Phillip Schofield: Life with Diabetes doesn’t need to change
Real Stories In support of Diabetes week 2014, ITV television presenter Phillip Schofield speaks on the importance of people with diabetes ruling their condition.
Why do you feel so passionate about raising awareness for diabetes?
It is always easy to support something that has directly touched your family. My brother and mother are both Type 1 diabetics and have been for the last 25 years, so it is something that as a family we are very used to. If either of them have a hypo (a Hypoglycaemic episode which occurs when blood glucose levels drop, usually below 4 mmol/L), we can recognise the signs and we know what to do. My Mum goes particularly bonkers when she goes low, so when she starts talking nonsense we know what’s happening.
It is one of those things that we have understood over time and one of those things that we are very much aware of.
I am very passionate about separating Type 1 diabetes from Type 2 diabetes and that is something that we only spoke about recently on This Morning. We made sure that each Type has its own definition as there is a real ignorance and misunderstanding about that, so if I can help to make that clearer I will.
You mentioned that your mother and brother both have Type 1 diabetes. What prompted them initially to go and get checked, were there any recurring symptoms in both cases?
My brother was first to be diagnosed and he had an unquenchable thirst for fizzy drink, which was very unlike him. That continued for a few days, he was acting completely out of character. So we took him to the doctors and he was very quickly diagnosed. Then 6 months later my mum was diagnosed in the same way.
they were convinced that it would not be something that ruled them, but instead they would be the ones controlling it
My brother was very young at the time of diagnosis, probably in his late teens. He had always been very healthy and active. He is also 7 years younger than me so it was a shock, as far as we were aware there was no history of the disorder in the family.
That must’ve taken its toll having two family members diagnosed consecutively in a short space of time, what was your reaction when you found out that your mother and brother had Type 1 diabetes?
We are very good at coping. We don’t panic in a crisis, we don’t lose our heads and we try not to get too dramatic. We all sat down as a family and we went through all the information that we had been given about the disorder.
We said ‘OK, that’s fine, we’ll do this together’. We decided at that point that if we do this properly, life doesn’t need to change. We are all very active and you can live your lives without people even realising that you have Type 1.
Ever since that day, they have dealt with diabetes remarkably well because they were convinced that it would not be something that ruled them, but instead they would be the ones controlling it.
Were you aware of diabetes before the diagnosis of your family members?
I had two friends who had diabetes when I was younger. When I was 15, I had one friend who was Type 1 and he used to disappear and inject himself with a giant hypodermic needle, I was certainly aware of that. I remember thinking this is an extraordinary thing you have to do every day.
Now I see my mother and brother using an insulin jar and shots that are small enough to fit into your pocket. I’ve also got another friend with Type 2 diabetes who treats himself with pills, so I was aware of the treatments but less-so of the disorder itself.
And what advice would you give to others in your situation and people that have Type 1?
For people who actually have Type 1, I would just say if you’re diabetic, be a good diabetic. Make sure you constantly monitor yourself, stay aware of your levels and have a good medical team that you can go to for regular check ups.
And as a family member or close friend of someone who has just been diagnosed, obviously it won’t be the best day of your life or theirs. It will come as something of a surprise, but pick yourself up and move on because medical teams can do various things to control it and it is something within their lives that is part of who they are. It really doesn’t make a difference to them as a person at all.