THE BLOG

Take Control this World Diabetes Day

13/11/2015 17:33 GMT | Updated 13/11/2016 10:12 GMT

I can't really remember a time when I didn't have diabetes. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was just nine years old and I had to start injecting myself on a daily basis.

Despite the fact that diabetes is on the increase in the UK, many people don't understand what it is. Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly. People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin. No-one knows exactly what causes it, but Type 1 diabetes is not to do with being overweight and it isn't currently preventable. People with Type 2 diabetes don't produce enough insulin or the insulin they produce doesn't work properly. They might have Type 2 diabetes because of risk factors - family history, age and ethnic background - that cannot be changed. But the most important risk factor is being overweight and it is estimated that up to 80 per cent of cases could be prevented or delayed through adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Growing up with Type 1 diabetes has completely changed my life and given me a different perspective on taking care of my health and pursuing my goals. It is difficult and can be overwhelming, but I have learnt that I can take control of my diabetes, and not let it control me, giving me the chance to follow my dreams.

I felt the biggest impact of my diabetes during those first few years was how it affected my family, in particular my mother and sister. They were very anxious about my health and worried that I would be okay.

My school were quite anxious about it too and they didn't really know how to support me. My mum had to come in to do my blood sugar testing each day and give me my insulin at lunchtime.

One really good thing that happened when I was first diagnosed was my diabetes nurse asked the head teacher if she could come in to explain to my class what my condition was. It meant I didn't feel embarrassed about my diabetes or that I needed to hide it during those early years.

My teenage years were a bit more challenging and secondary school was a confusing time. I wondered how I was going to juggle my diabetes with school and all the other things I wanted to do. I didn't test my blood sugar levels as much as I should. I didn't want to get my testing kit out in front of everyone to do my blood test as I didn't want to be different, and I ended up trying to hide my condition. I think if I had been more open about my diabetes then, my friends would have accepted it and given me a bit of help and support.

If I could give someone else with diabetes one piece of advice, I would say that you should learn as much as you can about your condition and be open about it with others.

If you have just been diagnosed with diabetes, it can be difficult to get your head around how to successfully manage it. But by learning as much as you can about diabetes, you can instead feel empowered to take control and manage it with confidence. If you can better manage your condition, you will have the best possible chance of living a long and healthy life.

Being open about having diabetes is also so important. As an actress, I used to not tell people on set that I had Type 1 diabetes because I didn't want to be seen as being difficult. But now I am more open and talk about my experience of the condition as I want to show other young people that it doesn't have to stop you following your dreams.

Today, Saturday 14 November, is World Diabetes Day and Diabetes UK is launching its campaign, Taking Control, to make sure all people with diabetes can go on an education course. Despite living with diabetes for 15 years now, I am planning to attend a course on 'Exercise and Diabetes' at some point in the future and I would encourage everyone with diabetes to find out more about what education options are available to them by asking their doctor or nurse.

Along with raising awareness of how valuable education courses are in helping people to manage their condition, Diabetes UK wants to make sure they are available to everyone with diabetes across the UK. Currently they are not. And this is something that has to change. Find out more at www.diabetes.org.uk/taking-control