Aussie Curve Model and Body-Positive Activist Jess Rae King, along with her mum Leeanne and brother Aidan who are both type 1 diabetics, are joining the One Walk Step Challenge!
They chat about their experiences of dealing with T1D as a family, how they manage their diabetes while doing the things they love, the importance of supporting T1D research and more! Grab a cup of tea and let's dive in...
Jess, what has been your experience growing up and seeing your mum and brother living with T1D? What do you feel like you’ve learnt that other people without similar experiences to you, may not be aware of when it comes to living with a chronic illness?
Living with two T1D’s is pretty much all I’ve ever known. Aidan was diagnosed when I was 6 years old and as a family we adapted and changed in order to keep them both as safe and as healthy as possible. Chronic Illness affects the sufferers life in every way imaginable. I think sometimes people really underestimate the lifestyle changes one with Diabetes must undertake. It affects your physical, mental and emotional health. I’ve watched Aidan lose or struggle with friendships because that support and understanding just wasn’t there.
There is so much stigma STILL, surrounding Diabetes and in particular T1. It really annoys me when people think of T1 as something Mum or Aidan brought upon themselves- if this annoys me as someone without T1- I can’t imagine how they both feel. I think a lot of people also don’t realise the expense that comes with being a Diabetic. The supplies that Mum and Aidan both use on a daily basis are really expensive, and there is often little financial support available.
As a family, has your outlook on T1D evolved throughout the years? Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would all tell your younger selves?
JESS: We grew up being told and being under the impression that each year that passed a cure was imminent. Mum has been a Diabetic for 40 odd years and was told when she was diagnosed that a cure would soon follow- within 5 or so years they said! They have been waiting patiently for so so long. I wouldn’t go back in time to tell them this because it’s important to have hope and a dream to look towards.
LEEANNE: Writing a response to this question has meant a great deal of personal soul searching. As a T1D myself and the parent of a T1D, I would tell my younger self to try and find a better balance between being protecting and ‘helicoptering’.
AIDAN: Outlook has certainly changed and in a positive way. The technology progressed to finger pricking to test your blood sugar level, and now, being able to simply inject a Continuous Glucose Monitoring Machine onto our bodies to monitor our sugar levels is amazing.
If I was to tell my younger self anything it would be, hold your head high, be confident and speak up about T1D and the battles that come with this.
As a family, what do you enjoy doing together? Does managing T1D have an impact on doing the things you love doing?
JESS: We love going out for dinner together. Food is always part of our celebrations and time we look forward to. Over the years I’ve watched Mum and Aidan have to meticulously plan ahead if it means eating a special meal. The planning must be so so frustrating and it takes a very organised person to handle T1D well. Given that we had two Diabetics in the family growing up, the only sweets we had in the house were snakes or jelly beans- and despite my sweet tooth I definitely got sick of them too!
LEEANNE: As a family, we enjoy family gatherings, which involve a lot of food and alcohol. The joy of the gatherings can sometimes be spoilt by the heightened awareness of having to be so careful with what I put in my mouth.
AIDAN: Mum and Dad were always awesome with taking my sister and I on regular holidays to getaway and explore Australia. My Mum and Dad have also been terrific with getting my sister and I involved in sports from a young age. The only impact that T1D has had on doing things as a family is watching what we eat. This is something that all should be doing, however it is always easier said than done!
What piece of advice would you each give to a family who deals with managing T1D?
JESS: Listen and be patient with them. It is a scary, overwhelming thing to be dictated by your body. There will be good days and there will be bad days, all you can do is offer your support in any capacity- listening, driving them to appointments, cooking a diabetic friendly meal, encouraging them to get out and about on a walk.
LEEANNE: Educate yourself about T1D and seek counselling about how to manage T1D in a balanced way.
AIDAN: I would encourage parents of T1D children to try and involve their children in Diabetic support camps and try to find a suitable and appropriate mentor who knows the daily issues of a T1D. I was lucky in the fact that I had my Mum to talk to and vent to when I wasn’t happy about having T1D.
Why did you three decide to join the One Walk Step Challenge this year?
JESS: I think it’s so important to raise awareness wherever possible. There is so much stigma and misunderstanding around this condition, and I believe any conversation that could lead to positive change is worth having. I hope that this will prompt people to consider donating or getting involved in any capacity that could benefit those with T1D. Although we are in lockdown it’s also a great way to bond and work towards a common goal as a family.
LEEANNE: I have been a type 1 diabetic for 44 years now and I would love there to be a cure, if not in my lifetime, then the lifetime of my T1D child. We need to be proactive in raising awareness and fundraising to keep the research going.
AIDAN: I joined the One Walk Step Challenge to spread awareness to not only people who don’t have T1D but to also help and show others with T1D that this disease is something that can be managed, controlled and maintained. I also joined as I needed to implement some more exercise into my life and this has given me a great opportunity to do so - especially during lockdown! Getting outside and exercising during these current restrictions has been one of the most beneficial things for getting me through some of the more recent dark arts.
Funds raised in this years One Walk Step Challenge will go towards supporting promising areas of T1D research to discover new breakthroughs and treatments. What do you all hope to see in the future when it comes to treatments and technology for people living with T1D?
JESS: Any sort of affordable treatment or technology that makes the lives of those living with T1D easier. Aidan has had some success recently with medicinal cannabis however this was short lived as the expense became too much. A cure would be an absolute dream but in the mean time anything that can assist in that would be so appreciated.
LEEANNE: I hope to see new technologies continue to come through in the time before the cure. I have seen huge changes in my T1D lifetime. I have gone from using glass syringes (kept in a container of methylated spirits), to an insulin pump, as well as urine tests using a test tube and reagent tablet. I have also used blood glucose monitors that need only a tiny drop of blood which then send the reading to my pump.
I am about to go onto a trial using an implantable device to read my blood glucose levels. Keep them coming!!
AIDAN: A cure. However, as much as I would love the discovery of a cure, the issues I have personally faced daily for the past 25 years and still do, have shaped me into who I am today and for the better. I hope to show and teach that there are of course going to be difficult periods and barriers in your life, though you can achieve acceptance and turn what is considered a negative into a positive.
If people want to connect with you – where can they find you ?
JESS: I am on instagram at @jessraeking - I post mainly about my adventures as a curve model, body image and my beloved cat Draco Meowfoy!
LEEANNE: My Instagram handle is @lark57
AIDAN: I just started my own Instagram account called @back_2_square_one1. This is where I have been explaining the daily life of a T1D, the good the bad and certainly the ugly!