For non-identical twins, Ben and Marcus, (pictured with their older brother Jacob) the day starts with glucose monitoring tests and their first insulin injections, usually delivered by mum Helen while they are still in bed at home in Mannings Heath, near Horsham, Sussex. “We need five to six tests a day and about four insulin injections. We do them all ourselves except the first,” says Ben, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes aged five.

Support from others

“We have no problems with teasing, because most children are quite well informed about it. Many say some- one in their family has diabetes,” says Marcus, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 20 months. Both boys are keen footballers, and play for Lower Beeding and Hand- cross Lions, part of the Horsham District Youth football league.

“Diabetes makes no difference”

They were recently selected to play in the UK team contesting the Medtronic Junior Cup, an international football competition for children with Type 1 diabetes, supported by diabetes charity JDRF. “We can do just about any sport; the diabetes makes no difference,” says Marcus.

Extra vigilant

Helen says: “They always need an extra pair of eyes on them at school, clubs and sports, but it helped that I produced a basic diabetes guide that they take every- where, so adults understand the condition and know what to do if there is a problem.” For Helen it has meant adjustments. “I chose to work from home so I can be there for the boys, and you have to be extra vigilant,” she says. “It means a bit more responsibility for you and them— and when they go camping they take a few more things with them.”

Adapting to change

Meanwhile, dad Philip says: “It was a big life change when we got the first diagnosis, for Marcus. We entered hospital with a bouncy 20 month old and left with a child who was going to need multiple injections daily for life. “But you adjust, and when Ben started showing signs we guessed what it was before the diagnosis.” Now Philip understands the issues his boys face from the inside — he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes him- self at Christmas 2011. A cure for Type 1 would change the family’s life, but meanwhile they are well adjusted to living with diabetes. Ben says: “I’d tell other children with Type 1 diabetes to make sure they look after themselves, but not to let it get in the way of their lives — and control your Type 1 instead of it controlling you.”

The solution to Type 1 diabetes is getting closer “Research has identified genes that predispose people to Type 1,” says Dr Aaron Kowalski, researcher with diabetes charity JDRF.

Diabetes Genes vs diabetes disease

But not everyone with the genes develop diabetes, so scientists are seeking the environmental ‘trigger’. Efforts at a cure include enclosing the pancreas’ insulin- producing Beta cells in a ‘packet’ to protect them from the immune system, while new vaccines and drugs that intervene before the Beta cells are killed could aid prevention. New treatments on test include an artificial pancreas which links a glucose monitor with an insulin pump to ensure accurate insulin dosage. “People and organisations must lobby governments to fund more diabetes research to save lives and money,” says Dr Kowalski.