Claire Duncan

Claire Duncan

Music teacher, endurance athlete & OneTouch® Hero

When were you diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes?

I was diagnosed at the age of 23. I had been feeling really tired and had a thirst that could never be quenched! I put this down to the fact that I had just started work as a professional freelance musician and was driving all over the country, keeping long hours and did not have the greatest eating plan!

I was also losing weight rapidly but decided to ignore that symptom as I was happy to be slim with no effort! I was finally referred to the hospital by my GP because of a cyst that would not heal. I remember the nurse looking at my blood test results and chastising me for not keeping my diabetes under control! After telling her that I did not have the condition, I found myself whisked off to the diabetes department and my life changed forever.

After the initial shock of diagnosis, I held on to the fact that this is a condition that can be treated, it was not the end of my life but the start of a new, healthier one. I read every book I could find, started to exercise and learned about nutrition.

My partner was wonderfully supportive and tolerated all sorts of strange diets as I found what worked for me. It was a long time before I really discussed it with family and friends as it was not something I wanted to talk about until I knew how to live with it and I needed to avoid the classic “Diabetes? Oh yes my neighbour’s cat died from that” conversation!

Why did you choose an Animas® insulin pump?

In the early days, I took twice daily injections of mixed insulin. This was very restrictive as I had to eat a set amount of carbohydrate at the same time each day, not convenient with my lifestyle at all! I moved to multiple daily injections of fast and slow acting insulin which was much more flexible but still did not allow me to cope with my growing love of endurance sports.

When I decided to tackle my first Ironman® triathlon event in 2009, I realised I needed a pump!

The Animas® 2020 pump was the perfect choice for me as it was waterproof, easy to read and tough! The Animas® Vibe® Insulin Pump is even better with the CGM taking the stress of diabetes and the threat of hypos out of my sporting challenges.

How did your Animas® insulin pump change your life?

The pump has finally allowed me to fit my diabetes around my life, rather than the reverse! The biggest joy was the freedom to eat and exercise when I wanted to. The absence of long-acting insulin means that I can be much more spontaneous, whether it’s taking a bike ride or walking the dog.

I can also use the combo bolus feature to eat out in restaurants, without worrying about guessing carbohydrates and portion sizes, which means I can enjoy socialising with my friends without fear of hypos. Diabetes can lead to restrictions and dull routine, the pump allows me to be flexible in everything that I do, which is how I like to live my life.

What sport do you practice, and how has the Animas® Vibe® Insulin Pump had an impact on exercise for you?

My biggest love is endurance sport. Before I had an insulin pump I was constantly finishing training sessions with blood sugars of 2 or 20! I now realise that this was mostly due to the inaccurate doses of insulin that I was getting from insulin pens and the inflexibility of long-acting insulins.

I started to lose my hypo warning signs due to stubbornly training through low blood sugars and it was only when I had cycled through central London with a BG of 1.9 I realised that things had to change! I first started on an Animas insulin pump to allow me to tackle the Ironman triathlon, an event that covers a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike
and 26.2 mile run. Once I was used to my pump, I had the fine control necessary and finished this 16 hour event with a BG of 5.6, very happy!

Injury has made running difficult for me and so my time now is taken mostly with cycling. Recently, I have completed two 24 hour bike races and am aiming to do two more this year. The joy of the pump is that I can adjust my insulin during the event.

Appetite and energy levels can vary a lot over 24 hours and so I will adjust my insulin levels as necessary, helped by the constant guidance from my CGM.

I have also realised that each sport I take part in needs a different adjustment, for example, I used to play hockey which needed a different adjustment to when I was training for the channel swim! I often use the temporary basal function to allow me to correct for the stress and adrenalin of race day which can be very different to training conditions.

Distance racing is hugely about fuelling your body, whether you have diabetes or not. I use the pump to allow me to adjust my insulin to match my appetite and environment, so that I can take on fuel and keep hypos at bay!

Animas Hero Claire Duncan at the Diva Ride in June 2015

What are your main day-to-day challenges with Type 1 diabetes and how do you cope with them?

I do not really see many specific challenges these days as diabetes is just part of my life. I like to make sure I know when / what I will be eating, so that I can take my insulin early enough to avoid a spike in blood sugars post meal. I make sure I always have spare diabetes kit and hypo treatments with me each day but to be honest that is like checking I have keys, cash and a phone before I shut the front door! I think having diabetes means I have to be a little more organised than most but for me, that is not a bad quality! I still have to battle the “awkwardness” I feel when treating a hypo at work. I am a teacher and children notice everything, sneaking sweets or drinks in a lesson feels naughty! I would also love to go out for a meal and think how delicious it looks without analysing nutrients!

What would you say to someone who has heard your story, also lives with Type 1 diabetes and now wants a challenge of their own?

I think it is so important to have a challenge that you have chosen for yourself. Something that excites and inspires you, whether it is a fun run with friends or a channel swim! Diabetes is a challenge that we have no choice but to accept but the confidence that you can gain from choosing an event, planning your training and achieving your goal is
immense, go for it!

What advice would you give someone who has just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes?

Insist on the best tools to handle your diabetes (for me it is the Animas® Vibe® Insulin Pump & CGM System) and take advice where necessary from your health care team or fellow PWD. Learn as much as you can about the condition, knowledge is power and it helps to control the fear. Find a variety of support, sometimes it can really help to
connect to other PWD who understand what you are going through, there are many groups available on social media sites. Remember that you control your diabetes, it does not control you and it should never stop you achieving your dreams.

Animas Hero Claire Duncan doing her end to end ride