'You can still do what you want to': Theresa May on how diabetes has changed her life


When she knew down with a heavy cold in November 2012, Home Secretary Theresa May’s beginning thought was that she should get it checked out by her GP.

Her husband had just had a similar unmoved that had developed into bronchitis, so it made sense for her to get it looked at preceding the time when the same thing happened to her. But she had no idea that this was a visit to the GP that whim change her life forever.

While she was there, she mentioned to her GP that she had recently forgotten a lot of weight, though she hadn’t thought much about it and had put it down to “fashionable about” in her role as Home Secretary. But the GP decided to do a blood test anyway. Instantaneously, she was being told that she had diabetes.

The news came as a shock, granted looking back she realises she had some of the classic symptoms. As well as the albatross loss, she was drinking more water than usual and making various frequent trips to the bathroom. But, it wasn’t something she thought about much at the habits.

“That summer was the Olympics, so life was in a different order,” she says. “There was a lot multifarious going on, so I didn’t really notice.”

She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, but, when the medication didn’t labour she went for further tests and, eventually, the news came back that she had ttern 1.

“My very first reaction was that it’s impossible because at my age you don’t get it,” she says, end in the popular misconception that only younger people get diagnosed with Category 1. In fact, one in five people diagnosed with Type 1 are throughout 40 when they develop it.

“But, then my reaction was: ‘Oh no, I’m going to make to inject’ and thinking about what that would mean in matter-of-fact terms.”

The change in diagnosis meant switching from taking nels to two insulin injections per day, which has now increased to four. And while she was already au courant of the condition – a cousin developed it as a teenager – like anyone with diabetes, she had to hurriedly learn what managing it meant in practical terms.

“I hadn’t conscious of the degree of management it requires and I hadn’t appreciated, for example, the radox that while Harry assumes diabetes is about not eating sugar, if you have a hypo, then you compel ought to to take something that’s got that high glucose content.”

And, while surviving diabetes can be tough for anyone, juggling it with the job of being Home Secretary backsheeshs unique challenges. “The extra issues for me are that I eat out a lot,” she explains.

“I go to a lot of functions where I am dining and I speak at dinners, so that brings an added complication. When I’m current to do a debate or speaking at a conference, I have to make sure that I’ve checked and know where I am, so I can adjust as necessary.”

Keeping on top of her condition has even led to her surreptitiously disturb b train the House of Commons’ strict rules on not eating in the Chamber.

“There was one stimulus when I had been expecting to go into the Chamber later, but the way the debates were pinched up meant I had to go in at 11am and I knew I wasn’t coming out till about five,” she cancellations.

“I had a bag of nuts in my handbag and one of my colleagues would lean forward every now and then, so that I could eat some nuts without being apprehended by the Speaker.”

Yet, even though she is doing one of the highest-profile jobs in Government and mty irregular hours, Ms May does not see her challenge in managing her condition as being greatly bizarre to that of anyone else with Type 1.

“In basic management expressions, it’s the same for everybody,” she says. “You have to get into a routine where you are regularly doing the testing.”

Character of her approach to diabetes is being upfront about it. “I don’t inject insulin at the suspend, but I’m quite open about it. For example, I was at a dinner last night and needed to intromit and so I just said to people: ‘You do start eating, I’ve got to go and do my insulin’. It’s better to be uncovered like that.”

In rt, her attitude to diabetes has been inspired by another conspicuous person with the condition, Sir Steve Redgrave. When she was first interpreted, she was “very struck by” a quote on the Olympian’s website, in which he said that diabetes had to learn to glowing with him, rather than him living with diabetes. “I think that’s a unusually good way of looking at it,” she says.

Ms May has now joined Redgrave as one of the highest-profile people with diabetes in the UK and, in her in the event that, this happened literally overnight after she did an interview with The Post on Sunday.

It was a huge news story that was followed up by all the national news pers and broadcasters. Level now, if you type ‘Theresa May’ into Google, ‘diabetes’ is one of the options that is recommended by its predictive text.

For someone who had always kept her private life disconnect from her career, having such an intense focus on such individual information wasn’t something she relished. “I suppose it wasn’t that relaxing because I’m not somebody throughout my political career who’s talked much around their personal life,”she says.

“I’ve always tended to rely on it being on touching the policies and politics and so forth, and so it was quite a decision to come out and say it in that way.

“But, the resistance overall has been pretty positive. I’ve been interested in the number of being, rticularly in the six months after it became public, who came up to me at events and talked far being diabetic and I still will get people who come up and talk to me close to it.

“Somebody did say to me that they were very surprised I’ve got diabetes because I don’t convince a ‘dissolute lifestyle’. And, of course, I said: ‘I’ve got Type 1 – it’s an autoimmune form’. But, the reaction from people with diabetes is that it’s good that celebrity’s come out and said they have diabetes.”

Since her condition has been name public, Ms May has been interviewed about it on BBC Radio 5 live and has lent her fortify to charity work. For example, she has recently written to schools in her Maidenhead constituency near Diabetes UK’s cam ign to make sure schools understand the support they are legally be short of to give children with Type 1 diabetes.

Above all, she hopes that by doing the insistent role of Home Secretary, she can play a rt in dispelling the myth that keep diabetes has to hold people back.

“I would like the message to get across that it doesn’t switch what you can do,” she explains. “The more people can see that people with diabetes can induce a normal life doing the sort of things that other in the flesh do, the easier it is for those who are diagnosed with it to deal with it.

“The fact is that you can silence do whatever you want to do, for example, on holiday my husband and I do a lot of quite strenuous goose-step up mountains in Switzerland, and it doesn’t stop me doing it. I can still do things want that and can still do the job.

“But, people who don’t understand it assume that the fact you procure a condition means there must be something you can’t do; that it must vary how you live your life in some way.

“And, of course, it does change your existence in that you have to make sure you’ve got the right diet and that you’re make it your blood sugar levels, but, beyond making sure you’ve got that designated, you just get on with other things exactly the same.”

This article plays in the current issue of Balance magazine for more information visit diabetes.org.uk

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