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A healthier me

Case Study

posted by Research Admin 1 on 17 June 2019

Ngawai shared her story in the Autumn 2019 issue of Diabetes magazine.

I thought being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes was the end of my life but I’ve found it’s actually the beginning of a better me. By Ngawai Hamblin.

I turned 30 last year and two months before that, in June 2018, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Three other whānau members have T2D, one of them hasn’t looked after himself well and his kidneys have failed, so diabetes is huge in my family.

I had the warning signs, including gestational diabetes with my second child, but I didn’t change my lifestyle until it was too late. But I did take action from the day I was diagnosed. Now I go to the gym three times a week and swim once a week. I can run three-minutes non-stop, that’s a huge achievement for me. My diet has completely changed for the better and I’m 2kg away from my initial 10kg weight loss goal. My blood sugar level dropped from 15 to 6-8mmol\L.

I have a long way to go but I’m making a difference for myself and my family. I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved and I don’t say that about myself enough. 

I live in Cambridge with my husband and our two girls, now aged four and two.

When Ella was a few months old, I was still feeling tired during the day, I couldn’t sleep and I put on so many kilos that I was back at my pregnancy weight. My energy was gone – I had none, and the nature of my job and my kids put a lot of pressure on me. I realised I couldn’t fit my clothes well and my house was getting messier, I was too tired to look after it.  

I kept blaming it on my iron being low, I have thalassemia minor, but at the back of my mind I knew it was diabetes. I didn’t want to have diabetes so I put off getting tested. Then last June I had major pain in my side and went to the doctor. I felt horrible, with fatigue and migraines, and I was always hungry or thirsty. I asked for a diabetes test too. Later that day he asked me to come back as soon as possible and the truth came out. I already knew though. I felt like a failure to myself and that my life was heading the same way as my grandad and uncle.

Two things helped. A friend on Facebook had been going through the same as I was and she posted publicly about her diabetes journey. Then there was my own determination. No more excuses – I was soon to be 30 and it was time to make things right. 

I told my boss and one friend, who were both very supportive. A few days later my doctor contacted me and organised a meeting with a nurse as support. The appointment was amazing. She sat down and explained about good foods and put them in categories, which to this day I’m so thankful for because it’s made my meal planning and diet so much easier.

After many attempts going cold turkey and failing after one day, I decided to try making small changes. I cut down sugar in week one, the next I cut down my  bread to two slices, then in week three I cut other carbs. I found changing gradually was a lot easier to stick to.

I trained my mind in small steps and I think this has been the reason why I’ve kept going. 

After a few weeks I went from 10-15 blood sugar levels to 5-8. I was feeling good. I was eating a boiled egg on toast, Weetbix, or a healthy smoothie for breakfast. I had fruit and Greek yogurt for morning tearather than white bread (I really like bread). I eat low-carb lunches and dinners and allow myself atreat now and then.

Exercise was another issue. I didn’t know what to do or when to do it. Then we had our annual staff days at work, where you could choose healthy activities to try. I chose tai chi and a gym circuit. I enjoyed the tai chi and loved the circuit. Three days later I signed up at a local gym along with a friend. We go Monday, Friday and Sunday and we do running, biking, strength and circuit training. I swim once a week. 

I still have days where I fall back into old habits and have extra bread or a small treat, but instead of one leap backwards it’s one step back and three steps forward. I now get lots of compliments about how I look. I still have a way to go before I can say I’ve reversed my diabetes, but I’m thankful my diagnosis kickstarted my determination to get back to better health and a new me.”