I’m Sarah Barnes and this is my diabetes story. I was diagnosed just after my 8th birthday. A couple months before my diagnosis I had lost a lot of weight, was constantly tired, and always thirsty. No one else in my family had diabetes so these symptoms did not mean a lot to anyone, but my parents knew something was not right. My mum took me to our doctor thinking that I was diabetic. The doctor didn’t agree with this and it took a lot of persuading to get them to do a blood test.
A few weeks later, we still hadn’t received any results from the blood tests but I had gotten a lot worse. I had lost even more weight and became so ill I could not keep anything down, even water. I was rushed to the hospital with DKA and they were shocked at how bad I was. They were even more shocked that the doctor I had seen, didn’t realize straight away that I was diabetic. I was rushed into a ward and attached to lots of different machines and tubes. At this point, I had no idea what was happening and was extremely scared. I was surrounded by strangers who were talking about lots of things that I didn’t understand.
The next few days were a bit of a blur. A mix of feeling tired and weak, while also trying to learn a completely new way of life. I remember being given a belt with a small square with skin coloured plastic, which I was able to practise injecting on. I actually thought it was great fun, but then I was told to give myself an injection and this was just something I could not do. When I was sent home from the hospital, my parents took over my care. They had to physically hold me down when I needed an injection because I was so scared of needles. After a few weeks, my mum taught me some tough love and told me I wasn’t allowed to eat until I did my own injection, completely by myself. At the time I was so scared and upset that she was making me do this, but I am so glad she did. It gave me my freedom back and allowed me to look after my diabetes without needing someone else to do my injections for me. This allowed me to go on school trips and stay at friends’ houses. It allowed me to live a normal life.
At the beginning, I was very positive and looked after myself. Once I hit teenage years, I really lost control of my care and didn’t take it seriously. This continued for quite a few years as I went through a period of not doing any injections or testing my blood glucose. During the first lockdown, I decided that this needed to change. I really started to take care of myself again. I was extremely lucky to be given a guardian 3 sensor which links with my Medtronic 670g pump. This has been amazing for my control and has allowed me to see what my blood glucose is all the time. Another thing that has really helped me is creating a diabetic Instagram. I haven’t met a lot of diabetics throughout my 15 years, so I have really enjoyed being able to meet lots of people who are in the same boat as me. I have found out so much more information about diabetes and different ways to improve my control.
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that it is okay to have diabetes and not be ashamed of it. People will always be there to support you, and you don’t need to hide something that needs a lot of attention. You can live a very normal life, but you just need to look after yourself and make time for you. Diabetes is something I have but it does not define me.
I have been a diabetic for 15 years and I live in Cambridge. I have been using a Medtronic 670g pump for the last five years and the guardian 3 for two months. Diabetes is never easy but I try to not let it get in the way of things I love.