Wales Online - Mel Stephenson: 'Being diagnosed with diabetes at 13 isn’t going to hold me back'

A few days ago I told you about an article that was going to appear on Wales online and in the South Wales Echo... and here it is. If you'd like to watch the video or be taken to the Wales Online website- click here!

Anyone watching Mel Stephenson running along the racetrack would have no idea that she’s suffered from type 1 diabetes since she was just 13 years old.

The 26-year-old, from Gabalfa in Cardiff, looks a picture of health and has never let the condition stop her indulging in her love of exercise.

She was first diagnosed in 2001, when she was 13, and had spent months feeling incredibly thirsty and tired – so much so that at night she would hold her head under a tap.

“I’ve never known a thirst like it. Nothing I drank would quench it and I remember getting up seven or eight times a night to have a drink. It was like being in a desert and I would drink anything.
“Some nights I would just hold me head under the tap but nothing seemed to get rid of the thirst. I was also extremely tired and just felt really unwell. My mum took me to the GP who tested my urine and I then had a blood test too and that’s when they told my mum to get me to the University Hospital of Wales."

“That’s when they diagnosed me with type 1 diabetes, which occurs when the body’s own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. I remember having to have a shunt in my hand which was very painful but as soon as they gave me the insulin I started to feel better almost immediately.”

Mel said it was a shock to learn she had diabetes but with the help of some wonderful nurses, who helped tell her how she could manage the condition with insulin injections, she gradually got used to the idea.

Diabetes UK Cymru are marking Diabetes Week with the theme #iCan proving that you can still live a normal life and Mel is proof that living with this condition hasn’t stopped her.
She has represented her club and country at athletics, she carried the Olympic torch into the capital in 2012 and she still trains five times a week at Uwic’s National Indoor Athletic Centre.
She also works full-time as a media online graphics manager and volunteers for Diabetes UK, helping other youngsters come to terms with diagnosis.

At the moment she is part of their Young People’s Programme, a group of people aged between 18 and 30 who facilitate and deliver workshops for young people with diabetes and their families. One of the key aims of the programme is to give young people the confidence to manage their own condition.

Mel has also recently set up a local diabetes group called Blue Circle, which aims to support young adults living with diabetes in Cardiff and across Wales.
“I started volunteering after running the 200m in the British Universities Championships in Sheffield and winning a silver medal in my event. I sent Diabetes UK an email to let them know about the achievement and they said it would be great to have me on board as a media ambassador.
“I had a bit of time on my hands and wanted to give something back. It’s so rewarding to share experiences with other young people and to show them that life can carry on. I hope it helps that people can see what I’ve been able to achieve.”

After having to give herself up to 10 injections a day as a teenager Mel was then was given an insulin pump, which replaces her injections and pumps insulin directly into the body.
The size of a mobile phone, it is worn permanently, with a small needle inserted under her skin delivering both fast-acting and long-acting insulin – meaning she can control the levels depending on her activity.
Although she did have to stop training when the pump was first fitted it wasn’t long before she was back on the track.

“I’ve had it for five years now and it’s really good. I didn’t really have any choice about having it but I would never go back now. The freedom it gives me is absolutely amazing. It’s meant I could carry on with sport and I hope that shows young people that it’s possible to do anything.
“You can have diabetes and still pursue your dreams. My mum never told me I couldn’t do anything and I’ve taken that attitude into my adult life.”

Diabetes Week runs from June 8


Post a Comment


Meet The Author

My blog takes you through a daily look at sport, diabetes and everything in between. As an athlete that lives with type 1 diabetes I want to let you into news, views and all that is important to both of my passions.

Twitter Updates