Having a family changed the way I thought about my diabetes

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Mum-of- four Michelle Harding was seven years old when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. In the 33 years since her diagnosis, the 40 year-old from Bootle has had four children and supports other people with diabetes, all while managing the condition herself.

The theme for this World Diabetes Day on 14 November is family, and Michelle is hoping to raise awareness of the importance of support for people with diabetes and how having a family impacted on her condition.

Michelle said: “When I was diagnosed there wasn’t anywhere near the amount of information available now. Being so young, my parents looked after my condition for me after I was diagnosed and I know it was difficult as my sister had Type 1 diabetes too.”

It’s not been plain sailing and Michelle has experienced some complications as a result of her diabetes, but, she explains things have changed a lot since she was diagnosed and starting a family has changed her outlook on her condition.

She added: “I’ve done talks at schools with Diabetes UK and it’s amazing how much more children know about diabetes now. It’s important that young people are supported to understand their condition from an early age and how to manage it.”

Having little knowledge about diabetes had a big impact on Michelle when she became an adult: “I really didn’t know enough about the condition when I was younger compared with now. For me it was just about taking insulin. I didn’t really have good control.”

Michelle became pregnant when she was 18 with her first child, Kristofer, who is now 21. She says there was little support for her from healthcare professionals at the time:
“I was told I shouldn’t have got pregnant and that was about it. Of course there’s no reason why women with Type 1 diabetes cannot get pregnant but it’s important that they receive the right care and information to manage their condition well during pregnancy.”

After Michelle gave birth to twins Zack and Olivia, who are now 5 she received support to help get her diabetes under control. She says that while pregnant with her fourth child, Kyle, who is now one, she felt much more in control of her condition.

“After you have children it gives you a different focus. The idea of having a hypo when you’re on your own with your kids is really scary. I was given an insulin pump when the twins were two-and-a-half, which has made a huge impact on my management. I think it’s incredibly important that you feel in control as being a mum keeps you really busy.

“Having a family changed my life and the way I thought about my diabetes. Having the right support to take control of my condition was a big part of this. It makes me proud to be able to offer that support to other people living with diabetes.”

Michelle, who has been a volunteer with Diabetes UK for more than seven years and work has included promoting ‘diabetes-friendly’ gyms in Liverpool, raising awareness of diabetes-related amputations and the importance of foot care for people with the condition and supporting other volunteers in the local area.

The mum-of-four, who this year received an ‘Inspire Award’ from Diabetes UK, is also studying for a diploma in counselling, with the aim of being able to support young people and families living with diabetes.

Diabetes UK today released figures to highlight the lack of emotional and psychological support for people living with diabetes. Research from Diabetes UK has found that – alongside those living with the condition – parents and carers of children and adults with diabetes experience emotional or mental health problems.

The online survey showed that more than three quarters (77 per cent) of respondents said that they sometimes or often feel down because of their family member’s diabetes.

Diabetes UK offers a range of support for people living with diabetes and their families, from family support groups, and the online forum, to education digital platform Learning Zone, and the helpline − go to www.diabetes.org.uk to find out more.

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