Type 1 diabetes at Number 10: how the PM copes

By Philip Ivory
Chair of the Patient’s Forum
Older Peoples Diabetes Network (OPDN)

On July 13 this year Theresa May was declared Britain’s 76th Prime Minister (PM) following a period of intense political turmoil after the European Referendum on June 23.may

Mrs May’s arrival has been welcomed by supporters of the Conservative Party and many others. She is generally regarded as a “safe pair of hands” as her Government prepares to negotiate leaving the European Community over the next two years.

Before her election as PM, she served as Home Secretary for a record number of six years at a time when the UK faced serious problems around policing, immigration and terrorism.

Her appointment as PM has come four years after she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2012.

Powerful evidence

In an interview with Diabetes UK’s Balance magazine in 2014, she said: “I would like the message to get across it doesn’t change what you can do.

“The more people can see that people with diabetes can lead a normal life doing the sort of things that other people do, the easier it is for those who are diagnosed with it to deal with it.”

Theresa May’s deeds have confirmed her words. Her time as Home Secretary and as a key member of David Cameron’s Cabinet since her diagnosis in 2012 is powerful evidence that with the right advice and treatment, type 1 diabetes does not affect a person’s ability to cope with the demands and challenges of high office.

In the same interview she made it clear that managing the condition  ” is the same for everybody. You have to get into a routine where you are regularly doing the testing”.

She also explained that “you can still do whatever you want to do, for example, on holiday my husband and I do a lot of quite strenuous walking up mountains in Switzerland, and it [the condition] doesn’t stop me doing it”.

Childhood diagnosis

Mrs May was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she consulted her doctor after experiencing the classic symptoms of diabetes, which include weight loss, increased thirst, tiredness and polyuria.

This type of diabetes occurs when the pancreas can no longer produce insulin which means that the body stops turning food into energy and insulin produced in the laboratory is needed to replace the body’s natural insulin in order to maintain a healthy life.

Whilst only about 10 per cent of people with diabetes have type 1, which is often diagnosed in childhood, it is frequently seen in later life as with Mrs May.

Theresa May’s example of dealing with diabetes will be inspirational to all people who have diabetes and their families.

Here is a confident and healthy woman approaching 60 years of age who is ready to tackle the challenge of leading the UK Government at a time of great change.

The common theme in dealing with diabetes, as with government, is good  management.

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