Beverley's story

Beverley Freeman was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a young child. 35 years on, she tells of her experiences with the condition and how it has impacted on her being a mother. Here is her story in her own words.

I was diagnosed with diabetes at age 5 and although I don't remember much about it, my first memories were of spending an awful lot of time in hospital. That, and learning to inject my insulinA hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that acts to lower blood glucose levels. and having to be very restricted on what I could and could not eat.

On first diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have., my diabetes was very poorly controlled because of the lack of understanding about the condition back then. In those days urine testing was used which only allowed you to know how your bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. sugars were three hours ago and as we now know that isn't useful at all.

I was six years old when I first started injecting on my own. At the time there were large glass syringes with big thick needles. Everything had to be sterilised in surgical spirit and the needles had to be boiled every Friday to be re-used.

Even now, it is sometimes difficult for parents to know if the right information is being passed through the school so they have to keep going in to speak to the new form teacher each year.

My parents reassured me and also explained that my treatment was vital for me and that it was not a matter of choice. Since I had already been so ill coming up to diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have. it was easy to understand and I knew how ill I would feel if I didn't have the injections. I had lost lots of weight, I was being sick all the time and I was very dehydrated so I understood that the injections would make me feel better.

I remember missing an awful lot of school. This wouldn't happen nowadays but 35 years ago I did feel ill a lot of the time and I missed out on many things and special arrangements had to be made if you went anywhere like the park. As most kids do, I think I just took it on the chin and I didn't see anybody's life as being very different to mine because I didn't know any different. But as you get older you do certainly realise that you did miss out on a lot. I went through school always knowing that things had to be approached differently for me because I had diabetes. I collapsed several times at school and I was ill but I carried on doing the best I could.

My biggest problem was teachers' reactions to me. Some would be very sympathetic but others would be very fearful and fear led to the attitude that "let's just ignore this child and hope she'll go away". Even now, it is sometimes difficult for parents to know if the right information is being passed through the school so they have to keep going in to speak to the new form teacher each year.

When I was little, the first thing that would happen in the morning is that I would have my injection rather than a cuddle from my mum. I think parents have to ensure that their child comes first as a person rather than the diabetes.

Over time many advances were introduced to make things better. The first was bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. testing equipment which was brilliant because it would give an instant reading of how much sugar was in your bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid.. I also moved onto disposable syringes with much thinner, sharper needles which were easier to control. Following these improvements I don't remember the diabetes being such an issue because the control was better.

I think having diabetes always affects the relationships you form in some way. I am wary of telling people and I never quite know when to bring it into the conversation when I meet people. In some respects, having diabetes brought me closer to my parents but in other ways it had a detrimental effect in the fact that you don't come first as an individual because your diabetes tends to come first. When I was little, the first thing that would happen in the morning is that I would have my injection rather than a cuddle from my mum. I think parents have to ensure that their child comes first as a person rather than the diabetes.

With diabetes, you lose an awful lot of control of your life and you fear that you could collapse at any given moment, you're restricted in what you can eat and now when you have a child, you are not allowed to look after them properly either.

I was worried about having children because diabetes can affect your health if you have a child - which it did in my case. My daughter, Hannah, was born prematurely and I had other health problems. I was also concerned about passing the condition on to my daughter.

More importantly, I am a single mum and the other thing I worry about is night time hypos. Although you get warning of a hypoPrefix suggesting a deficiency, lack of, or small size. when you are awake you will be unaware of an oncoming hypoPrefix suggesting a deficiency, lack of, or small size. when you are asleep so Hannah has had to rescue me several times at night times. She deals with it fantastically well but she is having to deal with something that a 10-year-old should not have to deal with. You feel extremely guilty and it is yet another bit of control that is taken away from you. With diabetes, you lose an awful lot of control of your life and you fear that you could collapse at any given moment, you're restricted in what you can eat and now when you have a child, you are not allowed to look after them properly either. I know that sounds overdramatic but my reactions to Hannah have to be different because she is in control some of the time when I am not and that is not a normal thing for a parent to have to do.

Having said that, diabetes does not stop you from doing anything you want to do. I've been to university, I've travelled around that world, I've had a daughter,  I've had a good life and I've enjoyed myself very much. You might not do it in the same way as everybody else and you have to be better prepared but it does not stop you from doing anything.