Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your healthcare professional about your diabetes management.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just after I turned 20. It was my first year of college when symptoms started to appear, but because I was cycling to and from college most days, along with such a drastic change to my routine and life, when I started to lose weight and other symptoms started to appear, I put it down to the changes in my life.
Getting my head around the diagnosis
Finding out I had diabetes didn’t have an immediate impact on my confidence, I didn’t understand the scale of the condition and what it really meant, how it would affect me physically and mentally. Ignorance is bliss and all that. I only started to feel and understand the true impact it was going to have on my day-to-day life when I actually started living with diabetes.
I was really into sport as a teenager and I was adamant that I was going to keep rowing and running after diagnosis. It never even crossed my mind to think or ask could I do it, just when can I start training again?
When I was first diagnosed though I had a stream of conflicting messages about what I could and couldn’t do. I was told by a healthcare professional that it would be a while until I got back to training, it was devastating. One nurse would tell me I would have to always plan my days, another telling me spontaneity wasn’t out the window.
It was all very confusing and I felt lost. I felt I was being told these were absolute ‘truths’. However, when I got back to living my life this couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Embracing trial and error
So much affects diabetes management, and it’s so different from person to person, day-to-day. I soon realised trial and error was the only way I was going to be able to learn to live with Type 1 and understand that there are no absolute hard and fast rules.
For me, and I think many Type 1s, ‘trial and error’ is the best way to approach managing diabetes. This worked well for me in most aspects of my life, but one thing that I struggled to get back into, and have confidence doing though, was long distance running.
It was a mix of being scared of going low while so far away from home, sometimes seeing my blood sugars spike on some runs and drop on others without knowing why, along with the inconvenience and awkwardness of testing doing a traditional blood sample while out.
Because of this, until January 2020, running was something diabetes had taken away from me.
Getting my confidence back with technology
The FreeStyle Libre system has helped me overcome my fears though and helped me get back to running. It has helped in so many ways with understanding how my glucose levels react to exercise and given me back my confidence with all the insights it gives meΦ.
Not only has it helped the physical management of living with diabetes, but mentally it has had its biggest impact. It wasn’t until I started using the system that I realised the effect managing the condition had on me.
There was always a sense of unknown surrounding my diabetes management. Using the finger prick device, I didn’t know if my glucose levels were going up or down, and if so how fast. It was near impossible to see patterns and as for while I slept, 8 hours of my day, every day, I was completely in the dark. I’d constantly have lows in the night that would wake me up and break up my sleep, or highs that would mean I woke up feeling groggy, as if I hadn’t even slept, it was exhausting.
Added to this strain, because I live with my boyfriend and didn’t want to disturb his sleep, to check my glucose levels at night there was the need to get out of bed and move to another room, usually the bathroom, to turn on the light so I could see what I was doing. It would make it even harder to get back to sleep and added a sense of isolation to managing everything.
Using the FreeStyle Libre system has changed that experience completely. Once I have my phone◊ and glucose tablets within arm’s reach there isn’t even a need for me to take my head off my pillow†. I can stay tucked up warm in bed, still half dozing and treat anything that comes my way in a fraction of the time and effort needed before.
On top of all this, the System has allowed me to see my glucose patternsΦ while I sleep and plan my night time routine accordingly, vastly increasing my time in target while I sleep so I wake up less and feel better in the mornings.
The FreeStyle Libre system is so easy to use, so discrete and gives so much information. It has given me so much more control and helped me own and manage my condition.
I might have diabetes, but it doesn’t have me.
Aoife Willis is a former Irish rowing champion, an amateur runner and a FreeStyle Libre ambassador. You can follow Aoife on Instagram @aoife_willis
Φ For a complete glycaemic picture, scan once every 8 hours.
◊ The FreeStyle LibreLink app and the FreeStyle Libre reader have similar but not identical features. Finger pricks are required if readings do not match symptoms or expectations. The FreeStyle Libre sensor communicates with the FreeStyle Libre reader that started it or the FreeStyle LibreLink app that started it. A sensor started by the FreeStyle Libre reader will also communicate with the FreeStyle LibreLink app. The FreeStyle LibreLink app is only compatible with certain mobile devices and operating systems. Please refer to the smartphone compatibility guide on the website before using the app. Use of FreeStyle LibreLink requires registration with LibreView.
† Finger pricks are required if your glucose readings do not match symptoms or expectations.