Living with Diabetes

June 14 to June 20 is the Diabetes Week. The week is about providing support for the people living with Diabetes and encouraging them to share their experiences of living with Diabetes. Tracey, a Community Champion, is a speaker volunteer for Diabetes UK. Read about her Diabetes Story in this blog as she talks about how she raises awareness about Diabetes. 

My name is Tracey and I am a Community Champion and Speaker volunteer for Diabetes UK. I am passionate about Health and wellbeing and raising diabetes awareness in the community. I believe that prevention is better than cure as I have seen the impact of Diabetes first-hand.

Diabetes is one of the biggest health challenges facing us today. It is a serious condition that puts people at a greater risk of heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and amputations. We must raise awareness of the seriousness of the condition so that people know the symptoms of diabetes and can help reduce the risk of life-threatening complications. According to Diabetes UK, there are 4.8 million people living with diabetes and 12.3 million people have a high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

As a Community Champion 

As a Community Champion and Speaker volunteer with Diabetes UK, my role is to give talks and presentations on behalf of Diabetes UK to groups in their local communities. As trained volunteers, we raise awareness and engage with Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities about diabetes and diabetes prevention. We do so by promoting healthy lifestyle changes by making sure that we acknowledge culture, traditions, and habits. We then offer advice and guidance for effective behaviour changes.

I enjoy volunteering as a Community Champion because it is an opportunity for me to have an impact on someone’s life and encourage people on a journey towards change. I can help people understand how to better manage their blood glucose levels to avoid complications. I also encourage people towards a path where they can reduce their risk of diabetes and diabetes-related complications. I recently led two successful ‘Diabetes Awareness chats’ on Zoom for Community Champions Kentish Town as their debut event. These talks were inspiring and led to the formation of a 6-week healthy cooking programme for the local area. I am going to volunteer a Rwandan-inspired healthy recipe in the coming weeks which families across Kentish Town will have the chance to cook with free food parcels; a recipe which families will hopefully be able to repeat in their regular cooking as part of a diabetes-preventative-diet.

Personal experience with Diabetes

I decided to act when my dad succumbed to diabetes complications 3 years ago and 5 years ago my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 12. This left me feeling bruised and I blamed myself for her diagnosis, as I had my daughter in my teens. Nursing my dad for more than a decade, watching him suffer from kidney failure, blood pressure, cataracts and taking him for dialysis 3 days a week and struggling with his diet. Seeing him lose his battle to diabetes complications, traumatised me which resulted in my suffering from PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder). Then I came across a book by Martin Seligman about positive psychology and this supported me in my post-traumatic growth, which I didn’t know existed. I found stronger meaning and purpose in life. According to research, post-traumatic growth is ‘bouncing forward’ after a tragedy.

After losing my dad and mum to cancer in a space of two years, and prior to that dealing with my daughter’s diagnosis, I started keeping a journal, I started helping others, I started contributing to my community (Kentish Town) as a Community Champion, and I started creating diabetes awareness. I used my pain and experience and joined a fight against diabetes through attending conferences, joining diabetic platforms on social media and so on. I believe you can grow through any situation. I had to build my resilience and be stronger than my circumstances in order to make a difference and to care for my daughter who has Type 1 diabetes, so that she doesn’t experience complications, showing her that we are in this together. Now in my role, I get to meet new people, listen to their stories, and share my journey.  I like to keep a positive attitude in life, I am interested in social justice, empowerment, human rights and social change.

I am now a founder of a charity, Geraldine Trada Foundation (GTF), which raises awareness, addressing the stigma around diabetes and offers support to young adults affected by diabetes in Rwanda. If you are interested, you can find out more about this charity in this short video which I made. Living With Diabetes In Rwanda By GT Foundation

If you’re going through hard times, which is inevitable in life, consider supporting a friend, employee or colleague, you can build resilience and experience growth and help others to do the same, even in hard times. Diabetes has an effect on so many people around the world, you are never facing this alone.

More resources:

The Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP), a joint commitment from NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK, identifies those at high risk and refers them to a behaviour change programme. Find out more about the programme here

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