Life is sweet despite illness

WHEN Conor Kelleher couldn’t quench his thirst, no matter how much he drank, he knew it was time to take matters further. “I went to my GP and he sent me on to hospital,” says Conor, 40, a self-employed stonemason from Dripsey, Co Cork, adding that he was also passing a lot of urine.

A diagnosis of diabetes was made. “I spent a week in hospital where they regulated my blood sugars and got me used to injecting insulin. I have Type 1 diabetes, which is hereditary,” says Conor, who was 32 at the time of his diagnosis.

According to the Diabetes Federation of Ireland, diabetes mellitus is caused by a lack of or insufficiency of insulin. In diabetes, the pancreas makes too little insulin to enable all the sugar in your blood to get into your muscle and other cells to produce energy. High blood sugar levels build up because the sugar, which cannot get into the cells to be used, now builds up in the bloodstream.

Type 1 diabetes is associated with early childhood or early adult life, whereas Type 2 diabetes usually develops slowly in adulthood. It is estimated that over 191,000 people in Ireland have diabetes. More worrying is the estimation that there are approximately 30,000 people in Ireland with undiagnosed diabetes, and a potential 146,000 people have undetected pre-diabetes.

“I find that my work can burn my sugar off,” says Conor, who also does a lot of walking and set dancing. “My wife, Mary, also helps me to work around the diabetes as she’s very much into healthy eating.”

As well as taking insulin injections, Conor also eats little and often and has snacks in between his main meals. “If I forget to take an injection, I’ll feel tired and sluggish, so I have to check my sugar levels, take my insulin injection and check it again after 20 minutes.”

For Conor, adjusting to diabetes wasn’t as tough as he expected — for a man who was afraid of needles. “When I was got diabetes first, I lost about a stone in weight and I remember saying to Mary that losing weight wasn’t a hard thing to do at all. But the weight was falling off me, and I was afraid that it was something else. So when I was diagnosed, I couldn’t believe that’s what it was because I was afraid of needles. But it wasn’t cancer, so I got on with it.”


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