On the eve of World Diabetes Day, as Laura and I watch one of our box set of Laurel and Hardy DVDs, I discover that the great Stan Laurel was diabetic.
I’ve learned this fact in my newly acquired pocket guide to their films. Laura is delighted to hear it: their shared illness provides a new bond with her comedy hero. (Watching the credits earlier, she wished aloud that his surname was spelt with a second ‘a’ instead of an ‘e’ so that it was just Laura with an ‘l’ at the end.)
It’s always good to discover new diabetic role models. It’s not that we’re rejoicing in their misfortune, but I’ve told Laura since her diagnosis at the age of 3 that diabetes won’t stop her doing anything she wants to in this life and it’s good to have proof. I may have over-played this point: she once showed me in a guide to adult education classes a picture of a lady doing an extraordinary gymnastic feat, saying “I think she must be diabetic, because you said diabetics can do anything”.
Laura loves old comedy films. Having watched Laurel and Hardy’s complete output, she’s now working her way through the Marx Brothers. Doting mother that I am, I wonder sometimes, whether, with her precocious sense of humour and her clever way with words, she will be a comedy writer or performer herself one day.
If that’s what she wants to be, diabetes won’t stop her. But had Laura been born into the era of silent movies, she wouldn’t have had the chance to even try. If diagnosed before 1928, she’d have been dead within weeks. The early silent films we have been watching predate the discovery of insulin and the development of insulin therapy. (Stan Laurel became diabetic in the 1940s.)
But even now, insulin doesn’t cure diabetes – it simply holds it at bay. Laura would die without multiple daily injections or infusions of insulin (and by infusions, I don’t mean a tea-type drink – I mean insulin injected into her flesh through a canula embedded in her stomach). She also needs many blood tests every day to help us decide how much insulin to give her. What we still need, so badly, is a cure.
And maybe, just maybe, one day, if Laura’s name is up in lights as the 21st century’s answer to Laurel and Hardy, her biographer, unlike Stan Laurel’s, won’t need to mention her diabetes – because if enough people support the research into a cure, by then it will have been vanquished, edited out and left on the cutting room floor. Well, a mother can dream.
To help fund vital diabetes research on World Diabetes Day, please click here.
(Click here for more about Laura’s passion for Stan Laurel)
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