Another Ms May with Type 1 – by Helen May


Theresa May, the UK Home Secretary, has just been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. In the article I read, the journalist suggested this diagnosis could mean she would have to give up her career in politics. Thankfully, she responded that it did not affect her ability to do her job.

This reminded me of one of my soap-box topics: Diabetes should not stop you doing what you want. Whilst I have been preaching this message for some time, I have only recently realised there are two audiences: those connected directly with diabetes and those not.

Diabetes UK and JDRF publish their fair share of inspirational stories and blogs of people with diabetes who achieve amazing feats, like Jos climbing Kilimanjaro . These stories are great to highlight to the diabetes community what we can achieve and not to give up.

However, the stories I read in the mainstream media are about issues such as bad quality of care for diabetes or risks such as the latest study regarding disability in people with diabetes or how to avoid getting type 2 diabetes and how to check if you are at risk.

I understand the value of these messages to, for example, try to get a good quality of care for everybody with diabetes. However, I would like to see something else. The story I want to see in the media may seem contradictory: diabetes is a bad thing to have because of all these terrible complications that we could get, but, when we can still do fantastic things, like climb mountains, win Olympic Gold medals and look after the country, some may think it is not that bad afterall.

But I am sure the diabetes community could combine the positive messages with the messages about deserving good care. For example, if children with diabetes are given the same opportunities as children without diabetes (such as making provision for children with diabetes to go on school trips without their parents), they can gain the freedom to achieve amazing results just like their peers.

So when Diabetes UK asked what problems they should cover more in a survey, I responded that they should not just focus on problems: they should give positive messages to the non-diabetes world to stop ignorant journalists asking Theresa May if she should give up her chosen career because she has to inject insulin. I hope my namesake (but not relative) can use her position to help the diabetes community with positive stories as well as supporting their campaigns such as access to test strips through her personal experience.

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