‘More than just a support group’

The Limavady Diabetes Support Group (l-r): Cecil Craig, treasuer; Daphne Thorpe; Kenny Bingham, secretary; Hilary Caskey; Gary McDaid; Gretta Gamble, Sandra Guy; Jim Conley, chairperson.
The Limavady Diabetes Support Group (l-r): Cecil Craig, treasuer; Daphne Thorpe; Kenny Bingham, secretary; Hilary Caskey; Gary McDaid; Gretta Gamble, Sandra Guy; Jim Conley, chairperson.

Cecil Craig joined the Limavady Diabetes Support group a decade ago having been lined up as “a likely candidate” because of a similar role in his local church. For the 75-year-old, diabetes was something he was always aware of as his wife, Ethel, had been living with the condition - Type 1 - for some years.

However, the condition came even closer to home when Cecil was diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes 12 years ago.

Jim Conley chairman, with Hilary Caskey diabetes nurse, Cecil Craig treasurer of the Limavady Support group Diabetets UK pictured with Naomi Breen fundraiser Diabetes UK at one of the group's annual fundraising walks at Benone beach. INLV2315-383KDR

Jim Conley chairman, with Hilary Caskey diabetes nurse, Cecil Craig treasurer of the Limavady Support group Diabetets UK pictured with Naomi Breen fundraiser Diabetes UK at one of the group's annual fundraising walks at Benone beach. INLV2315-383KDR

“It was a shock, yes,” says Cecil of the diagnosis.

“It came about by chance, really, when I was at a local chemist and they were doing screenings. I was waiting for a prescription and I thought I would get screened. They detected my blood sugar was high and suggested a follow-up with my doctor and, well, the diagnosis followed.”

These days Cecil says his diabetes is well controlled thanks to healthy eating and daily exercise involving a brisk five to six mile walk.

“I feel all the better for it,” he says, explaining he has injections four times a day. “The amount I have to inject each time is about a tenth of what it used to be. It has dropped dramatically, so I’m happy with that. People talk about the condition being reversed and others say it’s in remission. I’m happy at the moment.”

Cecil says since his diagnosis the support from the group has been great; to be able to share experiences and stay informed about diabetes. He says they have about 30 members, and hold meetings on the third Momnday of each month.

Cecil says they would love to attract younger members, and hopes their use of social media, including Facebook, will help bring some younger faces on board.

“We tried outreach meetings to attract younger people, but they didn’t seem to be interested,” says Cecil, “so we’re hoping using social media such as Facebook will help.”

The group fundraises for Diabetes Research and, through its annual charity walk at Benone beach and street collections, they have raised thousands of pounds.

The group also holds weekly weigh-ins, when members have to pay a pound for every pound they gain.

“It’s the only place you are guaranteed to lose a pound,” jokes Cecil, who says the group is an important part of his life and that ‘it’s more than just a support group’.

“The craic’s good, and it’s even better if you’re losing weight!” jokes Cecil.

Cecil says the group is indebted to Hilary Caskey from Limavady for her support over the last decade.

Hilary is not only a Community Diabetes Specialist Nurse, employed by the Western Trust, but also an active volunteer with the Limavady group; a role she says she says she is honoured to have.

It is Hilary’s work with the group which merited a volunteering award from the charity Diabetes UK.

“It was the group that nominated me for the award and I’m honoured and privileged to receive it. I hope it inspires others to give up their spare time and volunteer. It’s lovely to see it come to Limavady,” she says.

Hilary says being involved with the group allows her not only to provide professional support in an informal setting, but it’s also a way for her to give back.

“Being a professional in a voluntary group is definitely very worthwhile, “ says Hilary.

Like Cecil, Hilary hopes younger members will come on board and volunteer with the group.

“They can optimise the potential that is there for support in an informal setting and influence the future of the group,” says Hilary. “I’ve made genuine friends in the group and it’s a privilege to be part of it. I don’t lead the group. I am there for support, and I’m happy to be there. I’ve made genuine friends and you are valued.”

l The Limavady Diabetes Support Group meets at LCDI Roe valley Hospital in the town. Meetings are held on the third Monday of the month at 7.30pm.

The group’s next scheduled meeting will be on March 21st.

The topic of the meeting is ‘Diabetes, Young People’s Holidays’. They will also hold a sponsored walk for Diabetes UK on Benone Beach on May 28th at 2pm. They will hold their annual street collection on July 2nd in Limavady and all funds collected are in support of Diabetes Research.

For information or if you’re interested in volunteering call Cecil on 07540929860.