I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes I at the age of 11,” says Bethan Robinson, 36, from Aberystwyth. “My parents were given all of the instructions: I just ate what they told me to, when they told me, tested my blood sugar and gave myself up to four injections daily. As soon as I became independent of my parents at the age of 16, I began eating everything I shouldn’t, as a way of feeling in control of my life. This continued throughout my 20s and I stopped testing my blood sugar, guessed insulin doses and failed to attend medical appointments.
Eventually I realised I was suffering from what’s called diabetes burnout: being overwhelmed by having to manage a condition I’d never recover from that could ultimately only get worse.
“I managed to overcome this in my early 30s. But in 2015, when my daughter Malaika was diagnosed with the same illness, aged just two, I again got diabetes burnout. I’d just gone through a very painful break-up with my children’s father and was now the sole carer of an 11-month-old and a very sick two-year-old.
It was utterly exhausting waking up every two hours at night to test Malaika’s blood sugar and dealing with her screams when she was being injected. Taking care of myself took second place to caring for Malaika: I’d test her blood sugar 15 times a day and mine every couple of days, when I remembered or felt sick. Two- thirds of my household now had the illness and I felt that my entire life was about diabetes. I was terrified of dying, but just couldn’t muster the energy to keep healthy.
“I decided to make a change when I saw my daughter devouring a packet of biscuits. I saw that my unhealthy choices were becoming her unhealthy choices, that my every action as someone living with diabetes could lead to her having complications down the line. So I bought a double running buggy and started walking and eventually running.
“Since then I’ve gone from weighing 24st to 17st and need much less insulin. I now run four times a week: three runs are for me, where my daughters are pushed in the buggy, and the fourth is for all of us, where the girls jump in and out of the buggy when they feel like it. I’m also focused on helping to raise money for a cure – I’m attempting to walk/run 10,000K in 2017 to raise funds for a diabetes charity.
“With running, I love how even someone big can do it, and have it change their life. It’s given me body confidence: I no longer see flaws, only strength. Whenever I feel my body is too big or broken, I remember how far I can run and feel like I can take on the world.”