Written by Marc Cronin
My name is Marc. I’m 34, married, dad of one, diabetic and a below knee amputee.
I was diagnosed with diabetes in June 2013. The doctors have told me they estimate that I have had diabetes for roughly 10 years, undiagnosed. Which is why my diabetes has been so aggressive. I have had vitrectomies in both eyes, problems with my teeth, developed foot ulcers on both feet, one of which became infected and resulted in my having 3 toes and the ball of my left foot amputated. Due to complications after the surgery I then went on to have a below knee amputation. All this within just under 4 years.
I had my foot amputated in June 2016. In September 2016, a picture I posted of a Lego leg I made went viral. During this time I was waiting for my first prosthetic leg. I kept getting asked when I was getting my proper prosthetic and other questions that you would think an amputee would know. I realised I didn’t know anything. I was an amputee but had as much understanding of my disability as an able bodied person might. I spent time online researching and found some information written by medical professionals and people in the States. I’m from the UK and, unless you have some savings/rich parents/decent credit rating to go private, the NHS takes care of you and that’s that. They give you one page of info along the lines of: ‘your leg will come off, you will get a basic leg replacement when we get the time’ A lot of the information they give you online is inaccurate. The information is more of a guideline as to what help the average amputee will receive. And as with all areas of my diabetes so far, I was not an average amputee!
Diabetes is not a nice thing to have. In fact it’s sh*t. Apart from getting all my prescriptions for free and having a very valid excuse to have “daddy’s sweets” that the kid can’t touch, it’s much harder than I originally thought. It’s a pain in the arse (well, not anymore. You inject in the stomach now!) I have not always been lucky enough to have to shove needles in me everyday.
It was only 6 years ago I was diagnosed. Things got serious very quickly. I first thought I had a problem when I cut the tip of my toe off clipping my nails. It bled but didn’t hurt so I saw that as a good indicator to go and get myself checked at my GP. I have always been a thirsty person so I didn’t see the amount of fluid I was drinking as a sign or that I needed a wee every night I’ve always done those things. So I went and got checked out and on June 10th 2013 (my birthday!) I was told I had diabetes.
I’ve had bad things happen in my life but never something that just involved me. Being told you have a disease which, in a lot of cases, is due to you not looking after your body is not a nice thing to be told. I remember thinking that I’d let myself down. My doctor told me it was type 2 but couldn’t understand why I had it. I wasn’t overweight, I was under 40, relatively healthy I guess, didn’t eat or drink any more than any other male my age. I’m just unlucky. But as you walk home from the doctors past the pub and the kebab house and you think of all the fat blokes who don’t have it you think well why me!? I’ve already lost my hair at 27 am I not being punished enough?
I went to the hospital to see the diabetes specialist and the nurse who gave me a load of leaflets on what to eat. I thought it was going to be straight forward: don’t eat chocolate, don’t drink coke, etc. I was wrong. You add peas to the Do Not Eat list because they are just as bad and while we’re at it cut out fruit because of its natural sugars. This was what I got told I’m not saying this is the right or wrong information just what I got told.
I was also given my new trusty ice breaker: my blood sugar monitor. Handy tip, if you’re at a party and you need to strike up a conversation whip out you tester and prick your finger in front of someone. They’ll be super interested and it usually starts a game of who has the lowest sugars. I’ve never won but I can imagine being the winner is similar to what being a Leicester city fan feels like.
I use to have to check my bloods 4 times a day to begin with and keep a diary of the readings. This became a chore and if you can rope someone else in to write it down for you makes it easier. They can also remind (nag) you to do it. Make a game of it, put a wager on what you think the result will be. Loser makes tea. Diabetes can be fun.
Within the first year I was back and forth to the doctor twice a week to be reviewed. Which usually meant they checked my log book and upped my dose. By the end of the year they put me on Metformin and Gliclazide. 2 tablets of each twice a day.
After having my first amputation I changed the hospital I was being seen at and they diagnosed me with type 1 and put me on insulin. Now, four and a half years later, my blood sugars are more stable thanks to the insulin and a mixture of tablets.
As time is passing, I'm learning more about my illness and my life as an amputee and I'm happy to be working with the British Heart Foundation in spreading awareness about diabetes and being part of their research team.
Here is a link to the British Heart Foundation page where there's a little bit about me but also where people could donate if they want to