A diagnosis of diabetes is shattering for many people. But for Ramona Mulligan, it was the impetus she needed to turn her life around.
She discovered she had diabetes in March 2009 after feeling unwell and going to see a GP for the first time in three years.
Her blood sugar was high and she was sent for tests, which showed she was glucose intolerant and could have diabetes.
Ramona, 46, said: “It scared me. I had lost a very dear friend to diabetes and heart disease several years before.
“I had also recently almost lost my mother to diabetes.
“She had some sort of an attack, like a diabetic seizure or stroke, which caused her to go into a diabetic coma.”
Ramona weighed 17 stones and she decided it was time to do something about her health.
She immediately stopped eating sweets and changed her eating habits in general, plus she started to do more exercise.
When she returned to Whittle Surgery for more test results, she had already lost one-and-a-half stone.
But the nurse, Jeanette Iman, then told her she had type two diabetes.
Ramona, of Kiln Croft, Clayton-le-Woods, said: “I was devastated and immediately started crying.
“Rather than treating it like a death sentence though, I decided to be positive.
“The nurse said I could still live a healthy and long life, but had to make some changes.”
Ramona saw a notice on the surgery’s bulletin board for a 12-week activity programme and made an appointment at a gym.
She was given a workout routine and started going to the gym regularly, continuing after the 12-week programme finished.
Through her job as a branch manager with recruitment agency Adecco, Ramona attended a talk that summer by Lord Sebastian Coe, who spoke about the Olympic Games coming to London in 2012.
He encouraged her to volunteer and she signed up to be a “games maker” at the Olympic and Paralypmic Games.
Ramona, who has a son and two stepchildren, also started volunteering for Bolton Lads’ And Girls’ Club and entered the Great Manchester Run in 2012 to raise money for it.
She said: “At that time, I had never run.
“So I walked the first nine kilometres and ran the last kilometre.
“I wanted to see what it felt like to run, and it gave me this wonderful feeling.”
Ramona continued to exercise and lose weight, and the following year she took part in the race again, doing a combination of running and walking.
As well as exercising in the gym, Ramona started running at Cuerden Valley parkrun, a free, timed 5km run held each Saturday.
The first parkrun took her 43 minutes to complete and she has become a regular at the event, knocking six minutes off her personal best.
And last week, Ramona did the Great Manchester Run again, this time running the whole way and finishing in one hour and 22 minutes.
She was also raising money for charity Diabetes UK.
Ramona, who moved from the USA to Chorley in 2004, said: “I ran it from start to finish, and that was a huge achievement for me.
“I have only ever done 5k runs.
“So it was a great achievement for me to be able to run twice the distance.”
Ramona has now lost seven-and-a-half stones and continues to run and go to the gym, as well as walking her dog Alfie every morning.
Unfortunately, the progression of her diabetes means she has recently had to start to take insulin to control it.
But the changes to her life have made a big difference and she hopes her experience will give hope to others diagnosed with diabetes.
She said: “I want to reach people who might be struggling with obesity or diabetes and inspire them to get active.”
And she paid tribute to her husband, Kirk, and her nurse, Jeanette, for all the help they have given her.
Ramona said: “I was devastated when I spoke to Jeanette and she said I could still live a long and healthy and happy life and she was right.
“I have never felt healthier and happier.
“I weighed 17 stone when I got the diagnosis and now I weigh just nine-and-a-half stone.
“It has completely changed my life.”
n Ramona is still raising money for Diabetes UK.
To make a donation, go to www.justgiving.com/Ramona-Mulligan2.