“I CAN still remember when I was a child being in the back of the car in the darkness of the early mornings as dad drove me to Dublin for my hospital appointments.”
That is one recollection Siobhan Cumins has, growing up in Knocknagoshel, Co. Kerry.
Siobhan, now based in Kinsale. was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was only six years old, and it was her mother who first noticed that something was amiss.
“My mom noticed that over a couple of weeks I was drinking loads of water and milk, and also that I had gone quite thin and pale.
“I was at a school concert and afterwards I went down to the local shop with my friend Martina, where I bought a big bottle of fizzy orange and drank down the lot.
“I couldn’t drink it fast enough, and of course afterwards I was sick.
“We didn’t know at that stage that I had Type 1 diabetes,” says Siobhan.
“Later on that night, my parents called our GP and she suspected it straight away.
“Life changed forever from that night on. mom and dad had to start injecting me and pricking my fingers to check my blood. It wasn’t easy for them, but they were just unbelievable.
“I have a younger sister and brother, and my dad ran his own truck garage business so it was a huge life change for them too.
“I am forever grateful for all the appointments that mom took me to in Tralee, and to dad driving us up and down to Dublin to go to Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin.
“Both my parents are fantastic, they were always so positive.”
LEARNING TO LIVE WITH TYPE 1 DIABETES
The wonderful and caring parenting and encouragement given to Siobhan by her mother Margaret and father Denis paid off, and as she grew into adulthood she went on to live a full and happy life.
She turned 40 last year, and has learned to live with, and overcome the obstacles in her path due to her medical condition.
Siobhan has travelled to the States, and lived in Australia, where she even did a skydive.
“Overall, I try to keep a positive attitude and live my life to the full,” she said.
“I have a Bachelor of Science in Computing with software development, and have had a great career to date. I worked with Munster Rugby for over four years.
“Now, since having my kids, I work 28 hours a week with a local resourcing firm who are very supportive of my health condition, and thankfully it does not affect my ability to work.”
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin altogether, and as a result of this a person needs to take insulin by pump or by injection.
The amount of insulin needed depends on glucose levels in the blood, along with how often and what has been eaten.
Certain foods spike the levels, and as well as that the amount of exercise taken also influences levels, and there are also other variables such as illness and pregnancy.
Becoming a mother was a dream come true for Siobhan - her daughter Kayleigh, who is seven, and her son Dylan, who is four, are the apple of her eye.
“ I was always advised not to have children until I was able to maintain a blood sugar control of around 6.5 and mine was usually around 8, which is not ideal, but I really wanted to have children.
“The pregnancies were quite stressful and worrying, and I had to have weekly appointments for both pregnancies as there is a higher risk for still birth after week 38 for mothers with Type 1 diabetes, so both of my babies were medically induced at 38 weeks.
“Kayleigh was a normal size at 7Ibs 14 oz but Dylan was 10 Ibs 3 oz, as my blood sugar control wasn’t as tight on my second pregnancy due to the fact that I was working and was trying to keep up with a two-year-old at the time.
“Both of the children were monitored in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for some time after birth, which I found quite difficult as any new mother would, worrying about their small baby, but of course it was for their good, and I am happy to say that they came out of it and are both healthy and thriving.
“It’s not always plain sailing and sometimes it gets tedious as I have to monitor every bite of food that I take.
“I have a continuous glucose monitor and I put a sensor on my tummy every ten days, where a needle shoots a little wire in and this measures my glucose levels from fluid as opposed to blood.
“It then sends a reading to an app on my phone every five minutes. The CGM is a great technical advancement.
“Factors which affect me are lack of sleep, or if I am ill. Sometimes I have to get up in the middle of the night if my bloods go into the high teens to give a correction dose of insulin.
“If my blood drops below a certain level, then I have to get 15g of carb into me to get it back up. I get so confused and shaky when that happens.
“Management-wise, ideally I would have a regular routine in my life, but it’s not always that simple. If my bloods are too high or too low I get extremely tired. I always have to plan ahead.
“I would like to say to people to educate yourself about diabetes.
“There is a difference between Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 can only be treated by injecting with insulin and if I did not have access to insulin I would die.
“I am very lucky also that, as well as my medical team, there is a growing support network online.
“There are coaches and some great groups on Facebook and Instagram that help with management which I would encourage anyone with this condition to check out.”