Diabetes affects people across all socio-economic and ethnic groups. And being rich and famous doesn’t have any bearing on treatment either – it still requires the person to eat well, and regularly perform their blood sugar tests. Below, several well-known names talk about diabetes and how they manage it around their busy lives.
1. Halle Berry (Actress) Type 1
“Ultimately, Diabetes Turned Out To Be A Gift”
“Diabetes caught me completely off-guard,” said Halle Berry back in 2005. She was referring to the time she lapsed into a diabetic coma as a young actress; unaware at the time she had the disease.
Looking back, she admits there were signs (raging thirst, constant tiredness, blurred vision etc.), but Halle had thought she could ‘tough them out’. After a week in hospital, it became apparent she had diabetes that was long past the stage it could be managed just through diet and exercise.
“However,” she says, “I firmly believe now I’m healthier than I have ever been in my life.” Her first step was to change from an unhealthy diet to one low in sugar, fat and processed foods. “In came chicken, fresh veg, pasta and fresh fish,” she says. Halle also banned red meat, and cut back on fruit due to the fructose (fruit sugar) it contains.
“I use a blood glucose monitor to test my blood sugar levels at least a couple of times a day,” she says, “but I feel so fortunate that I can take insulin. It saves me from becoming ill. Ultimately, diabetes turned out to be a gift. It gave me strength and made me tough because I learnt to face reality, no matter how uncomfortable or painful.”
2. Theresa May (Prime Minister) Type 1
“It’s Business As Usual”
Diagnosed in 2013, the UK’s Prime Minister has always insisted her condition would not affect her work. At first, she was misdiagnosed with Type 2, but on hearing she was actually Type 1, she was shocked (it is usually diagnosed before the age of 40).
Theresa had shown symptoms, but put them down to the pressure of her work (ask any politician about tiredness and they will tell you it’s just part of their normal day).
“It doesn’t and will not affect my ability to do my work,” she says. “I am now more careful about what I eat, and of course, there are the injections to manage. But I’m in the same boat as millions of others. It’s business as usual.”
3. Steve Redgrave (Olympic Sportsman) – Type 2
“Diabetes Must Learn To Live With Me”
When Steve Redgrave finished training back in November 1997, he was thirstier than ever. In fact, he drank four pints of fluid and still found no relief. That was when he knew something wasn’t right.
With a diabetic grandfather, Steve was aware of the condition, and suspected that it was a possibility he now had it. After blood sugar testing, his level proved to be 32 (a normal level would be between 4 and 7) – Steve was immediately sent to a specialist, and has been on insulin ever since.
At first, he thought the diagnosis of Type 2 was the end of his career, saying, “I didn’t know enough about the condition at the time. And there were so few people in sport with the condition at the level I wanted to be at. I got very depressed at the thought this may be it.”
However, after consultation with his specialist – Steve was assured there was no reason why he couldn’t continue with his dream of a gold medal at Sydney.
Steve needed a high sugar diet for the energy to perform (and provide around 6,000 calories a day), and this was managed by adjusting insulin doses accordingly. He was also performing up to 10 pin-prick tests a day, as it was vital to carefully manage such an unusual diet and exercise regime.
“I was fortunate to have the specialist I had,” says Steve. “A ‘regular’ specialist would have said it was impossible to manage things that way. But I won my gold medal and felt fine.
To manage his diabetes now, Sir Steve uses an insulin pump (about the size of a pack of playing cards) which feeds small amounts of medication to him constantly.
“There are fundamental changes you have to make when you discover you have diabetes, “ he says, “but I made the decision that diabetes was going to live with me; I wasn’t going to live with diabetes.”