I have been living with type 1 diabetes for 25 years now. The relentlessness of type 1, and the fact that I will probably live with this non-preventable condition for the rest of my life never goes away, but I have almost made peace with it.
A few days ago, I saw something that gave me pause. “British man with type 1 diabetes to receive tests after coming off insulin,” read Diabetes.co.uk’s headline. The article goes onto say that, “Daniel Darkes, from Daventy in Northamptonshire, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes seven years ago. But his recent tests have baffled doctors as his pancreas has shown signs of working properly again.”
My first thoughts upon reading this were, “this can’t be true,” and “what’s the real explanation here?” There are many types of diabetes including type 2, LADA, and monogenic. Maybe he actually had one of those types instead of type 1. Usually, tests can determine this quickly though, so why was it not the case with Dan?
I live in the UK and I wanted to get to the bottom of things. I managed to get in touch with ‘Miracle Dan’, as he’s been called by his friends. Although he is saving the specific details of his recent test results from the U.S. for an upcoming exclusive interview with another media outlet, he spoke to me and answered some of my questions about everything that has been happening.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your diabetes. When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes back in February 2011 at the age of 23, after just leaving the army. I started a new engineering job and within two weeks of starting, I noticed the traditional symptoms of type 1 diabetes: thirst, weight loss, blurry vision, and a lot of vomiting. I collapsed and was taken by ambulance to hospital where I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
I have always controlled my diabetes pretty well since my diagnosis seven years ago. I do a lot of long distance running, which could possibly relate to this, as some of the tests are proving at present.
Did you have a test to measure for c-peptide at diagnosis that confirmed your body was no longer making any insulin at all?
I was tested and those tests did say my pancreas was not making any insulin at all. There was definitely nothing there in terms of insulin production. I was also previously tested and had the antibodies that destroy beta cells.
How did you realize that you might be ‘cured’, and can you tell us more about that? What was the change you noticed?
I was going low a lot, waking up hypo in the night. Eventually, after blood tests, including ones that showed my HbA1C was lowering, and getting lower, I was told by my doctors to reduce my insulin intake. I was eventually told to come off it completely.
What types of tests have you been going through? What can you tell us about those test results?
What has happened has never been seen before, so I was sent to St. Louis to get tests done. They included a run with fasting for 6 hours beforehand. I was sent there mainly to undergo more extensive tests than could be done in the UK. One such test included a data microchip and physical exercise to determine sensor movement from my brain to see if there was a sufficient trigger in my cells, especially as my body was going into exhaustion mode.
I do a lot of long-distance running and there is a theory that one of my 100-mile ultra-marathons may have shocked my body into producing insulin again. There will be more information coming out soon about the results of my tests.
Is it possible you were just misdiagnosed as having type 1 diabetes when really it was another type?
I definitely had type 1 diabetes. I have gotten many comments online that I was just misdiagnosed and it was type 2 diabetes, but I was on Novorapid and Lantus for 7 years – taking 15 units in morning, 12 units at lunch and then another evening dose. I do not think I was misdiagnosed. I know what I had.
Is there an official name for what has happened to your body?
There is no name as of yet for what I have, but within the next few weeks, no doubt there will be.
Are you completely off insulin now? What’s next for you in terms of your healthcare plan?
I have now been off all insulin since December 2016. I will have regular check-ups, and regular blood tests to monitor all of this.
How do you feel about everything that has happened?
Right now, I am feeling delighted and shocked. I sleep better, feel sharper and alert, and I am full of energy.
A big thank you to Daniel for taking the time to speak with me. To be honest, I am more baffled than ever, but I’ll be anxiously awaiting more information about Dan’s test results.