Many of the YLC members have Type 1 Diabetes, or have a close connection to the disease through a family member or friend. Everyone has an interesting story to tell about their experience with T1D. We will be sharing some of these stories over the next few weeks in our ‘Meet the Member’ blog series. First up is our Recruitment Officer Izzy Cullingford, read her story below:
From rebellion to active volunteering - Izzy Cullingford
I have lived with type 1 diabetes since the 9th September 1995, a date that will stick in my mind for the rest of my life.
I was aged 10. I went from a normal childhood to a life of watching what I ate, blood sugar testing, insulin injections, hospital appointments and hypoglycemia. In the first few years I coped and I managed to adjust to the new daily routine. Then the teenage years struck, I rebelled and chose to ignore my diabetes. I was very much of the attitude 'if I ignore it, it'll go away' Looking back this sounds ridiculous. I felt alone, and no amount of ill health, hospital admissions or scare tactics from health care professionals could change the way I felt.
In 2009 things were bad, my HBa1c was at a dangerous level, and the years of not caring had started to take its toll. At the age of 23 I was starting to show early signs of complications, diabetic retinopathy (eye damage) and problems with my kidneys. I knew I needed to change, or I'd be heading for an early grave. I had a chest infection which caused the worse Diabetic Ketoacidosis I have ever experienced. I was in hospital for 2 weeks, in agony and not seeing a way out. Thankfully 7 months earlier I had moved to the Manchester Royal Infirmary Diabetes Team. They came to see me, and saw how desperate things were. They didn't judge me, and instead asked how they could help support me get back on track. They suggested an insulin pump and I honestly jumped at the chance. They aren't easily available to those with type 1 diabetes in the UK due to the high cost of funding. Nearly 6 months later on 9th October 2009 I got my insulin pump. It has honestly been life changing and every day I feel blessed and thankful for it. It's saved my life, and allowed me to get my own personal acceptance of my diabetes. It’s not been an easy fix, it’s been a learning curve, and I am still getting there but it’s allowed me to live the busy and hectic life I have longed for since diagnosis. I also feel healthy and my blood test results are the best they have been in 14 years.
At the start of 2011 I decided that I wanted to give something back to the diabetes community, and share my knowledge and experience to educate and raise awareness of the condition. I started volunteering for Diabetes UK as a Volunteer Ambassador. In my time I have worked on roadshows, helped at health events, given presentations, fundraised, trained as risk assessor for type 2, been a part of a user involvement focus group and helped to co facilitate a workshop at the volunteers conference. I was a patient representative on the National Diabetes Audit. I love my work as a volunteer. I also got involved with INPUT - the pump advocacy service. In 2013 I moved to Melbourne, Australia and continued my volunteer work. I had the chance to volunteer at the IDF World Diabetes Congress and multiple camps across the country for children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes. In 2015 I joined the Young Leadership Committee and helped to facilitate Type One Tastings.
Diabetes has been a challenge, it’s had its up and downs. Some days it does my head in. But I need to focus on the positive, it’s a huge part of who I am, it’s made me more accepting and understanding. I have met some amazing people living with diabetes who inspire me every day. I am now applying to study child nursing and this I feel has been influenced by living with type 1 diabetes for over 20 years and the work I have done for health organisations.