By Gavin Griffiths
January 2000 saw a turn of events in my life which changed everything for me; I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It wasn’t the best of starts to the new Millennium – diabetes isn’t something you open your arms up to and welcome with a hug but unfortunately, there’s no choice in the matter. Aged eight, to be honest, I didn’t even know what diabetes was – have I been diagnosed with Swedish Mad-Cow disease?! But I believe that being diagnosed with type 1 means you learn how to endure… and it is through that endurance that ultimately you can become stronger.
At first diabetes proved difficult to accept, I just wished to separate myself from this ‘disease.’ I wouldn’t attend group events put on by my clinic and I hated going to see the Doctor on my three to six month check-ups. From the moment I came off the drip machine in hospital and I took my own insulin injections from the first syringe (pens weren’t on the scene), deep down I didn’t accept it and I just bottled it all up. It showed when other children called me names, not understanding my condition. I reacted, especially when one lad kicked my energy drink over during a hypo… I found myself in trouble for lashing-out. It took time but then I realised: I’m still me. Diabetes didn’t change me from being myself. I was still playing football, had a sense of humour, a great family and great friends. I realised that actually this condition is just part of my life, a part I am responsible for in testing my blood sugar levels and taking insulin, but it doesn’t control my life. I do.
I endured and then became stronger. And now… people know me for being ‘The Diathlete’ and having type 1 diabetes has made me something MORE. Carrying the London 2012 Olympic Torch in front of thousands of people in July 2012 made me think that I wouldn’t have had that honour without having diabetes and being positive about it. That day was insane – waving at people, having photographs taken, signing autographs… it was as though I had woken up as Prince Harry for the day (minus the ginger hair)!
On 26 May 2013 I found myself closing in on the final few miles of the GBR 30/30 Challenge, all in support of JDRF and Diabetes UK, and to inspire other diabetics too. I had endured distances of 30 miles (or more) every day for the previous 29 and a half days and the conclusion of 30/30 was nearing as Lands End approached. The journey, which began up in John O’Groats at the end of April, saw members of diabetes communities coming out to see me off or cheer me on, people running or cycling for miles in support, people putting me up in their houses for a night. It was incredible! I was constantly enduring ultra-marathon after ultra-marathon but found myself energised and able to succeed because of the support!
The final day was 40 miles long. Kev Winchombe on his bike, Matt Wood running in support… I was ahead, adrenaline had overcome me. After a series of country lanes… there was Land’s End! Everybody was there awaiting my final stretch and a rush of energy came over me as I collected my Olympic torch and forced one final last sprint to the finishing line.
The secret: I live with type 1 every day and therefore have learned how to endure and how to succeed. My message: never give up; your diabetes can only make you stronger in life.