By Jen Grieves
Hi! My name’s Jen. I’m a journalist, a producer, and I have an awesome job working for BBC Radio 1. I also like to exercise, travel, eat, drink and do fun things. I also happen to be a type 1 diabetic.
I was diagnosed in 1996 when I was eight years old. I’d never even heard of the word ‘diabetes’ when I was landed with it. It changed life as I knew it and 18 years later, I still don’t get it right 100 per cent of the time – far from it! But through all the ups and downs of life as a type 1, I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do in life – chased a career in a tough industry, travelled to far flung places, cycled to Paris and been a typical teenager/20-something/adult/woman/human. Just with an injection and a packet of test strips constantly by my side.
Being a diabetic never gets easier really, but your understanding of it can get better. I was never inclined to completely ignore my diabetes, but when I went to university I was certainly lax when it came to my looking after myself properly. I was far too busy, out most nights, drinking sugary alcopops (yuck!) and getting stuck in and having a whale of a time – all while my blood glucose meter gathered dust on the kitchen window sill. A thought that as someone who now tests up to six times a day, utterly terrifies me.
When I finished uni I really didn’t feel very good, so I decided to take some proper responsibility for my control. This didn’t happen overnight, and I vowed to never stop doing all the things I love. But slowly and surely, I’ve learned what my body can and cannot cope with. I started a blog to document the minefields and found an amazing source of support in the diabetes online community. These people know exactly what I’m going through when I’m awake at 3am with a hypo, frustrated that I’ve yet again messed up, annoyed at having to stuff my face in the middle of the night, and still half asleep.
I’ve always said type 1 is a very contradictory disease. On one hand, it’s something you can deal with without much fuss, day in and day out. When people meet you they don’t immediately know you have a life-long condition. But it’s a day by day, minute by minute on-going process where a standard formula can never be applied. Sure, we can carb count and adjust doses, but sometimes those meter readings just don’t make sense. And when you get into trouble with it, you can very quickly be in serious trouble.
I say a lot, ‘it’s fine until it’s not fine’. I’ve had hypos in the middle of reporting on court cases, while being broken down on the side of a motorway with nothing to hand and in the middle of first dates. I’ve completely run out of test strips with worrying frequency and I have spent more money on juice and cereal bars than anyone should need to in a lifetime – just to keep myself alive.
But I live a very busy, full and happy life. I hope that people reading this that feel like diabetes is a life sentence firstly know that they’re not alone, and also that with a bit of planning, you can go out into the world and do whatever you wish to do…
…Except join the RAF. Or get a HGV licence. But I’ve made peace with that. I’ll take my job any day.