," Kim says.
"I have an underlying feeling of guilt, that if they get it, there’s a strong chance they’ve gotten it from me. It’s always on my mind, it’s always in the background.”
Her children and husband Paul have been instrumental in helping Kim, who now works as the Families Program Coordinator at Diabetes Victoria, live a normal life.
“I have to make sure I’m healthy and functioning well for my kids," Kim says. "Both Paul and the kids help me monitor my blood sugar levels. They’ll grab the jar of jellybeans from the cupboard and they’ll tell me when I need to have some."