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International Welsh sprinter with Type 1 diabetes to inspire youngsters

Inspirational Welsh sprinter, Melanie Stephenson, from Cardiff, will reveal how being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes didn’t stop her from becoming a top-class athlete at a special event in Swindon for young adults with the condition.

The Welsh sprinter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes aged 13. Now aged 29, she has competed at national and international level, and carried the Olympic torch past Cardiff Castle for the 2012 Olympic Games.

She is looking forward to sharing her experiences at #TheBig1, a meetup which Diabetes UK is hosting for 16-26 year olds with diabetes. The free event will take place at Swindon Town Football Club on Saturday, 16 June.

Melanie said:

“It hasn’t been the easiest journey with having diabetes and doing sport, but it’s been incredibly rewarding. Having the condition hasn’t stopped me from achieving. Now I want to pass on the hints and tips I’ve learnt along the way so other people don’t have the difficult journey I had.

“The people coming to #TheBig1 are in an age group where some can lose contact with their health professionals, making this a potentially dangerous time for managing their condition. But I’ve found that when you meet someone else with Type 1 diabetes, there can be an instant connection. You’ve already got so many things in common and talking to others can help you engage with your condition, by learning that you’re not alone with it.”

People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin. It isn’t preventable and people with the condition have to take daily insulin doses to stay alive, either by injections or via an insulin pump.

Melanie credits her introduction to athletics to her “fantastic” diabetes specialist nurses who went into her school following her diagnosis, to educate and explain that the teenager shouldn’t be treated differently to other students. As a result, Melanie’s high school encouraged her to enter an athletics competition.

“I discovered I really enjoyed it,” she said. “Running also made such a difference to my blood glucose levels.”

She believes that being an athlete with diabetes shaped her character.

“Having diabetes was a huge motivator and driving force towards my sporting success. It presented some challenges in balancing blood glucose levels with high training demands. But the experience has taught me leadership, motivation, determination amongst so many other skills.”

One of Melanie Stephenson’s proudest moments was winning a British Universities silver medal for the 200m sprint.

“Before the championships I had experienced a challenging transition from insulin injections to getting an insulin pump, needing time out from training and my studies at the time to find the balance and put my diabetes management first. So returning from this, to win such a prestigious medal felt incredible.”

#TheBig1 will offer the opportunity for young adults with Type 1 diabetes to relax and chat with others in the same age group who are living with the condition. They will be able to hear from Melanie Stephenson, diabetes experts and other inspirational people who have Type 1 diabetes.

The meetup will aim to answer some of the questions people in this age group often raise. How easy is it to travel when you’ve got diabetes? How does it affect relationships? How far can you push yourself in sport? They can also share their own tips and experiences.

Melanie Stephenson, who has added blogger and Diabetes UK ambassador to her CV, said:

“Doing sport and having type 1 diabetes has taught me so much and I want to pass that on to others. I want people to know that hard-work and determination are what can dictate sporting success and that having diabetes doesn’t need to be a barrier to this.”

#TheBig1 will take place on 16 June 2018, 10.30am to 4pm at Swindon Town Football Club. Lunch and snacks are provided. You can also bring a “plus one” and under 18s will need to be accompanied by an adult.

To sign up for a free place, go to eu.eventscloud.com/thebig1. For further information, call Diabetes UK on 02920 668276 or email [email protected].