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Bridgend woman completes Million Step Challenge for Diabetes UK

18 Sep 2022 8 minute read
Cerys John of Bridgend who has just completed The Million Step Challenge for Diabetes UK image by Emma Kneebone

A woman who has been living with Type One Diabetes since she was 8 years old has completed an epic task to raise money and awareness of the condition by taking on the One Million Step Challenge for Diabetes UK.

Cerys John, from Bridgend, admitted from the start that she is a stranger to a long walk, so when she took on the challenge, she did so with some apprehension.

Setting a modest target of £500, she began keeping an online diary on her Facebook page, aiming to document her challenge and address some of the facts and figures and the real-life issues of living with diabetes.

Now at the end of the 12-week epic, she has completed the million steps and has more than doubled her original fundraising target, and her weekly posts have developed quite a following among her friends and supporters.

Starting on the 1 July she announced her intentions to tackle the million steps in a bid to get a grip on her fluctuating blood glucose levels and improve her health and well-being.

She said: “Type 1 diabetes is a serious condition where your blood glucose (sugar) level is too high because your body can’t make a hormone called insulin.

“Type 1 cannot be reversed, it does not go away, there are no holidays from it and, unfortunately, there is no cure……yet.

“For this reason, I have decided to take on the One Million Step Challenge for Diabetes UK.

“My main target is to raise awareness of this chronic illness, give an insider’s view of what it is like to live with T1D on a daily/weekly basis.

“Over the next 3 months I will be updating you on how my challenge is going and throwing in some not so fun facts regarding diabetes.

“Not so fun fact 1: Type 1 Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar!!! However, if you eat too much sugar and don’t take insulin when you’re diabetic, things can get pretty rough!”

St David’s to Porthcawl

Two weeks later she announced that she had managed to complete over 200,000 steps.

“Before my One Million Step Challenge I used to drive to the shop at the top of my road to buy milk. So, to have managed over 200,000 steps in the past 2 weeks is something of a surprise to me.

“My two-week total is 220,437 steps!

“Or…88 miles!!

“Or…141 km!!!

“Or…St David’s to Porthcawl!!!! Not bad for a non-walker.

“Aside from the slip up of missing an insulin shot this week, walking has enhanced my overall blood sugars and improved my mental health.

“Additionally, I have managed to listen to several Audible books during my wanderings and, most wonderfully, my work buddy keeps me company on my lunchtime strolls.”

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Horrors

By week four, she shared a time when she nearly lost the sight in one eye due to onset of a diabetes related condition called Proliferative Retinopathy.

“In my 20’s and early 30’s, I did not believe that continuous high blood sugar levels could cause serious damage to a diabetic’s health. I thought I was immune to such horrors; therefore, I didn’t look after my sugars as well as I should have.

“Fast forward to 2021 and the inevitable health issues start to raise their head. One day in April, I had the sudden appearance of floaters and black spots in my vision. I found it difficult to read, hard to drive and tough to perform my job properly.

“I booked an appointment to see my optician, they took one look at the back of my eye and sent me for an emergency appointment to the Ophthalmology department in the hospital.

“There they informed me that I had a detached retina caused by a condition called Proliferative Retinopathy (the worst one). Essentially, I was on track to lose the sight in my left eye!

“Luckily, I had the wonderful NHS on my side (again). They proceeded to send me on the worst adventure of my life culminating in Vitrectomy surgery. I won’t go into detail of that process but you’re more than welcome to google it!”

Along with this awareness raising post she updated her followers with the news that within a month this erstwhile non-walker had completed enough steps to take her from Porthcawl to Conwy, over 156 miles.

Gamechanging

After spending most of her life reading her blood glucose levels by pricking her finger and then either using injections of insulin or glucose to balance her levels out, Cerys started using the Libra Freestyle sensor which she describes as a game changer.

For week five of her challenge update she explains how it works.

Test, eat, sleep, repeat

As the weeks clocked on, Cerys found more and more ways to raise awareness of what she calls her daily diabetic life, and what people with the condition may endure.

Making a video of the day and compressing it into just two minutes she explains:

“Insulin – I take between 3-8 insulin shots a day, depending on my sugar levels, how much I eat and when.

“Blood Sugars – I test my bloods 5-10 times a day just to make sure my line is not going skewwhiff! And if it is, I either take a correction shot of insulin or get some glucose and carbs in my system.

“Exercise – Walking has made a massive improvement to my sugars. However, with the glorious amount of sunshine we have had of late, I have had to monitor them a little more closely.

“Essentially: Test blood, jab, walk, eat, work, test, jab, walk, eat, work, correct blood sugar, work, test, work, walk, cook, test, jab, eat, play with dog, do some life things, measure and prepare food for the following day, test, eat, sleep…………repeat.

“I would give anything to not have to calculate how much insulin to take. To be able to stuff a donut (or three) in my face without any consequences. To not to have to make the decision whether to leave the treat altogether…. “cos it’s just not worth the high”.

The hypo

With only two weeks of the challenge left to go, she has walked the equivalent of “Southampton to Belford, which I have never heard of, or been to, but apparently, in 1272 it is recorded that Walter de Huntercombe, the Lord of the Manor, was charged with ‘assisting pirates’ there!”

She explains in her post the frightening state of hypoglycaemia, why it happens and what she has to do to rectify it.

“This usually happens if I have taken too much insulin, not had enough food, unplanned exercise or simply just because!

“It’s a scary thing to get a hypo, especially if you get caught out and about with nothing to hand. Or if you’re out dancing with friends and people think you’re drunk, when really, you’re completely sober and having a really bad low! Always fun that one.

“There are many symptoms of a low, some of which include dizziness, feeling hungry and sweating. Symptoms are different for everyone. I know my sister-in-law gets a tingle in her nose! Personally, I get heavy thighs and limbs.

“The best way I can describe a low is…. it’s like when you were a kid and you’ve spent all day at the beach in the sea and in the sun and messing around with your mates and you were having so much fun you forgot to eat, and when you finally get out of the water around teatime… it’s that feeling.

“All T1D’s treat their hypos differently. Ideally, to stop the sugar levels dropping, 5 glucose tablets should be enough. Once the level has stopped dropping then a good 20g of carbohydrates should be consumed.

“However, the method usually goes out the window when the fear of a hypo takes over and the only thing to hand is half a bottle of milk and tub of sugar. In the past a brown sauce with sugar sandwich has indeed saved my life….and yes, it was a delicious as it sounds.”

The grand finale

As Cerys set off on her final 100 odd thousand steps, she said that the next stage of her fundraising and health improving efforts might well lead her to complete the Land’s End to John O’Groats step challenge, which will equate to 1,700,000 Steps or 950 miles.

She completed her challenge this week and filmed her final blog to mark the moment.

If you would like to support Cerys on this quest, her fundraising page can be found here.


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