HOME Secretary Theresa May has spoken of her shock at being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, but insisted it would not affect her demanding political career.
• Theresa May reveals she has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes
• Home Secretary had been subject to speculation over leadership bid due to dramatic weight loss
Mrs May was diagnosed with the chronic illness two months ago and must now inject herself with insulin at least twice a day for the rest of her life, it was revealed yesterday.
The news follows speculation that Mrs May’s dramatic weight loss over the past 18 months was evidence she was undergoing a style makeover in preparation for a future Conservative Party leadership bid.
However, she insisted losing two stone was partly down to the illness and not connected to any future political ambitions.
Mrs May, 56, who recently presided over the deportation of radical cleric Abu Qatada, admitted her illness “was a real shock” and had taken a while to come to terms with.
She said her condition, which carries a risk of heart attack and stroke, would not prevent her from serving as Home Secretary.
She said: “The diabetes doesn’t affect how I do the job. It’s just part of life… so it’s a case of head down and getting on with it.
“It was a real shock and, yes, it took me a while to come to terms with it.”
Doctors told Mrs May in November that she had diabetes – which means her body does not produce insulin – but initially thought she had type 2, which is a far more common form.
In type 1 diabetes, the cells of the pancreas stop making insulin. In type 2 either the pancreas cells do not make enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not react properly to it.
Mrs May said her ill health “started last November” when she had a bad cold. She said: “I went to my GP and she did a blood test, which showed I’d got a very high sugar level – that’s what revealed the diabetes.
“The symptoms are tiredness, drinking a lot of water, losing weight, but it’s difficult to isolate things.
“There was weight loss, but then I was already making an effort to be careful about diet and to get my gym sessions in.
“Tiredness – speak to any politician and they will tell you the hours they work. Tiredness can be part of the job. It is full on.”
Mrs May, pressed on whether the illness would prevent her one day succeeding David Cameron, insisted: “There is no leadership bid. We have a first-class Prime Minister and long may he continue.”
She highlighted the example of Sir Steve Redgrave, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1997, but went on to win his fifth gold at the 2000 Olympics. “He said diabetes must learn to live with me rather than me live with diabetes. That’s the attitude.”
Mrs May added: “It will not affect my ability to do my work. I’m a little more careful about what I eat and there’s obviously the injections, but this is something millions of people have. ”
Mrs May first made an impact on politics by declaring in at a conference in 2002 that the Conservatives had become ‘the Nasty Party’ because of their stance on issues such as race and welfare.
Bookmakers have Mrs May as the 4-1 favourite to become the next Tory leader, ahead of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
Meanwhile, Labour MP Keith Vaz, diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007, tweeted: “Mine came 6 years ago. Theresa May right to reveal. 500k have it and don’t know. Take the test.”
Daily doses of insulin
In patientes with type 1 diabetes, the body’s insulin-producing cells have been destroyed and are unable to produce their own insulin.
Insulin allows glucose to enter the body’s cells and provide energy. When this cannot happen, glucose builds up in the blood, causing the problems linked to diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, but usually happens before 40 and especially in childhood.
It accounts for 5 to 15 per cent of all diabetes cases, and treatment involves daily insulin injections, left, a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Why insulin-producing cells are destroyed in patients with type 1 diabetes is unclear, but it may be due to an abnormal reaction to the cells, triggered by a virus.