A post about my first official talk as a volunteer speaker for JDRF
Earlier this year I trained as an official volunteer speaker for the JDRF, the leading charitable fundraiser for research into a cure for Type 1 diabetes, which affects both my husband and our daughter. The training day was held at the the London headquarters of the UK branch of this global charity, bringing together dozens of volunteers whose lives had been affected in some way by this incurable, serious disease. We had an uplifting, inevitably emotional day sharing our experiences as we practised our talks. For some participants, it was the first time they’d ever talked publicly about their illness (or their child’s, depending on who had it).
New post in response to ill-informed and offensive PR piece by Jamie Oliver, influential chef and campaigner for healthy food
NO, JAMIE OLIVER, NO!
An Open Letter to Jamie Oliver, Top Chef, Food Writer and Campaigner for Healthy Eating
On my Facebook timeline this morning, a friend whose child, like mine, has Type 1 diabetes, alerted me to this provocative photo of you on your own Facebook page, as part of your campaign to encourage children to drink water instead of colas and other sugary drinks:
Now, I have a lot of respect for you, because instead of coasting on your high income and national treasure status, you have stuck your neck out with a substantial and controversial campaign to encourage families and schoolchildren in particular to embrace a healthier diet. When I say controversial, most of what have said in your campaigns is a no-brainer to anyone who is not a hardened McDonald’s addict: avoid processed food, eat a balanced diet, turn your back on fast food. (Some misguided parents continue to shove BigMacs through school railings to kids averse to trying your lovingly prepared, home-cooked school lunches, for fear of the unknown.)
But Jamie, you – or at least your publicists – really should know better than to make the schoolboy error indicated by your photo. You may be self-made, but you surely have some qualified dieticians as part of your team. And as any dietician will tell you: drinking Coke instead of water does not cause Type One diabetes.
Let me expand upon that statement.
Contracting Type 1 Diabetes has nothing to do with diet. It is an incurable immune disorder that affects people at random through no fault of their own. The part of the body responsible for producing insulin – the hormone that enables your body to process sugar (and all carbohydrates) – stops working. Extensive research is trying to identify what triggers this malfunction, but it is definitely not consumption of sugary drinks such as the brand your photo clearly alludes to.
I should know: my daughter had never touched a drop of Coca Cola before she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 3. My husband, diagnosed in his late 40s, can’t bear the stuff.
What I think you really meant and needed to say is this:
“Drinking sugary drinks, if done without being part of a controlled, balanced and healthy diet, increases the chances of becoming obese. Obesity carries increased risk of disorders which include TYPE 2 diabetes which is a completely different condition to TYPE 1 diabetes. Therefore it is wise to discourage drinking sugary drinks if you wish to avoid increased risk of obesity and its complications, of which there are many more, besides Type 2 diabetes. Sugary drinks are not great for your teeth either, due to the acid content, and fruit juices, though perceived as the healthy option, are also packed with sugar, causing unhelpful blood sugar spikes and a roller-coaster of energy levels.”
What you should also say is:
“I apologise to those with Type 1 diabetes for my error, which is likely to have added to the burden you carry daily of having to live with a serious condition requiring multiple daily blood tests and insulin injections to keep you alive.”
You might also like to say (because you are very influential for the excellent work you have done in schools to date):
“Please, guys, do not confuse Type 1 with Type 2 , and do not accuse anyone of bringing this horrible illness on themselves by eating too much sugar. Please do not bully them or abuse them when they test their blood or take their insulin – they need to do this many times every day simply to stay alive. Please be supportive to them and watchful – and if they suffer a hypo (which means they do not have enough sugar in their blood – a condition that can potentially kill them), make them drink a sugary drink such as full-sugar Coca-Cola which is the fastest way to restore their blood sugar imbalance to a safe level. If they cannot drink it because they have fallen unconscious, immediately call the emergency services who will save their lives another way. Yes, sometimes sugary drinks will save lives, not threaten them. Don’t make the mistake that I did, and you may well one day be a lifesaver yourself.”
With the facts set straight in this way, Jamie, your campaign to encourage children to drink water – the first choice now of many children, thanks to campaigners such as yourself – will have much more credibility and will garner much more support, including from those with diabetes of all kinds.
Thank you for listening, and please continue the fine job you are doing to raise standards in cooking and eating, for the benefit of present and future generations everywhere.
With best wishes
English mother and wife, lover of home-made healthy food, and carer for two precious people whose lives have been turned upside down by a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes through no fault of their own
Author of Coming to Terms With Type 1 Diabetes, “a lovely uplifting little book, full of insight, wit, and practical know-how” (Dr Carol Cooper, President of the Guild of Health Writers)
I’m delighted to announce on World Diabetes Day 2014 that the new paperback edition of my book Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes is now officially launched, following the celebrations at Foyles’ bookshop in Bristol last night.
Around 50 people battled through dreadful weather and traffic into Bristol’s prime shopping quarter, Cabot Circus, to attend the event that I seem to have been planning for weeks!
We welcomed them with a sumptuous array of food, all carefully chosen to echo the international symbol of diabetes – the blue circle. Blueberry muffins and blue iced cupcakes, plus some extraordinary blue corn chips and sky-blue sweets fortified the audience to hear a terrific line-up of guest speakers.
Paul Coker, who has had Type 1 diabetes for 37 years, told us about his recent conquest of Mount Kilimanjaro, demonstrating that having diabetes needn’t stop you doing anything.
Dr Kathleen Gillespie, research scientist from Bristol’s Southmead Hospital, gave a fascinating update on the latest diabetes research programmes in terms that were easy for us all to understand.
Danielle Angell of the JDRF explained how the research can only take place if funds are raised. JDRF is the leading charitable funder of diabetes research, and I am donating all the profits from sales of my book to this important cause.
We were ably assisted by my daughter Laura (11) and three of her friends, who staged a dramatic entry at the end, dressed up in their onesies. This is because on World Diabetes Day, JDRF stages “Type Onesie Day”, encouraging everyone to wear their onesies to work or school to raise awareness and funds.
I don’t yet have many photos available of the evening but will post these up as soon as I have them. I’ll be grateful to receive any photos that anyone took on the night to add to my collection.
Huge thanks to all those who attended on the night. With your support, we are bringing the day when a cure for Type 1 diabetes will be more than just a dream.
HOW TO ORDER YOUR COPY
My new paperback edition of my book is now available to order at £6/8E/$10 from all good book retailers. It is an updated and expanded edition of the ebook that I published for World Diabetes Day 2013, including the new chapter “Diabetes Is Always With Us”. The ebook, updated to match, is also available from Amazon.
(Why my imminent book launch is an embarrassment to my daughter – a post originally written for the November issue of the Tetbury Advertiser)
Mummy, I never gave you my permission to put my picture on the cover of a book!”
So said my daughter Laura when I showed her the proof copy of my latest book, “Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes”, to be launched in paperback this month to mark World Diabetes Day (14 November).
It’s a lovely photo that captured her unawares, looking characteristically dreamy, described by her doting grandpa as “St Laura”.
Now that Laura’s at secondary school, I’m probably on borrowed time for posting her photos online or for writing about her exploits in public. I’d hate to become an embarrassing parent – to which her retort would probably be “too late!”
Justifying the Means
In this case, however, the serious purpose behind the book justifies the use of her photo, with or without her permission: it’s raising awareness of Type 1 Diabetes and raising funds for the search for a cure.
This serious, incurable disease affects both Laura and my husband Gordon. Laura was diagnosed at the age of just three. Her diagnosis hit me like a bereavement, and I went through the classic stages of grief, from initial shock and denial to acceptance.
Determined not to let our family life be dictated by a medical condition, we have learned to move on in positive spirits and live life to the full. I hope that sharing our experience in this book will offer moral support to those in the same situation. It should also help others understand what it’s like to live with Type 1 diabetes, without having to ask potentially embarrassing questions of those who have it.
Profits from sales of the book will be donated to JDRF, the leading charitable funder of Type 1 diabetes research. The more funds raised, the closer we are to a cure – which is nowhere near as close as was misreported in the national press last month. Sigh.
Invitation to the Launch
If you’d like to come to the launch event, join me at Foyles Bookshop, Cabot Circus in Bristol on 13th November from 6-7.30pm for an entertaining evening. Special guests include Paul Coker, who has just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for JDRF to prove that having Type 1 doesn’t stop you doing anything, and research scientist Dr Kathleen Gillespie, who will be telling us why good cooks make good lab researchers, and vice versa. That could add a whole new twist to the Great British Bake Off.
To help me plan seating and catering, if you’d like to attend, please contact me via the contact form.
“Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes” will also be available to order at bookshops worldwide and from online stores for those who can’t make it to their local bookshop. Please support your local bookshop if you can! The ebook, launched last year, will at the same time be updated to include the revised text plus new material.
A bit of a rant about sensationalist reporting of the latest diabetes research today
Before I’d even got out of bed this morning, two kind friends had already messaged me, in congratulatory tones, to say that a cure has been found for Type 1 Diabetes.
No, I wasn’t dreaming – but irresponsible and misleading headlines in quality newspapers that should know better were announcing the cure as if it were a fait accompli. Jaded by previously false reports, I wearily messaged my friends back to say that I wouldn’t believe it until there was further clarification, as I doubted that it could really be true.
False Hopes Dashed
I didn’t need to wait long to have my doubts confirmed. Tuning in to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, presenter Justin Webb (whose son has Type 1 diabetes, so knows about these things) interviewed someone from the JDRF, the leading charitable funder of the search for better therapy and a cure. “It can’t really be true, can it?” he asked tentatively. Sadly, the JDRF person agreed.
What has happened is that a major breakthrough has been made by Professor Doug Melton of Harvard University in stem cell technology. It could – eventually – be a vital piece of a huge jigsaw in making a cure available, but it has not yet been tested on people, and even when it has been, it doesn’t spell an instant cure. Even should a cure become technically possible, it doesn’t mean it will be universally available or affordable.
But you could forgive anyone reading the paper to think “Oh good, so we’ve cured Type 1 diabetes. I’ll stop donating to JDRF. Let’s move on to the next thing. How about ebola?”
No Sympathy for the Press
I understand that the newspaper industry is having hard times. It needs to sell papers. And it needs appealing headlines to sell papers. But it is heartless, thoughtless and destructive to emblazon such misleading headlines on the front page. It’s not information, it’s misinformation. The majority of readers won’t have read to the end of the piece, where tucked away on the second page, it is finally stated that a cure may still be many years off. Not only has it misinformed the masses, but it’s also upset those with Type 1 diabetes and their families, by creating false hopes only to dash them again. It will take time to undo that damage.
So, to be clear – no, there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes – yet. Much more funding and research is needed to get us there. But there is hope, provided we keep raising money for research and raising awareness of the need.
But for now, and for the forseeable future, we’ll keep taking the tablets insulin, and the bathroom in our house will continue to resemble a minor branch of Bootsthe Chemist.
And I’ll carry on campaigning. Next month, I’ll be launching the new paperback edition of Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes, with a foreword by Justin Webb. Well, we seekers of truth and reason have to stick together, you know. And The Times really needs to get a grip.
If you’d like an invitation to the launch of my book at Foyles, Bristol on 13th November, please contact me to reserve a place.