Karen Tatlow

Posted: 20.03.2019

Tamworth woman’s difficult journey with diabetes is inspiration behind show garden

One woman’s traumatic struggle with Type 1 diabetes has inspired her step-mother to design a show garden to raise understanding and awareness of diabetes.


Emma Tatlow, 24, now a trainee dental nurse, has faced a number of challenges managing the condition over the last five years, experiencing both physical and emotional issues.

Garden designer Karen Tatlow, who lives in Lichfield with Emma’s dad Tony, witnessed the daily struggles Emma has overcome in order to move forward with her life.

Karen, said: “I think unless you have seen someone battle with diabetes first-hand, you will find it hard to understand what a difficult, frustrating and at times all-consuming condition it is to manage.

“You need to be on top of it every single day. There is no day off, but the right support, care and education really can help.”

In a bid to support others Karen and fellow designer Katherine Hathaway are working with Diabetes UK to create a show garden which will feature at this year’s prestigious RHS Malvern Spring Festival (Thursday 9 to Sunday 12 May).

Karen said: “One of the key messages behind the garden is the emotional and physical journey made from diagnosis through to managing the condition well. This is shown via a dark, more difficult pathway that leads through to an easier, brighter pathway, with a seating area for rest and quiet reflection.

“Emma has been on a rollercoaster of a journey, which at times has been very difficult for her and also for all of us who care about her. We are really delighted to be working with Diabetes UK to shine a light on this incredibly important issue by exploring the emotional impact of the condition as well as the physical side.”

Emma said: “I’m really excited about the garden and hope that the message behind it reaches people and increases their understanding of the condition.

“It’s been a long and difficult journey to get to where I am now. I tried to carry on as I had planned in life and went to university just months after my diagnosis, but I struggled to cope and ended up having to abandon my studies and come home.

“I took up a new job, but severe anxiety and nerve pain in my legs were contributing to a serious lack of sleep and I found myself in a really dark place.

“I had a lot of support from my boyfriend, family and workplace, but it took a lot of intensive work and sessions with a diabetes psychologist to help me through to where I am now. I also found the Diabetes UK forum a good place for advice and sharing experiences.

“I’m in a good place now, but having a routine and ensuring I eat well and exercise regularly has helped my physical and mental health.”

Emma lives with her boyfriend Dan and their rescue dog Trigger. She hopes her experience will help others and revealed that the technology she wears on her arm, a ‘FreeStyle Libre’ continuous blood glucose monitor, which enables her to monitor her blood sugar levels without having to prick her fingers, has given her so much confidence.

“It is like I have been living with a blindfold over my eyes for years, but now it has been taken off and I can see much more clearly. It especially helps at night when I used to worry about low blood sugar levels,” added Emma.

Karen said: “This technology has been so influential in getting Emma to where she is now, that we had incorporate it in some way into the design of the garden. So data downloads from her monitor have been used to create the sculptural graphs.”

“I really hope people visit the festival and enjoy the garden. It will be stunning and thought- provoking.”

Visit www.diabetes.org.uk for more information. For details on the RHS Malvern Spring Festival visit www.rhsmalvern.co.uk

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