T2D As A Catalyst For Change: How Jamie Focused On Poetry + Community
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Jamie Knight’s type 2 diagnosis came as a shock – like it does for so many. After the initial shock, he started doing some research and educating himself on type 2 diabetes.
He found a strong online community and started sharing his exercise routines on Instagram, connecting with others who are on the same journey, and writing poetry. He says helping others really lifts him up, too.
BT2: Hi Jamie, Thanks for chatting with us! When were you diagnosed with type 2 diabetes? What were some of the symptoms you had?
Jamie: I was diagnosed in May of 2018. I had felt unwell for a few months before and was generally feeling lethargic, tired, and was going to the bathroom frequently. I actually went to my doctor to get checked out for prostate cancer as frequent urination is one of the key symptoms. To rule out other things, my doctor did some general blood tests and this is when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
How does diabetes impact your day-to-day life? What changes did you make to your everyday life after you were diagnosed?
I used my diagnosis as a catalyst for change – I adapted my food intake, educated myself about carbohydrates, and began exercising on a frequent basis. I ensured that my exercise effort was consistent 12 months a year and when possible I only eat whole, home-cooked foods.
In August 2020, I had a few lows during exercise, so my medical team suggested that I come off my 500mg dose of Metformin to see if my blood sugars remained stable. Since then my Hba1c has been below 43 (U.S. 6.1%), which is under the pre-diabetic range. The change helped me focus and reinforced all of those good habits I had developed. It was a challenging step but one that has so far been straightforward.
How was the transition?
I found the transition quite straightforward as I enjoy whole foods, love vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, etc., and enjoyed the process of having a deeper understanding of what I was eating. It can be frustrating, I find the winter months the hardest as that is when the cravings start for more processed foods. I have always enjoyed exercising and played soccer up to the age of about 45. I had become a seasonal exerciser and was much less active in the winter. I chose walking as my exercise, easy to do, low cost, and more challenging than you might think.
We love seeing your exercise pics on Instagram! What’s your favorite way to exercise?
I love to walk, run, and cycle but it all started with walking. My favorite time of day is sunrise, I love being outside early morning, where there’s no traffic, no distractions, just me, the weather, and my surroundings. I have developed my walking into running and have participated in fundraising events for charities like Diabetes UK, The MS Society and The Samaritans. So far I have raised over $4000 and have walked/run marathons and other distance-based events.
What differences do you notice in your blood sugar levels when you exercise vs. when you don’t exercise?
When I don’t exercise I feel less alert, I don’t sleep as well, and I generally do not have the same level of focus. I am not sure if this is blood sugar-related, but I certainly feel better all around – physically, mentally, emotionally, after a good walk or run.
Success with type 2 diabetes can mean different things. What does it mean for you outside of the recommended guidelines?
The biggest element has been liking myself again and forgiving myself. Type 2 diabetes has such a stigma that it has been hard to open up about it. I also want to live a long and healthy life and doing positive things to help myself do that is a big part of my motivation.
How do you cope when diabetes gets hard? What kind of things do you do?
It does get hard, it can be overbearing and all-consuming, simple things like going to a café or a restaurant can be quite daunting. When I am really feeling overwhelmed, I walk, run or write and try to mentally reset. I express my doubts and fears on Instagram and offer other people advice. Inspiring and helping others is also very uplifting and it holds me accountable to the community I have created.
What are some words of inspiration to other people with T2D?
If you are newly diagnosed, don’t panic and don’t beat yourself up. Educate yourself as much as can and try and use the diagnosis as a catalyst for change. Also, do not get overwhelmed! Try not to micro-focus on having to lose lots of weight, but rather, on making small changes for your overall health. Try incorporating more whole foods one day at a time. If you want to lose weight, think about losing 10 pounds and break it down into little steps. Stay active. Get inspired and be inspiring!
You enjoy writing about diabetes and other topics. Has reflecting & writing about your diagnosis had a positive effect on you?
Absolutely, it has had a positive effect on me – reflecting and looking after my mental health has been a key feature of my success to date. I was lucky to come across an initiative called #mindtalk on Twitter during the COVID-19 lockdown. It was run by an inspirational lady, Charlie Webster, who had a near-death experience when she contracted malaria in 2016 while reporting on the Rio Olympics for Sky TV. She taught me and the group so much about opening up, she inspired my own Instagram account, my vehicle for sharing my story.
Can you share any articles/blog posts/quotes/poems with us?
I have been writing since I was 14 years old. I have written 4 published articles for the MySugr Blog, part of the Roche group. Here are a few of my blog posts:
- The Aftershock of my Type 2 Diagnosis
- Type 2 Diabetes – “It’s a marathon, not a sprint!”
- The Nutrition Minefield – How I Deal with Food as a Person with Type 2 Diabetes
- Jamie On Getting Active with Type 2 Diabetes
Here is a diabetes-related poem I wrote:
An accumulation points its loaded finger at me
Unresolvable fatigue becomes who I am
Foggy thoughts and confusion
Followed by a crash and a burn
My ever-present thought as I wake each day
Strangling freedom and humility
An invasion that I did not welcome but was
Unable to repel
Am I forever under its spell?
I will fight you
Better still I will control you
Although, you have become me.
My favorite quote:
Tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand!
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