Dealing with Diabetes – An Open Letter to Theresa May

Dear Theresa,

I know that you’re hugely busy, so I wouldn’t be in the least offended if you don’t remember me, but we have met a number of times. If you do remember me, it is probably as the slightly scary man who injected himself as we were both waiting in the “green” room of a Welsh Conservative Party Conference – just before you were going on to speak.

I write following the news reports over the weekend that you have discovered you have type 1 diabetes – something that I have had since the age of 13. I have the pleasure of injecting myself with insulin up to four times a day. I remember asking you if you minded if I did an injection in the “green” room I mentioned before as I needed to eat something.

I thought I would offer you some ‘top tips’ with dealing with diabetes whilst being a politician.

1) Always carry some Dextrol tablets with you!

These can be a life saver – literally! Head to a pharmacist and buy as many as you can carry! Whenever your sugar levels go low, I find four of these tablets sort you out! But I have been caught short! I remember being at a residents’ association meeting and some constituents came up to me afterward wanting to harangue me over something. I remember I could feel my levels starting to drop – but had nothing with me to resolve this. When my levels go low I lose the ability to concentrate and feel very faint. I had to make my apologies as I was struggling to pay attention and I am sure that they thought I was just being rude! Somehow I managed to walk the short route to the local Sainsbury’s to get some chocolate and spent some time outside the store waiting for my levels to recover.

2) Get yourself on a DAFNE course ASAP

Since the age 13, until about six months ago, it had been drilled in to me – that I had to eat my breakfast at 7.30, lunch at 12.30 and Dinner at 7.30 – which is not ideal for Politician’s like ourselves! DAFNE (Dose Adjustment For Normal Eating) changed my life! When I first had the honour of being elected and because council meetings started at 7pm, I would sit and eat my dinner during them. I now have the freedom to eat what I want, when I want. And if I don’t eat anything – I don’t have to inject! Download the app on your phone, so you can work out what to inject when the food arrives and find more info about it here

3) Get yourself an amazing Diabetic Doctor

It has taken me a while – but I now have the perfect diabetic doctor. Our busy life styles means we (well I do!) struggle to take as many blood tests as they would like. My diabetic doctor understands this. He never lectures me and works with what I have and the data from the ‘big’ blood tests that I do take. Sometimes, because of work and council commitments, I have to cancel appointments within 24 hours – my doctor understands this and arranges to see me when I can. Don’t ever go private! The best diabetes care is on the NHS – and my doctor is proof of this!

4) Don’t believe Gary Mabbutt is the answer!

At the age of 13, I was sat down in front of horror videos of diabetics with one arm and one leg – and then the video cut to Gary Mabbutt (The Ex Spurs captain who is famous for being diabetic!) injecting insulin into an orange and was told this is the proof that being diabetic is not the end of the world. This was very hard to take as a 13 year old kid who was a mad Arsenal fan – I did not want to be anything like Gary Mabbutt! Ian Wright was my hero! It’s important to remember that diabetes is not a death sentence and that life is for living. Diabetes can be successfully managed and sufferers can live a long, full life. If you’re doing the right things then you’ve got more chance of being hit by a bus than dying of diabetes. In other words, if you really feel that you want to eat a piece of cheesecake then go ahead and enjoy that piece of cheesecake! It’s easy to think that you can’t eat anything, but it’s not true – you can, but just be careful when you cross the road.

Hope this is of help! Maybe we can get together soon to have a chat about all of this!