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“I understand how tough it can be living with type 1 and this motivates me to work towards a cure”

Dr Chloe Rackham was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 13 and is now running a JDRF-funded lab at the University of Exeter. Chloe tells us how having type 1 helps motivate her and how she switches off from her type 1.
Content last reviewed and updated: 28.06.2024

A photo of Dr Chloe Rackham wearing a labcoat.

I was on holiday on the Isle of Wight with my family when I fell ill and was rushed to hospital. I remember waking up in the hospital bed and someone telling me I had type 1 diabetes. My first thought was ‘Oh no, does that mean I can’t do exercise anymore?’

Exercising with type 1 diabetes

Stories on the JDRF website of people living with type 1 and achieving their exercise goals helped inspire me. I learnt not to let my diabetes hold me back or stop me from doing things. Although it can be hard work controlling my glucose levels when I exercise, I find it helps keep my HbA1c lower. The more we, as a community, can do to encourage people with type 1 that it’s okay and even beneficial to exercise, the better.

Fundraising for JDRF

I’ve run five marathons in total, including one to raise money for JDRF. This marathon was particularly hard work because it involved running up and down the Seven Sisters cliffs that overlook the English Channel. I understand the hours that go into things like marathon training and other extreme challenges – especially if you have type 1 – so I want to say a personal thank you to everyone who has supported JDRF by taking part in fundraising events. I fully appreciate that without your support, I wouldn’t be able to strive towards my research goals.

A photo of Chloe and her husband Martin outside wearing JDRF running vests having just completed a marathon.

A photo of Chloe and her husband Martin after they ran a marathon to raise money for JDRF.

My inspiration for diabetes research

My love for sport pushed me to do a human sciences undergraduate degree. I think if I wasn’t a researcher, I’d be doing something sport-related! During my degree, I particularly enjoyed learning about the hormones involved in diabetes and became passionate about the topic. I suspect that living with type 1 made me intrinsically interested in the science behind diabetes and its treatment options.

Hunting for a cure for type 1

If you talk to people with type 1 and their families, we’re looking for a cure. Even with the brilliant advances in technology made possible by people like JDRF, the burden of managing blood glucose levels is still a big job. So, my research goals are to drive forward treatments that can replace the lost insulin-producing cells. We need to develop ways to remove the need for immunosuppressant drugs due to the risks associated with them. It’s amazing how fast research is progressing thanks to all the work that JDRF is supporting and that researchers are doing.

A motivated team of type 1 researchers

To have a motivated research team, you need a vision of what the work means and how it can be translated to people’s lives. I can portray that vision because of my lived experience of type 1. I can share the big picture of what our research can do to improve quality of life for people living with type 1.

I’m grateful to JDRF for helping to support my research team, who are an incredibly hard working and passionate group of scientists. Together, we work hard to achieve our short-term goals that feed into the long-term goals of developing new treatments and cures for people living with type 1.

Thank you to JDRF supporters

I think it’s so important to support JDRF and help fund type 1 diabetes research. The progress we’ve made in the last 10 years wouldn’t have happened without JDRF – there’s no doubt about it. Diabetes isn’t one size fits all. One treatment won’t be right for everyone, so research into all areas is super important.

It’s very clear that the research JDRF has supported has massively improved quality of life for people with type 1. We’re getting so much closer but we’re not there yet. We need to keep going, which requires a huge amount of work and money. Research is incredibly expensive, but every small contribution adds up to a lot.”