Break the silence surrounding diabetes

Name: Peter Jihde
Age: 46
What: Has type 1 diabetes and recently published the book Vår Diabetes (Our Diabetes), together with his wife, Karin Jihde.

Portrait of Peter Jihde.

“In December 2012, I sought medical advice for a badly infected pimple on my nose. At first, we exchanged a few light-hearted comments about my swollen face but the atmosphere became serious when a blood sugar test revealed a potentially fatal level. I had been feeling tired, thirsty and sweet-toothed for months, but I put it down to my extremely early mornings on TV4’s morning news programme. Later that day, I was informed that I had type 1 diabetes.

My wife, Karin, who has diabetes in her family, was initially more upset and afraid than I was. Only when I read-up on the disease online did the darkness descend over me.

The worst thing about living with diabetes is that it is no longer possible to be spontaneous and take life as it comes. That I must have my insulin injections, and some form of sugary food or drink with me at all times in case my blood sugar level sinks too low. But I have accepted this and adapted my life accordingly. I have also demonstrated that it is possible to work in inaccessible places despite my diabetes. So, I live a good life, even if I know that I might die in a couple of hours – given that rapid falls in blood sugar are both difficult to predict and can easily go unnoticed.

Increasing numbers of people are contracting diabetes and, for me, it is obvious that research is needed into the causes of diabetes but also a cure must be sought, links to diet and exercise investigated and better technical aids developed. Irrespective of which regional health authority, which doctor or what job the patient has, diabetics must have access to the best available technical aids. This will pay for itself a million times over given that diabetes-related injuries to feet and kidneys, to name but a couple of examples, currently cost society so much more.

The disease has also opened up many opportunities to me. For example, I have published a new book, made a documentary and hosted a gala on diabetes. Through my Instagram account 'Jihdes Diabetes', for a year I showed every injection, every day, so that nobody would need to feel ashamed and to break the silence surrounding diabetes. This has put me in touch with many people in the same situation. What I do then feels meaningful.”

As told to: Helena Mayer, first published in Swedish in Medicinsk Vetenskap No 2/2018.