‘I won’t let diabetes hold me back’ says 21-year-old Chloe
PUBLISHED: 19:00 08 June 2020
Childhood was scary for the Suffolk builder, who’s mum had to wake her up several times a night to keep her alive, but today she’s thriving in her dream job.
Around 4.8 million people are with diabetes in the UK, and someone is diagnosed with the condition every two minutes.
Closer to home, 1,965 patients are registered with type 1 diabetes and 19,320 with type 2 diabetes in Ipswich and East Suffolk. Over in West Suffolk, there’s 1,115 patients with type 1 diabetes and 13,030 with type 2.
Chloe Bentick, 21, of Stanton, has been living with type 1 diabetes for most of her life. Having been diagnosed at the age of four, she wants readers to know that being diabetic doesn’t have to stop you having the things you want in life, and that it can easily be managed with medication and simple lifestyle changes.
“I was at my grandma’s house, and as a child I never really drunk much,” Chloe explained. “But one day, all of a sudden, I started downing glass after glass of sugar-free lemonade. I was running for a wee, downing more lemonade, and then running for a wee again.
“Luckily my grandma has type 2 diabetes, and my mum had studied a little bit about it, so both my mum and dad realised instantly that these were early signs of possible diabetes.”
Chloe was rushed to hospital for tests.
“I was seen straight away,” she said. “They completed a blood sugar test. The usual range for blood sugar should be between four and seven mmol/L, but mine was in the 20s, which confirmed diabetes.”
Having been diagnosed at such a young age, Chloe vividly remembers what it was like growing up with the condition, and some of the struggles that came along with it.
“There were pros and cons, for sure,” she said. “The only real pro I remember was being allowed to eat my snacks in class, and all my friends saying ‘You’re so lucky you can eat chocolate biscuits in lesson, I wish I could!’
“But they never saw the injections, the blood tests, or any of the bad stuff. They really don’t wish they had diabetes.”
Chloe attended three different schools during her time in education, and has nothing but praise for how accommodating her teachers were. “All of the teachers were great and understanding - I cannot fault them,” she said.
Around her peers however, Chloe was sometimes shy when it came to explaining her illness to anyone new. “I didn’t like to tell people, because from around the ages of four to 10 years old, not many people knew or understood diabetes,” she said.
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“I played football my whole life, and when I joined a new club, my dad would always have to speak to the coach and let him know about it. I hated that, because I didn’t want them thinking I was different to the other players.”
Chloe would also avoid attending sleepovers as a young girl, as sleeping every night became a risk of potential death. “I never went to sleepovers growing up, because I was too scared in case something happened and my friends’ parents didn’t know what to do,” she explained.
“From around the age of seven to nine, I had to sleep downstairs with my mum because I went through a phase of going dangerously low every night, around two to three mmol/L, and never waking up when I was supposed to. I could have easily died each night if my mum didn’t wake me up to check my blood sugars.
“She had to wake me up for around one to two years every night, around four times a night to do my blood test. I’d then have to eat or drink to get my blood sugars up if they were low. It was the worst period of my life, regarding diabetes. The nurses at the hospital just couldn’t understand why it kept on happening, which made the matter even worse,” she said.
Fast forward to the present day, and Chloe doesn’t let diabetes stop her living her life. “Being 21 now, I still go out drinking with my friends - I’m just sensible and never go over the top for my own safety. I trust the people I’m with completely, but I don’t like the thought of myself not being in control. I’ve learnt so much over the years having diabetes, and it doesn’t phase me at all,” she said. “I do have friends that I won’t do my injections in front of, though.”
Every morning, Chloe takes 18 units of Degludec insulin every day, which helps keep her blood sugars balanced for 24 hours.
“I’m then on carbohydrate counting,” she added. “Basically, anything I eat or drink, I inject for using novorapid quick acting. I can have two to three injections of that a day, or it can be up to eight or nine times a day, depending on what I eat really.”
Chloe tests her blood sugars anytime between eight and 10 times a day, and this can also depend on what she eats and what she’s doing.
“I can eat whatever I want, within reason of course. I can have a chocolate bar, or ice cream - I just have to inject for it. That’s what people still do not understand with diabetes, and it’s very frustrating,” Chloe added.
With years of having to deal with diabetes and explain her condition to others, there’s some common misconceptions that she’d like to clear up.
“Diabetes isn’t about being overweight, or not being allowed to eat sweets or chocolate - those are the main things that people think and it’s frustrating,” she said.
“Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are two completely different things. People also need to realise that diabetes is a serious health condition, and you can easily die from it, whether you have it under control or not. I see a lot of people with diabetes who can’t get over having it, or can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. It is hard having diabetes - I don’t doubt that. That was me when I was seven, having lows every night and being woken up four times a night by my mum telling me to eat two chocolate biscuits at 2.30am.”
Today, Chloe leads a very happy and successful life as a builder who drives diggers, telehandlers and lays block paving on building sites.
“It just shows diabetes doesn’t have to get in your way at all. There is light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
To find out more about diabetes and Diabetes Week 2020, visit www.diabetes.org.uk
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