Best friends Beth McDaniel and Ellen Watson became overnight sensations on TikTok after a video they shot gained 700,000 views.
Whilst not intending to become poster girls for Type 1 Diabetes, the pair have now become the ‘Diabetic Duo’ with over 22,400 followers on TikTok.
They have been inspiring people who live with diabetes with their fresh and fun videos that show off their glucose monitors and other equipment used to manage their condition.
Ellen was first diagnosed with diabetes just one week before her seventh birthday. “My mum is an ICU nurse so she was really well aware of the symptoms,” explained former Banbridge High School student Ellen.
“The first few years I found very easy because my mum was so good with injections and made sure everything was perfect because she wanted me to have a normal life.”
But as she got older, Ellen found managing her condition whilst dealing with normal teenage angst to be a challenge, even putting her health in jeopardy at times. “I found it very difficult when I was a teenager and I had more responsibility handed to me,” Ellen admitted. “It is an awkward thing and people don’t want to ask too many questions and at that age you don’t really understand yourself.
“At that age people can be quite cruel and sometimes they would say hurtful things and I would feel ashamed, even though diabetes is nothing to be ashamed about.
“It led to a few years of not looking after myself.”
When Ellen, who is studying Marketing at the University of Ulster and interning at Disney with Beth, started her first job at Donaghy’s Shoe Shop in Banbridge, she met Beth and they formed a firm friendship.
“We actually went to the same nursery school,” revealed Ellen. “But Beth doesn’t remember me.
“When we worked in Donaghy’s we became best friends.
“We were so similar and we really gelled.
“At that stage Beth wasn‘t diabetic but she was so supportive.”
By a strange coincidence it was after becoming best friends that Beth, in 2019 at the age of 20, was also diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
“My little sister Grace was 12 and she was diagnosed nine days before me,” explained Beth.
“It was a big shock to have two children in the family diagnosed.
“They don’t know the exact cause but there can be a genetic component.”
Ellen offered support and advice to Beth when she was diagnosed but becoming an inspiration to thousands more on TikTok certainly wasn’t planned.
“It was just an accident,” continued Ellen. “From no age we loved being in front of the camera. We loved dressing up and having fun,
“TikTok was brand new and friends didn’t want to be in videos so Beth and I filmed anyway and our glucose discs were in the video by accident. It was just one video and it blew up with 700,000 views.
“So many diabetics said it inspired them and we got lots of questions from the non-diabetic community as well, which we enjoyed.”
It was then that the pair realised how important it was to raise awareness about diabetes. “We realised there was a diabetic community online and we had no idea it existed,” continued Beth. “Ellen went for years with no-one to lean on and now we have found this online community and realised we needed to do something. That is what led us to continuing to make the videos.
“We didn’t want to take it too seriously or sit down and plan things out. We lived together in the Holy Lands and just made videos of us going shopping, going out, the highs and lows of diabetes.”
Whether they are sharing their insulin routine or proudly wearing their Dexcom G6 (a continuous glucose monitoring system) to track their glucose levels, the girls aim to break down barriers or existing stigmas by raising awareness and debunking misconceptions around type 1 diabetes.
Even with the pandemic, the Banbridge girls have continued to make a name for themselves and were even featured on BBC’s The One Show.
Ellen continued: “Often diabetes is looked at negatively so we wanted our videos to be fun and exciting. We want people to know there is no need to be embarrassed, you should be really proud.
“We are very lucky that we are best friends and have each other, as well as very supportive families.
“We want to tell all those diabetics who feel isolated or alone that every day is a challenge so they should be so proud of themselves.”
Beth and Ellen were keen to share their story to mark Diabetes Week, which runs from June 14-20.
Throughout the week anyone with diabetes is being encouraged to share their story online using the hastag #DiabetesStories.
Dexcom, the company which creates continuous glucose monitors, which are proudly displayed by Beth and Ellen in their videos, are donating £2000 to Diabetes UK for 200 shares of stories online with the hashtag #DexcomDiabetesStories. So, just like Ellen and Beth, make sure to share your story online and help to raise vital funds fort this important charity. You can follow Beth and Ellen on TikTok by searching for @diabeticduo and enjoy more of their viral videos.