'My doctor warned me to change or it would kill me'
We're proof you can hit back against diabetes
Fintan Murray (57), from Belfast, is a Hansard reporter at Stormont. Married to Karen, he was diagnosed with Type 2 after his weight went up to 26 stone. He says:
Over the years I just kept putting on weight. It was by just not looking after myself. It came to a head about 10 years ago when I developed sleep apnoea. My doctor checked me out and said I was Type 2 diabetic.
I was put on the Metformin medication. I would have suffered all the typical side-effects of diabetes like tiredness and lethargy and I had concerns too about circulation in areas like my legs and feet.
I was carrying an awful lot of weight. At my heaviest I had got up to 26 stone. It got to the point about five years ago that my doctor warned me that I needed to do something about it because it was going to kill me.
She actually recommended Slimming World to me. I resisted it initially, being a typical bloke, because I thought it would be a bunch of women sitting in a room talking about recipes. Then, when I met Karen we decided to join Slimming World together. That was in 2013.
I stuck to Slimming World and I went out walking and on my bike. Within 18 months I had lost eight and a half stone and the Type 2 diabetes is gone.
I remember the nurse making a big play of officially taking me off the register.
It felt really, really good. I've been off the Metformin for two years now and I'm officially not diabetic any more.
It's like being a recovering alcoholic, it is always there and it could come back.
I have no doubt that if I started to eat rubbish again and put on weight I would contract diabetes again. But I have a determination now to be healthy. It actually changed my life."
Sandra Smyth (57), from Londonderry, works for Derry City and Strabane District Council. She developed Type 2 after being treated for breast cancer. She lost eight stone after joining Slimming World and taking up walking. She has been off her diabetes medication now for almost a year. She says:
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2006 and about two years after that I was still on treatment and developed Type 2 diabetes. They said that the chemo affected my liver and because I was so overweight already anyway, that it was likely that I was going to get it.
Actually, I took the diabetes diagnosis worse than the cancer one — because diabetes was within my control, I brought it on myself, whereas the cancer was not.
I really had no diabetes symptoms. It was only because I was getting blood tests because of the chemo and liver function tests that they picked it up.
They put me on Metformin, a medicine used to treat the condition. I started off on one tablet a day and then went up to four. At one stage I was taking 2,000mg of that every day.
Because I was on the medication for cancer I put weight on, though people reassured me the weight would fall off when I stopped taking that. I was heavy to start with and when I stopped the medication the weight didn’t actually fall off. I was just getting bigger and bigger. So the penny eventually dropped. I realised I had to do something and I joined Slimming World and started exercising.
Before, I would have done no exercise at all. I was a real couch potato just lying about, overeating and going to and from work. Now, I walk everywhere. I have done a few charity walks and have even climbed Mount Errigal, which I would never in my wildest dreams have thought I could have done.
I have lost eight stone and doing so has made a world of difference in my life, not least as regards my self-confidence and how I look and behave with other people. I am not hiding myself away any more.
I am completely off my diabetes medication now for almost a year. They reduced it by half last year and then in August of last year they took me off it completely.
It felt wonderful. I have changed my own life. I have turned it around.
I’m more active and more interested in life. Before, I would have sat in the corner with my head down.
Now, I’m loving life and just being me.”
Dromore DUP councillor Paul Rankin (42) was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes 12 years ago. He says his weight had shot up to 19 stone through overeating and lack of exercise.
A diabetic nurse told me I wouldn’t see my 40s if I continued with my unhealthy lifestyle. It provided the wake-up call I needed and I lost six stone.
Miraculously, I baffled doctors by gradually needing less and less insulin, before finally being taken off the diabetic register 10 years ago.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was 30 years old. I wasn’t well and went to the GP, who then sent me to the hospital.
My sugars were up near 30 and I was diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes that day.
I was put on insulin and I was on it for two years.
Before I was diagnosed I would have drank so many fizzy drinks.
I could have drank two litres of Coke without a second thought.
I would have eaten takeaways regularly and eaten rubbish. I didn’t look after myself at all and I was 19 stone.
I remember speaking to a diabetic nurse at one of my reviews.
She told me that if I didn’t change my lifestyle I would end up dying of a heart attack or some other serious diabetic related condition.
She just gave it to me straight. She told me that I might not live to see my 40s.
It was a wake-up call for me, a real shock to the system. I cut out all the fast food.
I started playing football again, like I did in my teens.
I got back into the Dromore Amateurs FC and I lost more than six stone in two years.
I found that my pancreas started regenerating and I needed less and less insulin until eventually, after a few years, I didn’t need any.
I went to one of my six-monthly diabetic clinic check-ups at Lagan Valley Hospital and they discharged me.
They said that what had happened to me was not very common at all.
I had been on a medical driving licence because of the diabetes and I got my full driving licence back and I haven’t been on any medication whatsoever now for 10 years.
I am a Christian and have a strong faith.
The way I look at it is that I got the strength to overcome my diabetes and my faith played a big part in that.
I couldn’t have done it on my own.
This has completely changed my life.
When you are 19 stone you have no motivation to do anything. Diabetes affects you in so many ways.
I’m glad I turned it around.”
Father-of-two Dominic Linfort (35) from Clogher in Co Tyrone was diagnosed with Type 2 after reaching 25 stone. The stay-at-home-dad suffered years of depression before taking control of his health and weight. He hopes to be taken off his diabetic medication next month. He says:
I developed diabetes 10 years ago. It was after my wife had gestational diabetes. She had a blood sugar test kit in the cupboard and I tried it.
I was a lot heavier then and I would have eaten a lot of sugar back then. My blood sugars were really high, so I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with Type 2.
I wasn’t overly shocked by the diagnosis. Being overweight, it was to be expected. I was 25 and a half stone at that point. I was very big and my diet wasn’t great. They put me on Metformin and I took 2,000mg a day.
I started losing weight about two years ago. I did some exercise and in just over a year I lost two and a half stone, then I plateaued and didn’t seem to lose any more. Then I started the Exante diet a few months back and I lost another two stone. I’m booked in for my diabetic review now in the second week of August and it is hoped that I will either greatly reduce my medication or come off it completely.
My energy levels have really gone up. I can play with the kids in the garden. I am able to walk around the shops easily. I am even able to put on my own socks myself, which is a novelty. I’m more interested in life now. I was severely depressed when I was very heavy.
I’m still on a journey. I’m still heavy, but by Christmas I am hoping to be at my target weight.
I got to a point that I was so depressed, I couldn’t get out of bed. It was that bad. And I would eat and eat to cover the bad feelings. I was emotionally eating. And I would say to people that when you get to that stage, you need to take a serious look and see where your life is at and that a change has to be made.
My doctor told me that if I didn’t take control I was likely to have a heart attack, or develop Type 1 diabetes.
My advice to others is to make sure they mentally decide that enough is enough and they really want to lose the weight.
It’s not easy — it takes a lot of dedication and hard work. But it is doable.”