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Person with diabetesBorn in Birmingham in 1928. Diagnosed Type 2 in Birmingham in 1960
Overview: June Hill had never eaten much sweet food and had always had plenty of exercise so her diagnosis brought little change and had no effect on her career as a teacher and then a nurse. She went on tablets in 1983, and was put on insulin in 1995, when she had a serious illness unconnected with diabetes. She took no interest in her own diabetes for many years until her diabetic mother became housebound. Then she began to inform herself about long-term implications. She is very fit and is enjoying her retirement.
There is also an interview with June Hill`s husband, Tony Hill
I was born in 1928. My father
worked as a manager of a shoe shop; my mother was a housewife in those days.
I was the first child. As we grew up, we moved house a couple of times, but
always in the Birmingham area. Both
grandparents, on both sides, lived in Birmingham,
so we saw quite a bit of them. My mother was one of ten, so we had lots of
aunts and uncles and cousins, who I still have, because they‘re the ones who
are still alive, and so we were very family orientated. I went to grammar
school, Saltley Grammar School, also in Birmingham.
And I was evacuated - I was due to start at grammar school the year war broke
out, and so I didn‘t actually start at Saltley. I was evacuated, first of
all with my parents, because they didn‘t want me to go to Hinckley
for whatever reason. But it didn‘t work out, because there was nowhere for
me to go to school in Fenny Compton in Warwickshire. And so I went to Hinckley, and spent the first... well, I suppose it was about nine months,
and then when there was no bombing, most of us came back home. But then when
the following year the bombing started, I went back to Hinckley again, and
I was there for a fair time, before coming back and finishing my education
in Birmingham when things quietened down again.
Would you say your family was
No, no. My father‘s salary was
just a manager of a small shoe shop, no. I mean, we never went short of anything,
but, you know, and we were very happy, yes.
Was there any diabetes in your
Well, there obviously was, but
I didn‘t find out about it until I myself, or in fact until my mother was
diagnosed. And then when she was talking around the family, she found that
two of her uncles had had diabetes many years before. And I‘ve no idea what
the sort of treatment or anything was then.
When was your mother diagnosed?
She was diagnosed by chance.
She had a slight problem with her heart, and on one occasion the doctor took
a blood sample. She was probably in her early fifties, and it was that which
gave her the first idea that she had diabetes. And when mother was diagnosed,
we were a little bit shocked, because she was the first one. Well no, she
wasn‘t the first one, because my nephew had been diagnosed earlier on, but
we hadn‘t really thought it was a family thing until that had happened.
Were you living at home at the
time your mother was diagnosed?
I was living... I was married
by this time, so I was living with my husband in Birmingham. But my parents and my young sister
and brother had moved to Weston-super-Mare, so that is
why my idea’s a bit sketchy, because I wasn‘t actually that close to her at
that time, although we visited frequently obviously.
Tell me what you did, then, after
you left school.
After I left school? Well, I
was seventeen. I‘d taken my sort of higher school certificate, as it was
called then. I wasn‘t old enough to go to training college, which my mother
wanted me to do, although I myself wanted to be a nurse, but she wasn‘t having
any of that. She‘d paid for my education - she wanted me to be a teacher.
So, I actually taught in a private school – unqualified - for twelve months.
And then I went to Nottinghamshire County
Training College and did
a two year teaching course, and then came back to Birmingham
to teach, and lived at home for a while.
And, then, where did marriage
Well, I had a very good friend
whom I‘d met when I was evacuated, and we used to holiday together. And after
the - I think it was just towards the end of the war possibly, or might have
been just after the war, we went down to Cornwall on one of these potato picking
holidays. And there we met a couple of chaps, who invited us to call in at
Bristol, where they lived, on their
way home from this holiday. And that was when I met Tony, and it just went
on from there.
What did he do for a living?
Well, at the time, he was doing
an apprenticeship at Bristol Aeroplane Company. But his main interest was
cars, so when they started to make a car called the Bristol,
he transferred to the car making side of things. And from then on, he just
sort of stayed in the car industry
for the whole of his working life.
Well, I was trained to teach
junior school, but when I first went into a school to start my first job,
unfortunately there were no vacancies in the junior department, so I had a
very rough time my first year in the infants with the reception class. But
when the inspectors came round, they decided it was time I went back up into
the junior school, for which I‘d been trained. And that‘s where I stayed
until, ooh, many, many years later, when I decided to have a change. And
I actually took a job helping, sort of, not disabled, but - what did we call
them in those days? I‘ve forgotten! - the sort of slow learners, that‘s right,
the slow learners in a secondary modern school. And I very much enjoyed that,
rather better than I had doing the primary school teaching.
How did your diagnosis of diabetes
Well, I had a few sort of problems
medically, and I went into the Victoria Hospital
in Lichfield for a D&C. And I can remember as the
- I‘d been given my premed - and the nurse came up in her hat and coat, and
she said to me "can you understand what I‘m saying, it‘s important?",
and I said "well, yes". And she said "well, when you‘ve had
your operation and gone back home, you are to go straight to your GP and say
that you have glucose in your water and your blood". She said "have
you any diabetes in your family?", and I said "well, yes, there‘s
my mother and my nephew", and she said "well, I suspect that that‘s
what you have". So, that is how my diagnosis came about.
Just before you lost consciousness?
That‘s right, it was indeed,
yes! And when I woke up, I did wonder - had I dreamed it?
What happened next?
Well, I went to my GP, who was
extremely good and very friendly. And I think I must have used the word sugar
instead of glucose, because that‘s the word my mother always used, and he
said "what do you mean, sugar in your water?". And I said "well,
this is what the nurse said to me, or perhaps she said glucose". And
he was a little bit... he said "but you‘re so healthy", and I said
"well, yes, I feel healthy". But anyway, he did take the various
blood tests. In fact, he sent me up to the hospital in Birmingham
to be tested. And I can remember spending the day there, and the nurse saying
"take a walk up and down the stairs and then we‘ll take your blood again",
and I was saying "well, what difference does that make?", and she
said "you‘d be surprised"!
What hospital was this?
It was the Queen Elizabeth Hospital
And what happened after the tests?
Well, I went back to the GP,
and he obviously had letters from the hospital, and he said that it was more
marginal than anything to worry about. And so he gave me two cardboard sheets,
and he called them red and green points, and he said I was to have so many
of the red points each day - these were foods on these, listed rather like
diet sheets - and so many of the green points. Now, I can‘t remember anything
more than that, except for looking through these sheets. But what I do remember
is, when I was later very poorly in my life and the nurse was looking after
me at home, I told her about this. And she said "have you still got
them?", and I said "well, yes I have", and she said "show
them to me", and she said "they ought to be in a museum", she
said. But I‘m afraid I‘ve thrown them away; I haven‘t got them any more!
So what year was this, that you were diagnosed and given these red and green
I think it must have been about
1962; something like that. (Medical notes say 1960) And I don‘t remember
it taking over my life at all. In fact, I have very vague recollections of
thinking "well, I‘m well", and perhaps this is something I shouldn‘t
have done, but I don‘t remember sticking rigidly to this particular diet at
Can you remember giving up anything
for the sake of diabetes?
I can remember thinking to myself
"well, I‘m lucky, because I don‘t like sweet things". So I think
this was why I didn‘t worry too much, because I never had eaten a lot of sweet
stuff, so I just carried on not eating. And perhaps... I did cut down on
chocolate and sweets themselves, because I always loved Dairy Milk chocolate.
And I remember cutting that down, and sometimes saying to myself "I‘m
going to have a little treat", and having a little bit. But, it didn‘t
really bother me at all, and I was sort of… When I went back to work, when
my son was five years old, I can still remember feeling the same about my
When was your son born?
He was born in 1959; a great
joy to us, because we‘d been married for seven years and no sign of any children,
so that was really a highlight of my life. And he‘s never caused us any trouble
Did you try any special diabetic
I did actually look in the shops
for them, and I think I bought a jar of marmalade! But no, I think in those
days they weren‘t that particularly prominent, and so it didn‘t really occur
to me. And I remember asking my mother about it, but she was never terribly
serious about her diabetes. She always thought "oh well", you know,
"I‘m going to live life to the full", which she always did, and
I‘m afraid diet was the last thing on her mind, always. But I did try to
buy her, and once I bought her a box of chocolates, diabetic chocolates, and
she said "they were horrible, don‘t ever buy me anything like that again"!
Was she on tablets at any stage?
She did go onto tablets, yes,
after being... in fact, I believe once she was diagnosed she went straight
onto tablets, and she gradually increased her dose of tablets from, you know,
over the years. And I remember my brother, who, of course, was much closer
to her, living in Weston, saying to me "the doctor would like to put
her onto insulin, but he doesn‘t think that it would be possible for her to
keep to the regime very easily". And so she stayed on tablets all her
life. But she still lived to eighty eight.
When you went to your GP and
he was doubtful whether you‘d got diabetes because you seemed so well, did
you get the impression that he knew much about diabetes in 1962?
I have to say, I don‘t think
he did. But there again, I‘d had no knowledge of the medical profession,
and I did, in fact, actually think they were wonderful - doctors and anybody
to do. So although I never sort of seriously thought "he doesn‘t know
much about it", on reflection, I think perhaps he didn‘t have a lot of
diabetic patients and wasn‘t too clear about it.
Did he give you any advice about
None at all. He only ever mentioned
cutting down on sugar - those were his words.
And did you take any more exercise
after your diagnosis?
Well, I‘ve always been an exercise
fan, so it would have been difficult to take any more exercise. I mean, when
I was actually training, or before I trained to be a teacher, I took a keep
fit instructors exercise, so after I‘d, you know, left college, I did evening...
taught, in evening classes, keep fit and that sort of thing. And I‘ve always
sort of done lots of walking, rambling, and so the exercise, really, I just
carried on as I’d always done.
So how did your diabetes progress?
Well, I suppose once I‘d been
put onto tablets - we
Well, how long was it before
you were put on tablets?
Well, it seemed a long time.
I‘m not quite sure actually... I think it was probably about 1983 that I went
onto tablets; that‘s as near as I can remember looking back, and I got my
husband to think about it as well. But again, I mean, I just took the tablets.
I was, you know, very good, and would never dream of not taking them. But
I don‘t think it changed my outlook on life at all or what I did, because
I still had, you know, energy, and, you know, it didn‘t really affect my life
at all. Although I did notice that my mother, as the years went by, she became
very conscious of not being able to do the things she‘d always done. Her
life became much more restricted.
Well, she put on an enormous
amount of weight; I think that was the biggest problem. She actually ran
a boarding house in Weston-Super-Mare when she first went down there, and she felt unable
to continue doing this, so, with my sister, they opened a little shop, and
that sort of kept her interested. But as the years went by, she couldn‘t
even manage that, and she did, in fact, almost become housebound for the last
ten years of her life.
Due to what - foot problems or...?
No, I don‘t think she ever had
foot problems. She had heart problems. And when I say… I really mean she
was obese - you know, very, very difficult to get about. That was her main
problem, and arthritis together with it. But whether any of these were sort
of concerned with the diabetes, I just really don‘t know, because not being
close enough to her, you know - a hundred miles away, I didn‘t have that sort
of conversation with her very often.
But did what was happening to
her in older age affect your approach to your own diabetes?
It did indeed. It was the first
time, I think, as my mother‘s health deteriorated, I did begin to think “I
don‘t want to end up my life like that”, and at that point I began to really
go into diabetes. I read up a lot about it, all that I could, and I realised
the long term implications, which I hadn‘t ever thought about before, because
nobody had ever told me about them. I thought “well, this is what I‘m going
to head for if I‘m not really, really careful”.
So, at least twenty years after you were first diagnosed, you began to read
up about diabetes. What did you discover, then, in the 1980s?
Well it was, I think it was just
a fear of the fact that there were these complications, which could be so
serious. And I began to look around me, and seeing people, sort of, and thinking
"well, I wonder if they‘ve got diabetes?". And being quite determined
and talking it over with my husband, who at that time, I‘m sure, was even
less knowledgeable than I was about it, and he had never really taken things
seriously. But we did talk about it a lot at that point and decide that I
really must... well, I mean, I think I always had lived a fairly healthy lifestyle,
but I was much more conscious of it then. And in recent years we‘ve joined
and he‘s come along, and said how glad he is, because it made him so much
more aware of what diabetes really can do to people.
Did you make any changes to your
lifestyle in the 1980s?
Where were you being treated
when you began to find out more about diabetes?
It must have been when we moved
from Sutton Coldfield to Oxford. And I started a nursing training, and the Authorities suggested
I went to the diabetes clinic at the John
Radcliffe Hospital. And
it was there that I was given a lot more information than I ever had before
about diabetes, and this was why I began to feel seriously that I really had
to take it into account with my general lifestyle, and everything really.
And when was this move to Oxford?
This was in 1982.
And was it the John Radcliffe
or the Radcliffe that you went to?
I did my training at the John
Radcliffe. I worked there on the wards for a short while, perhaps a couple
of years, and then I took a job at the Churchill with the radiotherapy and
And where was the diabetes clinic
that you went to?
Well, from this initial clinic
at the John Radcliffe
Hospital, they then decided it would be a good idea
if I went regularly to the diabetes clinic at the old Radcliffe. There I
found it very helpful. I went, I think, about every six months for a check
up, and they really were very, very good. They checked over things which
had never been checked over before, and I really felt somebody was taking
an interest in my health.
What sort of things did they
Well, they always did my blood
pressure, my blood glucose, they looked at my feet, they tested my nerve type
endings - I‘m not quite sure what the medical term is for that - and my eyesight.
And I just generally felt that, you know, if there was anything to look at,
they would see to it and suggest some treatment for it.
And none of these things had been tested before in the first twenty years
or so of your diabetes?
No, none at all. My GP had given
me these diet sheets - the reds and the greens - and after that, apart from
perhaps mentioning it if I went to him with any other problem, it never seemed
to be brought forward at all. And it wasn‘t until I was actually in Oxford,
and was sent to the first real diabetes clinic, that anybody ever sort of
bothered about it at all.
What did you think of the people,
the medical staff, at the old Radcliffe?
Oh, I found them very good, yes.
I mean, I did sometimes feel, well, I never saw the same doctor twice, but
I think you get that in anywhere, don‘t you? But no, they were all... no,
I have to say… I mean, occasionally you felt "oh, he was really good.
I really feel I got something out of that", but perhaps not always.
And the other thing that I noticed was that they only seemed to be there for
a short while. If you got talking to them, they were over on a sort of a
sabbatical - is that what the right word? - or something for twelve months,
and then they were going back. And I got this impression that a lot of the
doctors in the diabetes centre were like that, but I‘m not sure that I‘m right.
Did it matter to you, not seeing
the same person each time?
I would have preferred to see
the same person each time, because a) it took a long time for them to look
back in my notes and find out what was the matter with me and what treatment
I was having, and also I thought it would be better for the continuity.
When you found a doctor particularly
good, what was it about them that made you feel you were getting somewhere?
I think it was just that they
made me feel that they were doing their best for me somehow, and that I was
a person as opposed to just somebody who just turned up at the clinic. I
mean, that didn‘t happen very often, but I suppose it‘s inevitable - it‘s
life, isn‘t it?
And what dealings did you have
with nurses in the 1980s? You were a nurse yourself, of course.
Do you mean the nurses in the
diabetes centre? Well, only that they took my blood pressure and tested my
glucose. I don‘t think... oh yes, that‘s right, they did. I was always asked
if I wanted to go and see somebody about having my eyes tested; that was what.
They would send me to have my eyes tested. I don‘t recollect any other connection
with the nurses in the diabetes centre.
How did your nursing colleagues
react to your diabetes?
Well, when I was at the John
Radcliffe on the wards, I don‘t think anybody really took a great deal of
notice. They knew I had diabetes, but, I mean, I just carried on as normal
and nobody worried about it at all. But once I transferred to the Churchill,
to the radiotherapy department, I had a very good - boss I was going to say,
she was the senior radiographer in fact. And she, herself, was very, very
conscious of all of us and any problems that we had, and she was extremely
anxious that I should always go to my clinic appointments and things like
that. And very often she would ask me how my diabetes was going, so I felt
I was being, you know, really well looked after there. There was also a Dr
Laing who worked there, who himself, was on insulin, with diabetes. And we
used to have little chats together and talk about it, and I always used to
think "well, I‘m all right, I‘m not on insulin", so I was feeling
very happy about that.
you have any fear that you might have to change to insulin?
Well, I hadn‘t up until that
point. I suppose I was feeling a little bit complacent about it. But when
I changed over from one tablet - was it.... I think it was... from one tablet
to another, because of the strength anyway, probably in ‘94 or thereabouts,
it was mentioned by the doctor that at some point in the future I might well
have to go onto insulin, because of the progress of my diabetes. But I must
admit, at that time, although I was a little bit not happy at the idea, it
didn‘t really worry me too much.
So when did you go onto insulin?
Well, it happened very suddenly
in 1995. I remember it very clearly. I had been to a keep fit class down
at my local church hall. And I didn‘t have my car on that particular occasion,
and the instructress brought me home. And she dropped me off, and I went
into the house, and I went into the bathroom to have a shower, and I just
caught glance of myself in the mirror. And I just could not believe what
I saw, because I was bright yellow all over. And I thought "well, I
can‘t understand this", because this lady had just dropped me off - surely
she would have said if she‘d seen me; it was really a bright orange colour!
But anyway, I sort of had my shower and I was trying to think, and I thought
"well, I know there‘s something wrong". My eyes were dreadful,
but I felt fine. However, I rang the GP, and the - I suppose it was the receptionist
I spoke to - she said "well, perhaps you‘d better come down to the surgery",
which I did. And he looked at me, and he took… I think I remember him taking
a blood sample and taking a urine sample, and saying you‘ve got - I can‘t
remember now what it was - something that gives you a pain anyway. And I
was saying "well, no, I haven‘t got any pain", and he kept saying
"well, you must have pain", and I kept "no, I haven‘t got any
pain". So eventually he said "well, I‘ll have to get you into hospital
and we‘ll try and sort it out. Will you be all right to go home?", and
I said "yes, I‘m fine". So, I was on the bus at the time, and I
came back home. And he rang me very shortly to say that it was not possible
to find me a bed at that particular moment, but he would back in touch with
me during the day to see how I was etcetera, and then "how‘s your pain?",
and I kept saying "I haven’t got any pain"! And eventually, in
the evening, he phoned again, very apologetic - still couldn‘t find me a bed,
but he said "shall I send somebody down to look after you?". And
I said "well, no, there‘s no problem. I‘ve got my husband here, and
I‘m feeling fine. I‘m still very yellow", but, you know, I hadn‘t got
any pain. "Right", he said, "well, I‘ll be in touch with you
in the morning". Anyway, I suppose I must have slept - I can‘t remember
that night. But he rang at
so it was decided that I had somehow developed jaundice, and then we started
on this process of trying to find out why I had it. I mean, it had come on
very suddenly – well, I don‘t know whether that‘s usual or not. But I can
remember going through all these tests after tests after tests, and the consultant
coming in every morning and saying "we still haven‘t found out any reason
for you to have developed jaundice". And they kept on about me having
been to Singapore, because
my son at that time was working in Singapore. But it was two years since we had
been there, and they decided that was far too long for me to have picked up
anything there to have developed at this point. And in fact, in the whole
of the six weeks that I was in the hospital, they never ever found out what
it was, and the ultimate conclusion was that it was some sort of virus. But
apart from that, I never really had any knowledge, and I still, to this day,
don‘t know why I had it.
Was there any suggestion that
something could have interacted with your diabetes or...?
Never, no, that was never a problem
at all. But I was, of course, immediately I went into the hospital, put onto
insulin, and that was the very first time that I was on a drip, an insulin
drip, and, of course, I‘ve been on it ever since.
What difference did that make
to your life?
Well, I think the first thing
was that I had to monitor my blood. Now, they did this in hospital, and it
was the first time that I had ever realised that one needed to monitor your
blood if you were a diabetic. I mean, that just had never occurred to me
before. But it was made clear to me that once I left hospital, that I would
indeed have to monitor my blood quite regularly, and it would influence, you
know, my life to that extent, because I had to sort of... And it was the
first time I heard the word exercise mentioned as well. Although I did feel
that... well, perhaps I‘m jumping the gun a bit here, but when I left the
hospital, it was because I was presumably... well, I was booked in for a transplant
- is it all right to go on to this? - on the... it was Easter weekend, I can
remember it quite clearly. It was Good Friday, and the consultant came round,
and he said "I probably won‘t see you for a couple of days, because I‘m
going so and so, but on Tuesday the ambulance will be here to take you up
to Birmingham transplant centre". And then I said "please can
I go home?", because, I thought, at the age of sixty seven I think I
was, and prospect of getting a donor, I‘m never ever going to come through
this. I said "please can I go home? I mean, I can get onto my feet
just about, and I would just love to go home". What I really wanted
to do was check that my will and everything was in order. And he said "well,
no, you can‘t, because you‘re in such a low state". He said "your
bilirubin is three hundred", or something like that, when it should have
been between seven and eighteen, I think is what he said, and that "you’ll
catch any infection and you won‘t be able to get to hospital in time for us
to treat it". However, by the end of Good Friday he had changed his
mind, for whatever reason, and he said "who would look after you?",
and I said "my husband". And he said "well, does he come in
every day to see you at the hospital?". I said "he comes in twice
a day", so he said "all right, well we‘ll let you go home, and I‘ll
send some nurses in to look after you all over the weekend". So I came
home, and the nurses came in every morning, every evening, to see how I was.
And my husband carried me up the stairs into bed, because I hadn‘t got the
strength. But I managed to do what I wanted to do. And then, on the Tuesday
morning, he drove me back to the hospital, and the consultant came and he
said to me "we don‘t seem to have any results of your blood while you‘ve
been at home". And I said "well, you won‘t have any because nobody
took any blood", and he said "well, we‘ve been taking them every
day you‘re in hospital", and I said "yes, but the nurses didn‘t
take any, although they came in twice a day". "Well, we
can‘t send you up to the transplant centre without a blood sample", so
he said "well, I‘ll have to get it done now". So we did this immediately,
and they obviously rushed it through urgently. And when he came to see me,
he said "we‘re in a bit of a quandary about what to do with you, because
your bilirubin is still on three hundred" - I think those were the words
that he said - "it hasn‘t gone up". And he said "that‘s the
first time in six weeks that your bilirubin hasn‘t escalated, and we‘re just
wondering whether to take a chance and see if it stays like that, or might
even go down". He said "I think before we send you up to Birmingham,
we‘ll keep you here for a few days and see how things go". Well, that
sounded fine to me, except that by this time there was somebody in my bed
and they didn‘t have a spare bed. So he said "well, I don‘t know what
your husband was doing with you at home, but it‘s obviously done you good".
He said "I think we‘ll send you back home and send the nurses in again,
but this time we‘ll get them to take your blood"! And this is what happened.
And indeed, over a period of nine months, my bilirubin actually went right
down to where it should be, and I gradually recovered. Having felt very,
very weak for a long time, you know, I did actually get back into good health
again. So that was my miracle - the most wonderful thing that happened to
So, obviously, what was most
on your mind at this point was not your diabetes, but how did you manage your
diabetes during this period of extreme illness?
Well, I was very conscious of
having to monitor my blood, but it wasn‘t really a problem, except in as much
as I had so little appetite, and I just felt that it was difficult. But the
nurses who came round, they seemed to think that I was fighting the insulin,
having been put on it. I didn‘t quite understand this, but they kept increasing
my insulin to such an extent that I kept going hypo, and this was the biggest
worry I had over those first few weeks. And in the end, I remember phoning
the GP and saying that I wasn‘t very happy because I was having all these
hypos, and he immediately sent me up to the diabetes centre at the - where
was it? - at the old Radcliffe at the time. And I saw a consultant there,
and she said "well, you‘re on far too high a dose. You must drop it
right down". And she cut it down gradually for me, you know. She phoned
me up on a few days running and said "how are you going, so and so?"
until it got down to a more manageable level. And that is my main memory
of it. But after that, things settled down, and I suppose I just… I mean,
I didn‘t get out and about very much for the first few weeks, so, and I slept
a lot, so I think I probably... well, I just sort of recuperated, like you
would after anything else, really. But I was very much more conscious of
my diabetes, particularly having been put onto insulin and having to monitor
my blood regularly - it made me a completely different perspective of life
really. And, of course, I was just so glad to be alive anyway that, you know,
it was just... I didn‘t mind what I had to do as long… And gradually getting
stronger and stronger all the time just made everything worthwhile anyway.
How did people monitor their
blood in 1995?
Well, I had this little blood
glucose meter. I think my husband had to go out and buy it for me from the
chemists - I was given the name of it - and I just sort of pricked my finger
with it, and it was very easy to use fortunately. And I had a book to record
the sort of millimoles, or whatever it is, in there, and I just kept a record
of it. And then when I went up to the hospital or to the clinic, they would
have a look at it and see how, you know, how I was monitoring and how it went
Did you adjust your insulin or did you always keep to the same dosage?
I got the impression I wasn‘t
to adjust it myself, but they did adjust it if they felt it was necessary.
I mean, I was regularly going to the clinic at this point; I think it was
every... well, it was every week for a while, and then it was every two weeks.
And I was also seeing a dietitian, which I found quite helpful, because, with
my lack of appetite, she was able to suggest like having lots of small little
snacks rather than sitting down for a big meal, which I didn‘t feel much like
cooking anyway. And I did find that quite helpful.
Before we get onto your new lifestyle,
just to backtrack on those district nurses who came in and put your insulin
up and up. Did you tell them that you were having hypos?
Well, I did, yes, but they kept
saying - the word was “I was fighting the insulin”, and that ultimately the
body would settle down and it would be all right. And I couldn‘t somehow
make them understand that I was just feeling worse and worse all the time,
and that I wasn‘t quite sure how to cope with these hypos, because it was
something I‘d never had in hospital. But then, I suppose, when you‘re on
a drip, it‘s a regulated sort of amount of insulin, which is rather different,
so. But when you‘re feeling very weak, it‘s difficult perhaps to put over
your feelings so much, and they probably thought I was very vague anyway,
which I probably was. So, you know, I don‘t want to criticise too much, but
I do feel that it would have been better if I had not kept the insulin being
pushed up and up like that, yes.
Now, as you were recovering from
your illness, you‘re on an insulin regime. How often were you injecting?
I was injecting, from the start,
twice a day. I had Insulatard in the morning and Human Mixtard in the evening
before my evening meal. And gradually it settled down, and I‘ve been on the
same insulin ever since. I mean, the doses have changed quite considerably,
but I just don‘t remember feeling particularly ill with it at all, you know,
as long as I kept a good regime and I kept up the exercise, once I got back...
Once I got my strength back, I was able to... that was the first thing I wanted
to do. I really missed having it, but it, in actual fact, didn‘t do me a
lot of good the first time. I can remember pushing the vacuum cleaner round
the house and I just sort of did my back in, because, I suppose, for nine
months I‘d been lying down and I just sort of hadn‘t ever done anything.
So that wasn‘t a very happy start to my feeling better, but never mind.
Did you notice that increasing
exercise affected the dosage of insulin that you needed?
Yes, I did, yes, and I‘ve always
felt that. And more recently, it‘s actually... my insulin dose is a lot lower
than it was years ago.
Well, I have been diagnosed with
blood pressure, and I‘ve been on treatment for that for maybe two and a half,
three years now. And then earlier this year, I had a very sudden surprise
when I actually went to the diabetic clinic. And he was very, very happy
with all my results, and just as I was going out of the door he said "and
what about your eyesight?". And I said "well, I have, in fact,
decided to go to the opticians, because I can‘t actually see the writing on
the television screen, which I‘ve never had a problem with before".
And he had a quick look in my eyes, and he said "when were you planning
to go?", and I said "well, in a week or so", and he said "well,
I should go tomorrow". So I went to the opticians the following morning.
I rang up and they said "yes, pop in", and I asked to see somebody
who could deal with diabetes patients. And I saw this particular – well,
I call him an optician, I think they‘re probably called something else now
- and he said straight away "well, there is a problem", he said,
"but I can‘t really see, because there‘s such a lot of bleeding at the
back of the eye". He said "if I make you an appointment for the
eye hospital tomorrow, can you get there for
And how has your diabetes been in the past year?
Well, it‘s been quite manageable
and I‘ve felt reasonably fit. My only real problem has been arthritis in
one hip and two knees, which I‘ve found quite difficult to get about with
at times, particularly going up and down stairs. And I was listening to the
radio one day, and I heard this lady talking about something she referred
to as magnetic water, and that she had found that this had completely cured
her arthritis, which had put her into a wheelchair fairly early on in life.
And she went on at great length about this, and how she had been so impressed
that she had finally helped with this company and was now chairman of it,
and she was way out of her wheelchair and been leading a full life. And when
she said that this magnetic wand, that you just put in water and drank the
water, cost only eleven pounds ninety five, I thought "well, it‘s got
to be worth a try, I‘ll see if it‘ll do anything for my arthritis".
And so I sent off for this magnetic wand over the internet, and it came back
almost by return in actual fact, and it was so simple to use that I gave it
a try. And over the next few weeks, although it did absolutely nothing for
my arthritis, I felt that I was feeling so much better. I mean, I‘d felt
well anyway, but I had so much wellbeing feeling and my energy levels were
higher. And I said to my husband - well, my husband actually commented, he
said "you‘re so much better when you get up in the mornings these days",
and I‘d laughed, and I said "oh well, it must be the magnetic water".
Well, I mean, I don‘t know whether it‘s psychological or whether it is the
magnetic water, but I do honestly feel that it‘s done me so much good that
I would not stop taking it. I really do feel that it‘s working wonders for
me. Whether it is or not, I don‘t know, but.
Has it made any measurable difference
to your blood sugars or your insulin?
It has made considerable... I
have dropped my insulin levels now to ten in the morning and six in the evening,
from about, before I went on the magnetic water, they were eighteen in the
morning and ten in the evening. And I find if I take any more insulin than
that, it‘s too much; I just go hypo.
you noticed any changes in attitudes to diabetes over the forty or so years
that you‘ve had it?
I think over the forty years,
the attitude has been quite considerably different. I mean, initially, I
myself knew nobody with diabetes, and even when I heard about my family members
and that, it wasn‘t something that was talked about at all. Whereas now,
I find that I… perhaps I‘m talking about something and I‘ll mention it to
a friend or somebody, and they‘re quite interested - they want to know all
about it. And I think it‘s been on the media a lot more - it‘s brought into
a lot more programmes, isn‘t it? So, I do think it‘s a good thing that it
is, nowadays, much more upfront than it used to be years ago.
Have you noticed any differences
in the way you‘re treated by the medical profession over forty years?
Well, certainly from my initial
diagnosis with the GP, I felt that it was just something that came up in a
consultation about anything else for maybe twenty odd years or so, whereas
now, it is very much - I feel I must go to. And I think most people feel
they have to keep their appointments if they‘re going to live with diabetes,
and live happily with diabetes anyway, and keep themselves well.
And have you noticed any changes
in the National Health Service?
I‘m not sure actually. I suppose
there must be. Certainly they‘re very anxious that you should attend all
their sort of clinics and that sort of thing. I mean, they always send me...
they give me an appointment at the end of my visit, and then they always send
me a letter to remind me, to make sure that I do turn up and that sort of
thing. And yes, I think… And the treatments, I‘m sure, are much better than
they were years ago.
Would your life have been any
different if you hadn‘t had diabetes?
I don‘t really think so, no.
I think I‘ve been very fortunate in my life. Things have... I mean, there‘s
been the odd blip obviously, but no, I just feel that things have gone...
No, I don‘t think I would have made any different changes at all. Yes; I
mean, I just sort of did what I wanted to do really. I started off with a
career, which perhaps wasn‘t of my initial choosing, but I seemed to do reasonably
well at it, and I had my son, and then I changed career when I had the opportunity,
which gave me a lot of pleasure. I‘ve enjoyed every minute of my nursing
career. And I feel that in retirement, I can look back and feel that I‘ve
had a pretty good life.
And how do you see the future?
Just to carry on as I‘m doing
now. I‘m very fortunate. I still have my husband with me, I have, you know,
a home and lots of friends. I have my health, I belong to various groups,
I‘m always busy, and things keep me going, and my family still. I just feel
that I‘m very, very fortunate, even having had diabetes. No, it hasn‘t worried
me at all.
What advice would you give to
someone being diagnosed with diabetes now?
I think to give it a little bit
of time to actually take in and absorb what it really means. Find out what
you can about it. If you don‘t get all the information you want from the
medical profession, I do think it‘s worthwhile finding out information for
yourself, because I feel that it‘s a long-term illness which can easily be
coped with if you have the right information.
You only started going to a hospital diabetic clinic around twenty years ago.
Can you talk about how the experience of attending a diabetic clinic in hospital
has changed over those twenty years?
Well, it has changed to some
extent. It was... I seem to remember, when I first went, it was a reasonable
waiting time. But I was rather horrified at the waiting room at the old Radcliffe
in the diabetes centre, because it was very, very small, and absolutely airless
- there was no way you could open the windows, so I was rather glad, initially,
that the waiting time wasn‘t too bad. But as the years went by, going every
six months as I did, I found that the waiting times certainly got longer.
And I think, as I mentioned before, I saw various different doctors - always
a different doctor when I went to the clinic. But over the years, the specialist
nurses seemed to take over quite a bit more of what was going on there. In
fact, I‘m sure we‘re all allocated a specialist nurse; I know I am, and if
I have any problems at home, or anywhere really, all I have to do is ring
up. In fact, I had a problem quite recently, in that my blood glucose meter
broke. And I took it to the chemists, hoping they would be able to fix it
for me, because it just seemed as though it needed resetting, and I couldn‘t
do it. And they couldn‘t cope with it either, so I rang the specialist nurse,
and she was extremely helpful. She went right through all the systems with
me, as to do this, do this, do that, do the other, and when it still didn‘t
work properly she said "well, can you come up tomorrow afternoon and
we‘ll try and sort it out?". So, I went up there with this broken glucose
meter, and she took one look at it and said "oh, I don‘t think we‘ll
bother with that", she said "we‘ll find you a new one". And
with that, she proceeded to bring out three different blood glucose meters
from the cupboard. And we went through how they all worked and which one
suited me fine, and she sort of said "right, well, there you are - take
it home". And then, after two or three days, I had a phone call, and
it was this very nice lady asking me how I was getting on with it. So, I
really do feel that things have improved tremendously, because something like
that, that‘s the sort of thing I couldn‘t cope with, you know. I can cope
with how I feel, but when something technical goes wrong, I‘m just not a really
technically-minded person, I suppose. So from that point of view - yes, the
clinics have improved tremendously.
Do you still see a different
doctor every time?
I do, yes, I do. But there again
I just... well, it‘s one of those things, isn‘t it, with the National Health.
I think if you go, you‘re very fortunate if you do see the same person all
the time. And the only time I had that experience was when I was ill, really
ill with my liver problem, and then I always did see the consultant every
time I went back to the clinic for many weeks. I do feel that specialist
nurses are extremely knowledgeable and very helpful. And I think it‘s really
nice that one doesn‘t always have to see a doctor, which might mean quite
a long wait, but one can just pick up the phone, and even if your own specialist
nurse isn‘t there, there‘s always somebody who will speak to you and give
you what help you require.
Has your husband played any part in managing your diabetes?
Well, I think initially very
little, but then myself, I wasn‘t so bothered about it, so I couldn‘t really
expect him to even think about it. I suppose he was aware of it, just as
I was, but it really was never a problem, so it wasn‘t any bother. But over
the years, particularly since I went onto insulin, he has become very, very
much more aware of it, and very, very supportive as well. He is always anxious
to know how my blood sugars are, and will ask me almost every evening before
I go to bed - am I all right and what are my blood sugars. I don‘t know whether
he thinks I‘m going to sort of cope with something through the night or whatever,
but he is very, very conscious of it. And with my... any… if I’d any problems,
like with my blood glucose meter, he said "oh well, you know, well I‘ll
ring up and sort it out". I mean, he‘ll always do anything that will
be helpful towards it. So I know that… although when I feel myself going
hypo, I think he sometimes notices it as much as I do. I don‘t know whether
my eyes glaze over, but I do get a bit confused and so I suppose that comes
out. And he‘ll be looking at me, and I think "yes, perhaps he‘s right,
perhaps my blood sugars are going a bit low", so I‘ll go and do a little
test, and he‘ll be behind me wondering what‘s happening. But I‘m fortunate,
in that I do have warning signals, and so as soon as I start... I usually
go quite sort of hot and then cold sweaty, I get a bit confused, and then
I go a little bit sort of wobbly around the knees. So, with all these signals,
I can usually nip it in the bud. I usually take four glucose tablets straight
away, and then have something a bit more solid. If it‘s a meal time, I‘ll
have my meal, or I‘ll have a sandwich or something like that. I do need to
rest. I find that it‘s useful if you can just sit down, at least for a good
half hour. Try and not fight it. I find that if I try to fight it, it‘s
just a waste of time, because I do have to sit down initially, so. Four glucose
tablets and half hours rest, and I‘m okay.
So could you describe for me,
then, a typical day or week in your life at the age of seventy six?
Well, I am pretty busy, and my
husband and I, we do various things, both individually and together. We belong
to groups. We belong to a U3A group, where we go every Wednesday in the centre
of Oxford, and that has fifteen or so activity groups, many of which we belong
to, like walking, photography, going out to lunch, history. You name it,
we do it. And my husband belongs to a Probus group, which often involves
the ladies, and all these interest groups as well. We go out at least once
a month on a sort of day trip somewhere. And my husband plays bowls, and
I swim a couple of times a week, and we go walking on the days we don‘t do
any other sort of exercise, but. I don‘t actually go to a keep fit class
now, but I do have exercise tapes at home and I use those a couple of times
a week. And we do the garden, and I think I said that we went walking a lot.
And, I don‘t know, we‘re just sort of generally busy. It‘s usually Saturday
and Sunday where we sort of do the shopping and the garden and the house cleaning,
because from Monday to Friday we are pretty busy. And I just feel well and
healthy, and the diabetes just doesn‘t come into my lifestyle really. I mean,
it‘s just sheer routine now - early morning and before tea, and take my blood
sugars and give my insulin injections. And I just don‘t even really think
about it very much.