Tag Archives: #Changes

Changing Attitudes – NEAW 2015

Last week I took part in the Diabetes blog week and looked at my changing attitude to my T1D over the past 3 decades as well as changes I hope will happen in the future.  social-media-treeMy plea for improved education about T1D vs. T2D is closely linked to my longing for increased awareness about EGID and has resulted in my efforts to bring the focus of family, friends and our local community to the subject through local media coverage and social media this week.

During a music break in my recent radio interview, the presenter asked me an interesting question: whether I’m upset when people misunderstand EGID?  We had been discussing off-air the fact that there is often recognition of the food allergies side of the illness, rather than the disease itself and whilst I understand that allergies are something easy for people to understand, I’m frustrated that that’s what gets people interested in finding out more.  I pondered his question for a while and once the session was over was able to give him my honest answer: No.  I’m not upset that people misunderstand EGID because I’m usually impressed that they know something about it. The truth is that they must have heard of EGID in the first place to be capable of misunderstanding this complex disease and therein lies the problem.  Ignorance of EGID and the unseen effects it has on individual and family alike means that those of us living with it are sadly often viewed as making it all up or wildly exaggerating the severity. That attitude can leave a family feeling very alone at a time when emotional and practical support is needed most.

 This is what today’s C is all about – Changing Attitudes.


The truth about EGID is this:  It’s not just about the food allergies, that’s the easy bit to understand and, in many ways, the easiest bit to live with.  It’s about much, much more than that.  It’s about the unexplained joint aches, the never-ending tummy cramps, the relentless feelings of nausea or reflux whenever you eat. The dark shadows under the eyes, the manic mood swings, the overwhelming lethargy, or the inability to fall asleep and stay that way.  The damaged bowel, the fear of not being near enough to a toilet whenever you need one, or knowing that you’ll never get there in time anyway.  legoThe fear of your friends making fun of your allergies or finding out that you’re still wearing a pull-up because your bowel can’t be relied on when you most need it to.  The daily medicines, restricted diets and the feeding tubes. The chronic pain that can reduce you to tears, yet you don’t complain because nothing helps, even when it’s at its worst and you’re familiar with just about every pain chart created in the history of man.

It’s about getting used to these things as being normal, or not even realising they’re not. 

And it affects the whole family, not just the one with the diagnosis.  The endless merry-go-round of numerous hospital appointments, medicines to be taken and food to be cooked safely, avoiding cross-contamination at all costs is exhausting.  The keeping of meticulous daily records of food eaten and symptoms experienced to try to find a link and make sense of what’s going on, and dealing with the self-recrimination when you miss a day out because what if that was the one that would give you more answers? Pictures July 06 030Day trips, meals out, holidays all require military precision to organise and every decision is coloured by whether needs can be met or not. The feelings of isolation, for parent and sibling alike, because it’s frequently the case that there is no-one else nearby who has the same experiences or can truly understand. The lack of any conversation that doesn’t revolve around toileting and being too worn out to come up with an alternative subject.  The sense that I, as the parent, know more about the intricacies of my son’s chronic illness than any medical professional we meet along the way and the frightening realisation that my children know infinitely more than them too.

It’s about the heartbreak of holding my sobbing child at 3am, tears streaming down my own cheeks as I struggle to find the words to bring the comfort that nothing else can bring at that moment in time.

At our recent admission at GOSH, one of the gastro consultants told me that it is widely recognised that children with gastro conditions have the worst quality of life of any child living with a chronic illness.  EGID is an invisible illness, one where the individual frequently learns to hide, disguise and survive their struggles and just carries on regardless, accepting this life as their norm.  Families supporting a loved one with EGID often feel isolated – not just from their circle of friends, but from the medical community, who know little about it and may question the integrity of the very people who are fighting to get the best care they possibly can.  It’s not a parental fad about food allergies or an over-anxious Mum fussing about the small things; and it’s definitely not a figment of anyone’s imagination.  The effects of EGID can be cruel to experience and devastating to see.  So a change in attitudes is not only important, but a necessity for all those living with this diagnosis.

Now you know a little more about EGID and just how it impacts, take some time to think about how you can support those you know living with this disease.  Don’t think that there’s nothing you can do to help.  An offer of a cup of tea once the school-run is over, a home-cooked meal for the parent not in hospital or checking to see if there’s anything they need from the shops is more than enough.  No gesture is too small: a smile, a text message or even a FB like or comment on Twitter will let that family know that they’re in your thoughts and that there is hope for change in the future.

#Changes – Diabetes Blog week 2015

Sadly this week, time just hasn’t stretched enough to allow a blog a day for Diabetes Blog week 2015. The scant 24 hours in the average day mean that I barely have enough time for everything I normally need to do, and this week in particular has been manic as the excitement revs up for next week’s #NationalEosinophilAwarenessWeek.  I have grabbed 5 minutes here and there during coffee breaks and lunch-times to read what other dia-bloggers have had to say on the subjects of “Keeping it to yourself” and “Cleaning it out” and I’d heartily recommend a visit to Bittersweetdiabetes to peruse these thoughts for yourself as they really are worth a read.  However, today’s topic of #Changes struck a chord, not least because we’re about to embark on our own battle to change the awareness of another invisible illness, EGID and I wanted to blog my thoughts today.

Courtesy of youmatterlifeline.tumblr.com

Courtesy of youmatterlifeline.tumblr.com

The past 3 decades of life with T1D have seen a metamorphosis in my attitude to it:  I coped at the start; rebelled in my teens; became resigned to it during my 20s and in my 30s I have learned to embrace the lessons it has taught me and have relegated any other emotions to the back of the metaphorical cupboard of my mind.  As the next decade of my life comes ever closer, I’ve no doubt that attitudes will continue to change and that is something I look forward to embracing in a way that I now find myself able to do like never before.  The daily blood tests and injections are second nature to me and it’s not until I feel the curious gaze of strangers as I push the syringe needle into my leg/arm/tummy* (*delete as appropriate) during a coffee break with G at Costa or dinner out with the family, that I’m reminded that it probably isn’t a sight that most people see on a daily basis.  It has become, by necessity, an integral part of me and I am as oblivious to it as I now am to the tube that is stuck to the side of M’s face.

T1D is my partner for life and I’m okay with that.  All of the dramas and rollercoaster emotions I have experienced along the way have given me the huge advantage of immense insight and understanding of the frustrations of my own pair of mini superheroes, M and G.  When M has been sobbing on the floor because of a profound sense of despair and a feeling of hopelessness, I can honestly tell him that I know how it feels because I’ve been there and battled those demons myself.  I can empathise with G’s struggles with her own restricted diet and the temptation to cheat because I’ve done it and ended up in hospital as a result. I know that sense of isolation that overwhelms because it seems as if there’s nobody else nearby who’s going through what I’m going through in the here and now, and I know that however dark it might feel right now, there really is light at the end of that very long tunnel.

My parents were huge advocates for research into Juvenile diabetes and were involved for years in fund-raising, awareness events and medical research into T1D. A few months ago, I was talking to the Dad of M’s friend F, who has T1D, on the subject of the current developments being made in diabetes research and the search for a cure.  I am genuinely excited about the prospects of a major break-through that might see a more permanent cure becoming available, but found myself honestly admitting that, whilst I am excited for what that would mean for F, for J (another T1D friend of M’s) and for Pumplette, I am no longer concerned about the implications for me.  My focus has shifted and I have a new battle to fight – as an advocate for my son and his challenging life with EGID.  That, I believe, is the change of becoming a parent and just as my own parents worked tirelessly to support me through life with T1D, I found I have learned well from them and am hopefully just as dedicated to supporting M and G as they find their feet in the world of chronic illness.

Courtesy of ec.europa.eu

Courtesy of ec.europa.eu

That’s my change, but there is another change that I feel is very much worth fighting for: a change to the understanding of T1D which is so sadly lacking in the public eye.  Mike is well-used to hearing me shout in outrage at the television or radio whenever some well-meaning, but inadequately informed journalist or personality talks broad-brushstroke about “diabetes” and dumps those of us living with the epic failure of our pancreas to do the job it was designed to do in the same boat as those who have made lifestyle choices that have led to T2D.  Both are difficult to live with, of that there is no doubt, but the lack of clarity about the differences between the 2 conditions can be devastating for all concerned.

I did not choose to live my life accompanied by T1D, just as my parents did not choose for me to become so ill that living past my 9th birthday looked touch and go for a few dark hours all those years ago.  There are choices about my T1D management that I would change with the benefit of hindsight and I would rather have not even had to make those decisions, not just in the first place, but ever; and yet T1D arrived uninvited on our doorstep and we had no choice but to accept it, learn to tame it and eventually become comfortable with its presence in my life.  There is no reason, in this day and age, for there still to be so little understanding of the differences between the 2 types, nor so little regard for how this lack of distinction can impact young lives.  It is only when real change happens, when education improves so profoundly that there is proper understanding about what T1D is and why it happens, that those of us with it can sit back and breathe a little, knowing that that’s one less battle to be fought and that we can expend our energy on the important things in life, like continually working on preserving the best health we can, both physically and mentally.

Courtesy of annaraeburn.com

Courtesy of annaraeburn.com

Even more importantly for me, such a massive turnaround in the portrayal of diabetes in the media will signal a promise for things to improve for M too.  After all, if this is the state of affairs for a well-known condition such as T1D, then what hope is there for those of us battling to promote better understanding of the unknown ones such as EGID?