Taper time!

It’s the final two weeks before the Rome Marathon on 19th March, and that means it’s time to taper. Runs get shorter, easier and less tiring.

For me, still recovering from Covid, this is a good thing. It has allowed me to ease off and get my breath back – literally. Each run I’ve done has felt easier and a bit quicker for the same effort. I don’t have a heart rate monitor so I run to what’s called ‘perceived effort’. This means I judge how hard it is to keep a certain pace, how does it feel to run fast or slow? At first I found this quite difficult to do, but actually there are ways to make it work. If you’re running with another person it’s easy – basically ‘can you talk in sentences/ one word/ not at all?!’ But as I rarely run with anyone else that’s not so practical, unless I start talking to myself. I don’t think that’s a great idea 😉.

Sunday’s run – through the blackthorn arch!

But actually you can imagine trying to hold a conversation and how hard it would be. Even simple things like how quickly I’m breathing, how hard I’m breathing, how quickly my legs are getting tired are factors to notice and respond to. In the first couple of weeks after having Covid there were times when I was having to slow right down to a walk, or even stop for a few seconds. Thankfully today I actually managed a few short spells of speeding up a bit!

In the last few weeks I’ve also been working on my mental strength as well as the physical job of running. Running 26.2 miles (42km) takes a long time unless you are Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) or Mo Farah (2:05:11). The overall average marathon time is closer to 4.5 hours, and according to one website I looked at the average for someone like me (older woman ahem!) was just over 5 hours. That is a LONG time to be moving on your feet! Mentally it can be very very difficult to keep going for that long, when everything starts to ache and the finish seems so far away.

When I was really struggling last week on that epic 30km run I kept telling myself that I had grit and determination and those qualities had seen me through various trials and tribulations in the past – including a marathon in 2016! – and therefore I just needed to access that Grit, and power up that Determination, and I would eventually get home! Which I did! So it worked.

I was rewarded with this badge by Garmin today!
Happy International Women’s Day!

Today, on a relatively easy run in the freezing sleety weather, I tried a spot of visualisation – imagining myself running breezily through the sun soaked streets of Rome, gazing at the ancient architecture and wearing a hat not to keep warm but to protect my eyes from the bright glare of the sun reflecting off those cobbles!

Not quite the sunshine I’m expecting in Rome 😂

Only a few runs left before the Big Day. I’d like to say a massive Thank You to all my supporters. Everyone has been so encouraging, and also very generous. Donations to my JustGiving page have leapt, and I am really so so grateful. I’ve had some interesting conversations with people about Type1 diabetes too, a condition that is still misunderstood by many. If you would like to donate to this important cause – finding a cure for Type1 – then my JustGiving page can be found by clicking here. And for more information about Type1, and the way your money is used for research projects have a look at the JDRF page by clicking here!

Once again – thanks for reading my blog, thanks for all your support, and thanks for your generous donations!


Crushed orange and almond cake

This weekend I have been in Ramsgate celebrating a special birthday. It was a great reason to make a delicious cake. This is a cake I have made several times before, and it’s the kind of cake that is straightforward to make but makes a big impact in terms of flavour and moistness.

Happy Birthday Mike!

It’s a recipe by Claudia Roden, collated in Favourite Recipes from Books for Cooks. There’s a lemon version, and my sister makes one with clementines. Flourless, it only has a few ingredients- oranges, ground almonds, sugar, eggs, butter and baking powder. Decoration is not my forte or particular interest. So I made a stencil and dusted icing sugar over to make a simple decoration.

The other great thing about this cake is that it’s even better the next day, always a good quality for a cake that’s going away for the weekend. It is delicious on its own, it’s even better with a simple orange syrup and a dollop of crème fraiche.

I can highly recommend this cake. It’s always popular, and really easy to make.

Running news: last week I have done 2 runs. Each one seemed a little easier than the previous one. Tomorrow I am going to try for the longest run of my training plan. Three and a half hours! I will give it a go!

Friday’s run

I am raising money for JDRF, a charity that funds research to find a cure for Type1 diabetes. Type1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that often affects children, although it can develop at any age. The cells in the pancreas that produce insulin are attacked by the body’s own immune defences in error. Eventually no insulin is produced at all. The result of that is that glucose, which is essential for providing energy to the body, is not able to be used by the muscles and cells that keep us going. It flows around in the blood with nowhere to go. Of course this is a disaster, so people with Type1 diabetes have to inject insulin at very regular intervals all day, every day for all their lives.

Keeping the balance right between enough insulin, and too much – which would result in a lack of glucose and a condition called hypoglycaemia which can result in coma – is difficult and constant. Research funded by JDRF is getting closer to a cure. In the meantime other research is making lives easier for those adults and children with Type 1 – new technologies like wearable glucose monitors and insulin pumps make it easier to manage the condition.

Please consider sponsoring me for the Rome marathon which is happening on 19th March – THREE WEEKS!!!!!! the link is here. Thank you.


Marathon training: ups and downs!

It’s high time I posted another update on how my training is going for the marathon in Rome on 19th March. I wish I could say there have been no hitches and all is on track. Up until 10 days ago that actually was pretty much the picture. But as we all know life is a series of ups and downs, obstacles to overcome and victories to celebrate where we can.


I worked my way up to running 25km (15.5 miles), 2 hours and 45 minutes of running at a good easy pace on January 29th. The run itself was quite tough physically and mentally – the stretch of canal along the Paddington branch towards between Perivale and Kensal Green is in some places a bit grim, and the sky was very grey and overcast to add to the air of gloom. However it wasn’t all bad – there was some striking graffiti art, and of course lots of life on and around the river – cormorants, swans, ducks and – rats!

After this epic run the following week was lower intensity on The Plan, which was great. So due to weekend commitments I set off for my long (but not so long) 1.5 hour run on Monday 6th Feb. It was a beautiful morning, sunshine and blue sky, and all good with the world. I went off for an out and back along a canal route I often do. On the way back, still maybe 5km (3miles) from home I tripped on something on the path – tree root? Stone? Who knows. I went flying and landed on my right wrist and left face! I suppose the first thing is to see if you can actually move after doing something like that, and the second thing is to see if anyone saw as it is so embarrassing really. Well, I could move and nothing seemed broken, and nobody was about at that particular moment.

I sat on the edge of the path, and inspected my glasses which although bent totally out of shape did still go over my ears, kind of. I realised there was blood dripping off my chin, and managed to find a couple of tissues. Thus I sat, blood soaked tissue clutched to my chin, in the mud, attempting to gather myself. At this point a group of 6 middle aged cyclists slowly pedalled past with barely a glance. Well well! What did they think as they spied this not-so-young woman sat on a muddy path in February with a tissue pressed to her chin? Not, it seems, a woman who might need some help, or even a kindly word. No, perhaps they thought I was an eccentric person just having a little rest. Or perhaps they didn’t even notice my existence. All my life, at various points and situations in it, I have had a feeling of invisibility, and this was certainly one of them.

Taken just before the fateful fall!

Later I thought about it more. I do feel that this was something to do with being in a group. If one of them had been on their own I think they would maybe have felt more intrinsic pressure to stop. Or, if just one of them (maybe the leader of this particular group) had stopped it would have ‘given permission’ to the rest of the group to stop. This is actually a Thing called Bystander Effect. People are less willing to help someone if they think someone else may. And:

According to the principle of social influence, bystanders monitor the reactions of other people in an emergency situation to see if others think that it is necessary to intervene. If it is determined that others are not reacting to the situation, bystanders will interpret the situation as not an emergency and will not intervene. From the Wiki article linked to above.

As it happened I wasn’t seriously hurt, and managed to walk/ semi jog the rest of the way home – via a pharmacy to buy some steri strips and dressings! But, supposing I was having a heart attack?! Or I’d bashed my head and was concussed? In this day and age it is easy to be frightened of strangers, and sometimes it is right to be cautious. But please remember that someone may actually need your help! I could’ve done with a few more tissues to mop up the blood!

The next day my right wrist was black and blue, swollen and my fingers were going numb. So off I went to hospital. I was pretty certain it wasn’t broken, and just a bad sprain, but 111 advised me to get it checked out. Long story short – 5 hours in hospital – very comprehensive and thorough check out including X-ray of wrist and face (black eye developing nicely by now!) and then a CT scan of my face to make doubly sure I hadn’t fractured my eye socket – yikes! And given the all clear. Hurray!

Life went on, and I did actually manage to go for a short run a couple of days later. All fine.

Misty early morning run. The weather is a lot of fun at this time of year. You never know what it will be, but the visuals are often good!

Except not all fine, because a few days after that I got Covid! Now, I could’ve got it in any number of places but my best guess is the hospital. Apart from the staff, hardly anyone was wearing a mask. (I was.) Oh my days! I haven’t had Covid since January 2021. I have had all my vaccinations – thank goodness. But the first day I felt so ill I couldn’t get out of bed. it’s a few days on now, and I’m feeling a lot better – that’s why I can write this! But still nowhere near full strength.

What does this mean for my Plan?? I am really hoping that if I rest as much as possible then I can get back to where I should be – next long run 3 hours – quickly, and without too much loss of fitness. We will see next week!

What is my victory to celebrate? Well, today I decided that a solitary outing to Kew Gardens – avoiding anywhere indoors and anywhere with crowds of people – would be good for the soul. And it certainly was!

Another victory to celebrate – raising £215 for JDRF so far. Visit my fund raising page by clicking here. I’m hoping to post more regular updates from now. I have a bit more time due to some stuff that was going on in my other life as a normal person having finished!

And for no particular reason except it’s really beautiful, here is a quilt you can see at this exhibition at the Fashion Textile Museum. Kaffe Fassett: the Power of Pattern. It was an inspiring exhibition- I might have to dig through the stash! (After 19th March 😂)

Marathon training update

It’s been four weeks since I started my marathon training plan, and so far so good. I have managed four runs every week except one, which was for logistical reasons involving Christmas Day.

Interval session round Perivale Park

There are four runs every week. At the moment they go something like this: 1) an easy shortish run, which gradually gets longer but is always at an easy pace; 2) two interval sessions – one with short intervals and one with longer intervals; 3) a long run – getting longer and longer! but usually at an easy pace. That’s the basics. Some weeks there is only one interval session, and some weeks the long run has some faster bits in the middle.

I have managed to set up the interval sessions on my watch. This is actually quite easy but it is so long since I did it that it took me a little while to remember how to add in repeats! It’s great though, because now my watch beeps to tell me when to start going faster, and when the recovery time starts. It also beeps frantically if I am not in my time range!

Christmas Eve run

So far I have managed to time most of my runs to coincide with reasonable weather. Today there was a little shower while I was out, which was nice because then I saw a rainbow. But about half an hour after getting home there was a hailstorm! I felt quite smug.

Rainbow over Elthorne Park today

This afternoon I went shopping for an essential piece of kit for women. While out running today I almost had a disastrous wardrobe malfunction when the zip on my sports bra became disconnected. Luckily I managed to fix it, but the rest of the run I was in nervous anticipation of another technical failure! Good old Marks and Spencer to the rescue, and I now have two new bras, and the old one can be relegated to the recycling 😂. (Sorry if that’s too much information for some people 😉.)

Longest run so far this morning. I managed to keep to the pace too!

The big announcement of this post is that my fundraising page is now LIVE! I am hoping to raise at least £1000 for JDRF – the charity that is dedicated to finding a cure for Type1 diabetes. Please do visit their website by clicking here to find out about all the fantastic work they do.

My fundraising site can be visited by clicking on this link. I appreciate that there are many demands on limited resources. Thank you for every penny and pound you can spare for this great cause.


Not so much cake and more running!

In 2016, long before I was even thinking of writing a blog, I ran the London marathon. It was an amazing day, very emotional and exciting. It was the beginning of my fundraising journey for JDRF, raising over £2000 that year. It was also incredibly hard work, not just on the day but in the weeks leading up to the actual day. I can remember the last few weeks being totally dominated by long runs, short runs, getting up very early to eat breakfast before a run, organising my social life to fit round runs… So I said NEVER AGAIN!

Mile 20. I was absolutely shattered.

But the years have passed, and the memories of the pain and exhaustion have dimmed, blurred and softened. Yes I can still remember the pain in my knee, the feeling that I couldn’t take one more step, the loss of my toenail (!) but hey! I’m still here aren’t I?!

4 hours. 58 minutes. 12 seconds.

Let’s also add in an inspirational woman called Gurdeep who started working in our admin office at work over a year ago. Gurdeep is a serial marathoner, the sort of person who goes on holiday specifically to run a marathon. She’s run marathons all over the place, the most recent was in Stockholm. Ever since Gurdeep found out out that I like running she has been trying to persuade me to run a marathon.

So – I hereby announce that on 19th March 2023 I will be in Rome (with Gurdeep!) to run a marathon! I think I am somewhat crazy, but logically these are the arguments why it’s not so mad: 1) I’ve done one before, albeit a while ago; 2) in 2019 I did 12 half marathons, and that’s not so long ago; 3) since April 2021 I’ve been doing a strengthening and stability programme that is absolutely brilliant and now I’m much stronger than I was in 2016 (and I still try and get to the wonderful outdoor gym class Quit the Gym); 4) it’s time for a new challenge and 5) it’s time to raise money for JDRF again.

It’s been cold this week, but also very pretty in the sunshine.

I’ve downloaded a plan from the London marathon site. It’s a 16 week plan, but I’m starting with only 14 weeks to go, so that’s two weeks already crossed off. Only 14 weeks – if doesn’t sound like long that’s because it ISN’T long!

Update: Now it’s a few days later. And now it’s only 13 weeks to go, because I have completed Week One of The Plan! Four runs done – it was very do-able, and hopefully I continue to report good progress.

Today’s easy run along the towpath next to the river Thames from Kew to Richmond.

I will be fund raising again for JDRF – a charity dedicated to finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Over the next few weeks I will write a bit more about this amazing charity and the research that they fund. I’ll be setting up a fundraising page and when I do I’ll definitely be posting it here!

Oh, and there will be less cake, as I was recently told that I have pre-diabetes – which was a bit shocking if I’m honest. But I’m sure there will be some cake, and I can’t get through Christmas without these Best Ever Mince Pies!

Sweet Potato Muffin Bites – super healthy!

The amazingly nutritious sweet potato in its raw, unpeeled state

Sweet potatoes in baking? Well why not? I hadn’t ever thought about baking with sweet potatoes but I have often used carrots, bananas or apple sauce in cakes and muffins. So why not sweet potatoes. I was inspired to start looking for recipes by a friend of my husband, Jonathan, who has diabetes and tries to eat sweet potatoes, pumpkin or squash daily to help regulate blood glucose. Interesting…I just had to find out more!

The orange colour is from the beta carotene – converted to Vitamin A in the body

What is a sweet potato? It’s not a potato – or not in the sense of the usual ‘white’ potato which is in the nightshade family. Sweet potatoes, a sweet, starchy root vegetable, are in the bindweed family. The are often orange but you can get purple and white varieties.

So what exactly are the “super food” qualities of the sweet potato? A quick internet search reveals lots of reliable evidence on the great nutritional benefits of the sweet potato.

I found the following information on the website www.healthline.com and copied it straight:

“One cup (200 grams) of baked sweet potato with skin provides:

  • Calories: 180
  • Carbs: 41.4 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 0.3 grams
  • Fiber: 6.6 grams
  • Vitamin A: 769% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin C: 65% of the DV
  • Manganese: 50% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 29% of the DV
  • Potassium: 27% of the DV
  • Pantothenic acid: 18% of the DV
  • Copper: 16% of the DV
  • Niacin: 15% of the DV “

They are also high in antioxidants that protect from inflammation and chronic disease. Look at the amazing Vit A content! Vitamin A (beta carotene) protects your eyesight and may help prevent certain types of cancer. Sweet potato also been found to help maintain a healthy gut, and support the immune system. The high potassium content is helpful for regulating blood pressure. Sweet potatoes have a low glycaemic index, which means they can help to regulate and control blood sugars in people with diabetes, because they don’t cause sudden spikes in blood glucose, which play havoc with insulin levels.

This recipe used mashed sweet potato. They can be cooked in many ways – boiled, steamed, baked, roasted, depending on the recipe and what they’re being used for.

I have found some promising recipes on Pinterest (I’m on there!) and tried one on Saturday. Feeling that I should try the ‘healthy’ recipe first I went for this one at MidLifeMamas.com .

I had never even heard of hemp hearts before – that’s what the shelled hemp seeds are, hiding behind the oats.

It’s vegan, and stuffed not only with sweet potatoes, but bananas (more potassium!), flax and hemp seed (protein packed!) and oats (reduce cholesterol! help your heart!).

Random picture of the silicone moulds – just because I really like them!

But would they taste good?

They don’t look all that promising do they?!
But actually they were very tasty.

The recipe is easy to follow and straightforward. They do taste good! I made 30 rather than 24 because I made them in my little pink silicone moulds. (That’s why I’m calling mine muffin bites – they are quite small.) Each one is about 15 g of carbohydrate, and just over 100 kcal. They definitely taste like a healthy snack rather than an indulgent treat. That’s ok though – sometimes that’s what we want. They are a bit like a baked version of an energy ball – see here for an example. They freeze well apparently so I will freeze most of these and then they are handy for taking to work as a little snack. They might even work on a run?!

Talking of which – next Sunday 12th May is my next run in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside. It is 26 km long – further than a half marathon – and in the hills! To say I am nervous is an understatement. I have never done anything like this, and fully expect to be last one back! Watch this space for a race report. And if you would like to sponsor me for encouragement you can click here. Thanks for reading! Have a great May day Bank Holiday if you are in the UK. (I will be going for a run.)

Testing, testing Part 2

In Testing, testing Part 1 I wrote that part 2 would include a contribution from a young person in Kenya. This blog is about raising awareness, and that includes me. I have been inspired by a young man called Joseph who lives in Kenya to learn more about the challenges facing those across the world who live with Type 1 diabetes. The sobering reality is that if you have Type 1 in many parts of the world you face enormous difficulties.

First I would like to introduce Joseph. He is thirteen years old and lives with his family in a village called Vipingo in Kenya. He attends school there at the Future Hope Montessori School where he enjoys a a varied curriculum including sport. Joseph is a smart and cheerful young man who likes reading and playing football. He has been living with Type 1 diabetes for 5 years. Joseph relies on blood testing strips to check his blood glucose several times a day. Unfortunately in Kenya, as in many places in the world, these are not provided free as they are in the UK. One month’s supply costs about £40. Joseph attends the Kemri Centre in Kilifi Hospital monthly for check ups and to pick up his supplies of insulin and testing strips. When Joseph turned thirteen he was no longer eligible for free supplies to manage his diabetes. Now the school buys everything. Joseph’s family are not able to afford it. This is how I first heard about Joseph. A friend of ours helps manage the charity that runs the school, and appealed to people for someone to sponsor the testing strips. The family and the school health officer had tried to ‘ration’ the blood tests each day, but this led to blood sugars running too high or too low, and Joseph ended up in hospital for 2 weeks.

Some of the children at the school in Vipingo, Kenya
(Photo courtesy of Vipingovillagefund.org)

Of course Joseph is one of many in Kenya with Type 1 diabetes. According to the charity Type 1 International full diabetes management in Kenya can cost $120 (US) and the average monthly salary is $216. In other countries around the world the percentage of average income can be as high as 82%. That leaves people with very difficult choices, including missing insulin doses. Of course many people won’t even have a choice – they simply will not have the money, like Joseph’s family.

It’s difficult to write this – but it’s important to realise that if you don’t manage Type 1 diabetes your life will be shortened. That’s the reality. And for many people around the world it’s not the lack of will to keep control of those d*mn blood sugars – it’s the lack of resources.

Reading the story of Cate on the Type 1 International website made me sad. She lived with diabetes for 30 years, and died of related complications before she was 40. In her life she advocated for people with Type 1 in Kenya – campaigning for better medical care and raising awareness at government level of the need for accessibility to screening, medical care and affordable supplies.

Cate, who worked to raise awareness of Type 1 diabetes in Kenya
(Photo credit Type 1 Diabetes International)

Other organisations also work in Kenya trying to improve the lives of children and adults with Type 1 (and their families who often have to work extra to afford the costs of insulin and testing kits). The World Diabetes Foundation has run projects for people directly affected, and healthcare workers to raise awareness and help manage the condition more effectively. The projects include camps for children and their parents. I think this is so important. One of the themes that has emerged from Joseph and Cate’s stories is the sense of ‘otherness’ experienced by them, and wanting to be like the other children. It’s like that wherever you are in the world, but how much harder to deal with in a country where, in the words of the World Diabetes Foundation:

poverty, stigmatisation, ignorance, myths and poor access to quality treatment often add to the difficulties people with the condition face.

I don’t want to end this piece on a downer. Although I do want readers to take away a sense of the enormous disparity in health care across the world.

All the children at Future Hope School in Vipingo
(photo courtesy of the school website)

Good news: Joseph can now test his blood glucose whenever he needs to because he has a sponsor. There are many, many people across the world who are working to raise awareness at an individual level as well as campaigning for international government action to provide better access to medicines and kit to help people manage their Type 1 the best they possibly can.

Letter from Joseph

I have reproduced this lovely letter from Joseph with his permission. I am so happy that we can help him to manage his diabetes. Be proud of who you are Joseph! You can do anything you want in life!

Thank you for reading. I’m raising money for research into Type 1 diabetes here – thanks for your generosity.

Testing, testing Part 1

My intention when starting this blog was mainly to have fun, partly to create a diary of my runs in 2019, partly to raise more money for JDRF, and last but certainly not least – to raise awareness of Type 1 diabetes. So many people have no idea (or the wrong idea) about Type 1 diabetes. This post is all about testing your blood glucose.

When you have Type 1 diabetes you need to test the level of glucose in your blood regularly through the day, and sometimes the night. I’ve written before about how insulin regulates the levels of glucose in the blood. But if you are dependent on injections of insulin then you have to do the monitoring yourself.

In the old days this was done in a very crude way – there were no home blood test available, they were only done in hospitals. People with Type 1 relied on urine tests – if your blood glucose is high glucose and ketones appear in urine. This is how I remember my dad testing his glucose at home decades ago. The test strips would change colour according to how much sugar was in the urine. But it is not accurate, and it is not reliable. Glucose will only be detectable at quantities above 10mmol/L which is already well above the recommended range.

Testing urine with the dipstick

Then home blood test kits became available requiring a finger prick to produce a drop of blood. A small strip of special test paper is soaked in the blood and which is inserted into a handheld machine to produce a reading .

Finger prick blood testing – thousands of times a year

Although this is better than the urine ‘dipstick ‘ method it has its drawbacks. The machine needs to be regularly re-calibrated; you need a constant supply of test strips; and you need to be constantly pricking your finger – not much fun. But this is how most people in the UK and across the world have to test their blood glucose. Remember – there are thousands of children (and adults) doing this many times every day.

Now we have the Continual Glucose Monitor (CGM) which attaches to your skin, maybe on your tummy, your arm or leg. My favourite Type 1 blogger/vlogger Miss Jen Grieves talks about hers here. CGM’s are life changing because they mean you can check your blood sugar anytime, anywhere without having to do a finger prick test. In the UK it is not available to everyone because NICE guidelines are evidence based and currently the evidence does not show a benefit (in terms of glucose control) except in certain cases. In the USA it is much more common for people to have a CGM – IF they have health insurance that covers them. A big if, because many people in the USA do not have this level of health insurance.

The CGM sits on the skin with a sensor inserted into your body to monitor the level of glucose in the blood

My friend and colleague Helen got a CGM last year. I asked her to write something about it. She wrote the following:

” Diabetes;  Greek translation “siphon” Ancient physicians  would ask ailing patients to urinate in the sand…if the ants were attracted to the sugar laden urine, then diabetes was identified.
Thankfully we have advanced. Now we have “flash” technology. 
I wear a small disc  inserted in my arm. When I want to check my sugar level, I simply swipe my disc with my mobile phone.
Whilst I am not old enough to have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in ancient Rome – I have been diabetic for 30 years, and have used  a range of devices to measure my blood glucose – constantly pricking finger tips (and ear lobes!) to measure blood glucose.  Machines which did not work in the cold, or the heat, or with low batteries,  or without calibration, etc.
Whilst being diabetic is stressful in itself – being in a situation when you really need to know your blood glucose, is for me, the most stressful aspect.
So whilst the artificial pancreas is a while away- for now, I am delighted with the advances that flash technology has made to my life. I may not always like my blood glucose readings but at least I know….in a flash.”

Insulin pump – this means that you don’t have to inject insulin manually – the pump does it directly

Most people use an insulin ‘pen’ to administer their insulin. Some people have a pump which you can programme to provide the insulin for you. You still need to do blood tests, and you still need to calculate your insulin. They have been shown to help with better blood glucose control, but they are not available for everyone. And may not be suitable for everyone.

The next advance in technology to support people with Type 1 diabetes is a CGM and a pump that can ‘speak’ to each other – in effect the CGM ‘tells’ the pump how much insulin to release into the blood stream. Known as an artificial pancreas or closed loop system this provides greater freedom for the person.

I asked my sister Charlotte to write something about having a CGM and an insulin pump in a closed loop system. This is truly ground breaking and is not available to everyone as research is on-going. The following paragraphs are what she wrote:

“Over the last few years I have done on average 6 blood tests every single day which means over the course of a year somewhere in the range of 2,000. So, since the mid 1980s, when home blood glucose testing became available to the public, I have done somewhere in the region of 70,000 blood tests! Eeek!

However, the good news is, I rarely do blood tests now – ever since I started using a Dexcom G6 continuous glucose monitor (CGM). The CGM is a small device which is attached to my body, usually on my tummy, but can also be attached to the back of the upper arm. The results are transmitted continuously to an app on my cell phone and show movement up and down, and also alert me to any highs and lows. The great thing about the Dexcom G6 is that it doesn’t even need to be calibrated unlike earlier models – so no need for a manual blood test.

As if this wasn’t amazing enough, I am currently taking part in a research study of the new “artificial pancreas” at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC. This means that every 5 minutes my CGM transmits my blood glucose directly to my insulin pump which can then make decisions on its own about how much insulin I need, and can either shut it off altogether if my BG is going low, or can add extra if it appears to be going too high.

I feel very fortunate, as the CGM alone made my life so much easier, but now combined with my insulin pump, the “artificial pancreas” has completely changed my life!

After nearly 44 years of living with and trying to control my diabetes, I finally feel like I am not having to work alone to be the “over achiever” that I like to be! I have always been someone who wants to be within my target ranges and now my “artificial pancreas” has taken over a lot of the work for me. Now I just have to learn to trust that it will do its job, something that is getting easier by the day, as the results I’m seeing are amazing.”

What everyone really wants is a CURE for Type 1 diabetes. But in the meantime we need better ways of managing control of blood glucose. Better in terms of keeping it in the right range to prevent complications such as blindness or kidney failure. And better in terms of quality of life for people – eventually constant pin prick blood tests and injections will be a thing of the past, and the artificial pancreas will (hopefully) be available for all who need/want it.

A big thank you to Helen and Charlotte who contributed their experiences. Testing Testing Part 2 will include contributions from a young person with Type 1 in Kenya.

Thank you for reading this post. If you would like to help JDRF fund research into a cure for Type 1, or research into better ways of managing it please follow this link to my fundraising page. Thank you to all who have donated already.

All about hypo’s

It’s been a week since the last post. Somehow the last week has been very busy, work, life, and fun!  

I have been thinking about what to write about, and after lots of umm-ing and ahh-ing and a spot of serendipity I have decided that today I will do a bit of awareness raising about Type 1 diabetes and the work that the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is doing. I was looking at the JDRF website, and a report about how High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can maybe help people with Type 1 improve their awareness of hypo’s caught my eye. I am interested in HIIT anyway, because of the way you can get some amazing health results with such a relatively small amount of effort. (It’s still very hard work while you are doing it though…) Here’s a link to a short explanation by Michael Mosley about HIIT. But I was particularly intrigued by the idea that HIIT could help with hypo awareness.

So, what is a hypo? It’s short for hypoglycaemia, or in plain English low blood sugar. It occurs when the delicate balance between insulin and glucose in the blood stream is upset and there is not enough glucose available to maintain normal activity. The treatment is to have some sugar – in a quickly available form such as a sugary drink or a glucose tablet. Without treatment the person can end up in a coma.

Treating a hypo – you need somesugar

Two members of my immediate family have, or had, Type 1 diabetes. I have experience from the outside of what a hypo looks like. A very early memory: once, when I was quite a young child, my family were on holiday visiting the remains of a Roman villa. After a morning walking around the site, and a later than usual picnic lunch my dad ended up having a hypo. His speech started slurring, he couldn’t get the food to his mouth properly. My mum had to help him. A stranger came and asked if he could help. But then after a sugary drink he recovered. This was a scenario that happened more than once. Another time when I was a little older we were on a camping holiday. My sisters and I woke up early in our tent and were playing around for a while. Then we noticed that my youngest sister was acting strangely, eyes rolling a bit, and not making sense. Uh-oh – hypo! Quick – we had to wake up mum and scrabble around to find the glucose, find some water, mix it up… She was ok. If you have Type 1 diabetes I think hypo’s are a fact of life. Some people with Type 1 have good early warning signals of an impending hypo – tingling, feeling sweaty or shaky. They can take action themselves to stop it getting out of control. But supposing you don’t get any warnings? Or you get them too late to be able to actually take anything yourself? It’s scary for the person and scary for those around them too. People can get so anxious about possibly having a hypo that they keep their blood sugars high – which can have serious consequences too.

Some symptoms of hypoglycaemia – from low – to very low blood glucose

That’s why I think this research is so interesting because it is looking at an aspect of Type 1 diabetes that can have a devastating impact on daily life.  Professor McCrimmon at Dundee University is looking at whether High Intensity Interval Training can improve the body’s hormonal response to hypos so that the person is aware of what is happening and can take action.

JDRF is also funding this research which is also about hypo awareness – Professor Amiel at Kings College London has developed a talking therapy programme to improve hypo awareness. In the pilot study 20 people reported zero severe hypos after the programme, down from 24 the previous year! Amazing!

For an understanding of what hypo’s mean for someone with Type 1 please take the time to have a look at this vlog by Jen Grieves. One thing I think comes across in this short video is how often people with Type 1 have to test blood glucose – with a finger prick test. A post for another day is on technology in Type 1 – such things as continual glucose monitors – which reduce or eliminate the need for finger prick tests. If you have no idea what Jen is talking about with the numbers: in the UK blood glucose has traditionally been measured in mmol/L. Below 4mmol/L is considered hypoglycaemic. In the US blood sugar levels are measured in mg/dL – below 72mg/dL would be hypoglycaemic.

Random picture of home made hot cross buns from last year! Well it is the season…

I am raising funds for JDRF this year, running a half marathon every month, selling marmalade and cakes and other stuff as I think of it! These funds help research projects like those cited above. This research can make a real difference to people living with Type 1 diabetes. This is the link to my fund raising page. Every penny helps – but of course every pound is even better! Thank you for reading, and thank you for your support.

Insulin – what it’s all about

This blog is one of the ways I am highlighting my fundraising efforts for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The charity funds research into Type 1 diabetes – research to find out the causes, research to develop better treatments, research for a cure. Research is expensive and takes time. The more money the charity raises the more money is available to fund research and the quicker a cure can be found.

In this post I want to talk a little about insulin. Insulin – or to be precise the lack of it – is fundamental to Type 1 diabetes. So, what is insulin and what does it do? What happens to insulin production in Type 1 diabetes? I am not a chemist, so it’s going to be a simple explanation! Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. In the pancreas there are clusters of cells called the islets of Langerhans, discovered in 1869 by German pathological anatomist Paul Langerhans. In the islets there are endocrine (hormone) cells called beta cells (β-cells) which respond to elevated levels of glucose in the blood by producing insulin. In a healthy pancreas there are about 1 million islets of Langerhans. The name insulin comes from the Latin word insula meaning island – referring to the islets of Langerhans.

Islet of Langerhans

Hormones are like messengers, telling different parts of the body what to do in certain situations. You eat a meal or a snack. The food you have eaten is broken down in the digestive system into proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are converted to glucose. The glucose molecules flow around the body in the blood stream to provide energy for all the body’s needs – thinking, sitting, walking, talking – everything . But glucose in the blood is useless, and if it is there too long it can actually cause harm. It has to get into the tissues to fuel the cells that keep us going. Insulin is like a key that unlocks the cells so that glucose can be taken up and used.  A healthy pancreas produces insulin all the time, and after eating something it will produce more into the blood stream in response. It reacts to the levels of glucose constantly, adjusting the amount of insulin so that there isn’t too little – leaving glucose in the blood unable to be used, or too much which can lead to glucose being used too quickly and leaving cells ‘hungry’.

How the insulin ‘unlocks’ the cell
No insulin = no glucose uptake

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The pancreas stops making insulin when the body’s immune system turns on itself and destroys the beta cells in the islets of Langerhans. It leaves the person with no way of producing insulin, and therefore no way of getting the glucose out of the blood and into the body’s cells. It is not clear what triggers this autoimmune response. What is clear is that the incidence of Type 1 diabetes is rising by 4% a year in the UK, with a rise of about 5% in children under 5 in the last 20 years. There are 400,000 people living with Type 1 diabetes in the UK (which has one of the highest rates in the world). Twenty nine thousand children in the UK live with Type 1 diabetes.

Insulin was discovered almost 100 years ago in 1921, by Banting, Best and Macleod in Toronto. Animal (pig and cow) insulin was first used in humans in 1922. Research continued into the structure of insulin, until in 1963 it became the first human protein to be chemically synthesised. However it wasn’t until 1978 that synthetic insulin was manufactured on a large scale – the first human protein to be made through biotechnology. In 1982 it was re-named human insulin to distinguish it from animal derived insulin.

Over one hundred years of research – and so it continues. The research will never be done until there is a cure. Your kind donations mean that JDRF can fund and support research projects that make real differences now to the lives of people with Type 1 diabetes and their families. Thank you for your support!

Websites used in the writing of this article: