Thursday, 1 July 2021

One Million Steps... For Diabetes UK


Today marks the day that I and countless others up and down the length and breadth of the UK will embark upon our One Million Steps journey raising money for Diabetes UK.

The challenge is to, well, walk one million steps, between now (July 1st) and September 30th. 
92 days... A little over 10,000 steps a day.
For some, this would be super simple. For most? Yeah, not so much. 
For me? Especially considering I became the human equivalent of a hermit slug over the past 18months (or so) of lockdowns and restrictions? 
OMG, I'm going to die.
But I'm doing it anyway.

Diabetes UK, is a charity close to my heart. 
You may or may not know that I grew up living with my mum and my grandparents... right up until I left home for university. 
My grandparents raised me alongside my mum. 
My granddad was the only father I ever knew... And he was a type 2 diabetic.
So what? You may think. Loads of people have diabetes. And you are not wrong. Around 6% of the UK population are diabetic (and with the obesity crisis, that number is only going to grow...)
But my grandfather's diabetes had a profound impact upon my life and the life of my mother and grandmother.


Buckle up... This is a bit long but I hope you'll stick with it.

You see, his diabetes was pretty stable when I was younger (before age 10). He watched what he ate - kind of - was active, and took medication. Tablets. No dramas really.
Then things started to change. His diabetes worsened.

He fell over, got a small blister on his toe and broke his ankle. The ankle healed... The blister wouldn't.
Months in the local hospital (literally 3 months) and he was transferred to a hospital in Edinburgh as they needed to amputate the problem toe and a couple of others.
The problem (through the lens of adulthood, I presume was gangrene) had started creeping up the leg... So the ankle came off. Then the rest of the leg up to the knee.
This "salami-slicing" in conjunction with many more months in hospital, the pain and isolation, had a massive psychological impact on my grandfather. The strain of having to visit the hospital every day ground down on my mother and grandmother (and me... I was a kid who wanted to be a kid, not visit a hospital). However, the end was in sight - right? He could get his prosthetic, spend some time in physical therapy and be home again... 
Wrong. 
His other leg developed problems while in hospital. This time, they didn't mess around and took it straight off at the knee.
Not long after this, he was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital where he spent over a year due to numerous complications... 

Almost two years after leaving home with a broken ankle he came home forever wheelchair-bound as he couldn't be fitted with functioning prosthetics - only cosmetic ones (which he didn't see the point in).

This was about 7/8 years after he came home.

The house had to be extensively modified and lots of equipment installed (wider doors, a wheelchair accessible bathroom, ramps, a special bed... I could go on.)
My grandfather went from independent and active in the community to dependant on others to pretty much go anywhere.
My granddad went into hospital a portly man and came home to us weighing less than my teenaged self did. (And back then I was tiny.)
My mum and gran had to adapt their lives to accommodate my grandfather's... Being full-time carers when my grandmother's health sucked (COPD) and my mum had a full-time job on top of it all.
 I was a teenager by this point and helped where I could but I didn't drive (too young) and I had school...

He no longer took a simple tablet to manage his diabetes. He was on insulin injections multiple times a day. He had to take a load of blood thinners to avoid clots due to being wheelchair bound (and other reasons) so he was always covered in big purple bruises at the injection sites... 
He regained the weight he lost and gained extra due to limited mobility.

It was tough but things stabilised for a few years. We had new routines, my granddad learned to function with being in a wheelchair. It wasn't too shabby... Then his diabetes went haywire again. 
Hypoglycemic and hyperglycemic attacks became all too frequent. 
Someone pretty much had to be around at all times just in case... And my grandfather hated that as he was a proud and independent man. He hated the dependencies diabetes had forced on him.

At seventeen (pushing eighteen), I moved out to attend Edinburgh University. 
I only know the half of what my mum and grandmother went through trying to hold everything together... And my granddad? Glaucoma became a concern and he had a few spells in hospital due to fluid build-up... Not to mention the hypos/hypers.
Over the years, my grandmother felt like she couldn't be away for more than a couple of hours at a time in case something happened to him... The impact on mental health huge.

I was in my third year of University when the shit royally hit the fan... I hadn't been home in over a month but I spoke regularly to my grandfather on the phone. In our recent phone calls, I'd noted his breathing was pretty laboured and questioned but he blamed it on a cold etc.
I made a point to go home that weekend for a visit and found my grandfather swollen with fluid retention. I freaked out, lectured him (in a manner only a 20 year old biomed student could...) and told him he needed to speak to the doctor. He refused. 
My gran and mum said he'd been refusing - point-blank - to speak to doctors/nurses for the past couple of weeks. Turns out, he didn't want to be hospitalised again.
I ignored him, I ignored all of them, and phoned the doctor. Not my finest moment disregarding his wishes, perhaps, but I still believe it was absolutely necessary. 
They tried to treat him at home for a few weeks... He attended my uncle's engagement party and we all had a wonderful night. 
Then things hit breaking point and he had no choice but to be hospitalised. He didn't even argue...
Renal failure: Another complication of diabetes. 
The fluid was building up in his abdomen... His heart and lungs struggling to function under the strain. 
He'd been aware of his diminishing kidney function for a while... He just hadn't shared with the family. 

Me and my granddad at my uncle's engagement party... (Ignore my dodgy blonde dye job!)

I was 6 months shy of my 21st birthday when I sat with my family by his bedside and watched him breathe his last. 
Diabetes had blighted the past decade and robbed my family of its patriarch at only 67 years of age. 

This is just one story... There are millions more like it the world over. 


🌻

My grandmother was later diagnosed with diabetes but the lungs got her before diabetes could cause too many problems... (She was only 65.)

Not the best picture of my gran but one of the few I have on my computer...

My mother is now in her 60's... And was diagnosed diabetic two years ago. 

My mum and I a few years ago.

Imagine developing diabetes after living through all that with my grandfather...

🌻

Diabetes has a genetic component but in many cases it is preventable. Our lifestyles play a huge role in the development of diabetes not to mention the management of the condition.

You think that this type of thing won't happen to you... But it can!

After everything diabetes has put my family through you'd think that I would be doing everything in my power to avoid it, right?
Yet here I am! Sedentary, overweight and with an unabating love of cake (and sweets).

I need to make changes and what better way to make a change than by getting off my ass and walking for a charity that means the world to me?

I walk in the memory of my grandfather and grandmother.
I walk for a better future, better treatments, for people like my mother.
I walk in the hope that I'll never personally need the support and benefit of Diabetes UK research...

I'm aiming to raise £200.
I hope as a side benefit to all the walking that I'll lose some weight and reduce my personal risk of the condition while maintaining better behaviours once the challenge draws to a close.

If you're in a position to sponsor me - and would like to - you can donate via my fundraising page. 

If you have got this far... THANK YOU!
I'll be updating my progress via Sunday Posts and Instagram (yep, I'm dusting that thing off!)
I'll also keep my fundraising page updated too.

Take care all! And thank you for listening/reading.


11 comments:

  1. Oh, Nicci! What a story! My heart aches for everything your family has gone through. It's such a stress to have a sick, dependent family member. Good luck in your challenge! I know you can do it!

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  2. Good luck. What a heart wrenching story. I'm so sorry that you lost your grandparents like that. About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I've made some diet changes and get out and walk with Falcor quite a bit.

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  3. I am sorry for all your family had to go through. I had gestational diabetes and am high risk so have to be tested regularly. I was diagnosed as Pre-Diabetic a couple years ago but was able to get control over that. I know it's just a matter of time. My grandfather had Diabetes, I know, but did not have any real complications from it that I am aware of. He did have Alzheimers as well. I wish you luck with the walk! Your story reminded met that I need to get back on track for my own sake. Thank you.

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  4. Oh, Nicci, I'm so sorry for all your grandfather -- and your grandma, mother, and you -- had to go through. I wish you a very successful million-step walk, and success in taking steps (pun intendended) for your own longterm health. And your story has encouraged me to commit more fully to working on my own health. My uncle and grandmother both had Type II diabetes, and I'm overweight and too sedentary myself. Thank you for sharing your story; it's a reminder of why I need to take care of myself.

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  5. Thanks for sharing. (((((((HUGS))))))) ❤

    I know I'm only getting in around 5,000 steps a day right now, and I need to change that. Thanks for giving me a nudge in the right direction. 🙌🙌🙌

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing. This is a very worthy cause! Diabetes runs in my family, and for various reasons, so it's definitely something I worry about. I need to keep moving and I need to be better about my health. I never met my mom's dad, but he passed from complications due to Diabetes. I lost my grandmother a couple months ago - cancer, but her kidneys were failing her too. She had diabetes and had already had a kidney transplant.

    I hope you reach your goal, and good luck with the challenge!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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  7. Wow...thank you so much for sharing something so personal. A lot of people don't realize how common this is and you are absolutely right, WE have control over it if we do the things we need to in order to stay healthy. There is a genetic component as you mentioned, but sitting around doing nothing does not help! I am really glad you shared this, it is such a worthy cause and I wish you the very best of luck in reaching your goal!

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  8. Thank you for sharing this with us, so many hugs!

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  9. Oh my, thank you for sharing your story, Nicci. It's heartbreaking the devastation that diabetes has had on your family. :(

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