Expert Patient Steve Bowman tells his story
I decided to attend the ‘Living Well’ Expert Patient Programme because I suffer from Type 2 diabetes and wanted to get some professional advice and meet other people with similar conditions.
Type 2 diabetes has been in my family for generations so it didn’t come as shock when, I too, was diagnosed with it. As well as being a patient I am also a carer for my sister who suffers so severely from diabetes that she lost her big toe to the condition. I spend several days a week checking in on her and taking her to and from hospital appointments.
The course itself was enlightening and very well organised. Around 12 patients attended, all of whom, like me, were retired and therefore could dedicate the time and mental focus required to get the most out of the two week course as possible. Part of each session consisted of a meditation exercise which I thought was a very good idea. It helped me and the others on the course relax and get into the right mind set for the rest of the session. There were also unusual and imaginative elements of the session, for example, being asked to close our eyes, think of a flavour and imagine we can taste that flavour. I also received a booklet full of information on chronic illnesses and help that is available. I found it invaluable and still dip into it from time to time.
I made some good friends on the course. I thought it was important not to lose touch after the course finished and to keep the support system going I arranged a fortnightly coffee morning with a few of the other patients on the course. It started off really well but after a couple of months dwindled down to only a couple of people. I was sad but wasn’t surprised as some of the patients had much more complex conditions than mine and treating them is a full-time job. I’m still in touch with one other patient which I don’t think is too bad two years on!
Luckily I’ve never suffered from depression because of my condition but I know many others who haven’t been as fortunate. When people ask me how it feels to have a chronic illness such as Type 2 diabetes I tell them that coming from an engineering background I liken the pancreas to a hot water cylinder which, when scaled up, more energy is needed to heat up the water. With a boiler you can simply turn up the temperature, unlike a fatty pancreas which is only able to produce a certain amount of insulin.
I wholeheartedly recommend the course to anyone suffering from a chronic illness. It not only helped me be in better control of my illness but also to be a better carer for my sister.