At the start of Diabetes Week Comedian Ed Gamble talks to Lisa Salmon about how he doesn’t let his diabetes affect his life too much, and instead uses it to make people laugh.
Comedian Ed Gamble has got Type 1 diabetes. But in a salient lesson to anyone with a health problem, rather than dwelling on the difficulties and dangers posed by his condition, the self-deprecating funnyman instead prefers to think of it as his ‘comedy superpower’.
Gamble, 36, who was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 13, insists he doesn’t like to be defined as a diabetic – although he’s happy to make the condition part of his act, and his stand-up show was called Blood Sugar.
Ed Gamble was diagnosed at 13. Picture credit: Ed Gamble/PA.
To mark Diabetes Week (diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-week; June 13-19), which Gamble says is “a time to appreciate the triumphs and challenges of all with diabetes,” he discusses his condition, and how it affects his life…
When were you diagnosed with diabetes?
“I was diagnosed aged 13, which I guess means it’s been 23 years since I was diagnosed. My diagnosis story is a relatively lucky one – my mum was a nurse and worked for the NHS in some capacity for her whole career, so she recognised symptoms of insatiable thirst, lots of urinating and consistent tiredness, and immediately took me to the GP. Thank God for mum – I know a lot of people find out they’re type 1 only when they end up in hospital.”
How does diabetes affect your life?
“This is a tricky one – because I try to not let it affect me having a normal life, but in order to achieve that, you do have to do some work. Just ignoring it will mean it’ll end up affecting your life a lot more. It takes a lot of focus and decisions on a day-to-day basis, but once this becomes routine, it fades into the background much more. To a non-diabetic person, it would seem my life is hugely affected, but from my perspective, it’s just my life.”
Have you ever had any scary times because of the diabetes?
“I avoided any scary times at diagnosis, and since then, I’ve been very lucky. Even as a teen, I did the bare minimum to make sure I never ended up endangering myself, even though my glucose control was certainly not ideal. I’ve also been extremely lucky that I don’t have any other conditions or illnesses that interact with my diabetes negatively. It’s taken me a long time to understand and learn how to live my life, but fortunately, it’s never been scary – occasionally sad and angry, but never scared.”
You use a monitor to track your blood sugar through a small sensor just under the skin – how does that work and does it make a big difference?
“As some people may or may not know, people with Type 1 diabetes need to painfully prick their finger and inject insulin to manage their glucose levels. But with real-time continuous glucose monitoring systems (rt-CGMs), people can say goodbye to finger pricks. It sends real-time glucose readings to your smartphone or watch, so with a quick glance you can know where your glucose is headed and how fast. I remember how inconvenient and painful finger pricking was to manage my glucose levels. But now I use an rt-CGM, I’m able to stay on top of my diabetes seamlessly.
“It’s hugely helpful for my diabetes management, and it’s perfect for my job – I can quickly glance at my phone before I go on stage, or even on the stage, to check my levels are where I want them to be. I like to run a lot as well, and it’s amazing for that – I can just keep looking to make sure everything is steady.”
Has diabetes given you any good material for your comedy?
“Absolutely. As a stand-up, I’m always looking for an original angle and stories that other comedians don’t have, and that’s what diabetes is for me – my comedy superpower. In life, I prefer to not be defined as a diabetic, but in comedy, I’m happier to be, just so I stand out a little.”
Is diabetes in your family?
“It’s not! I’m proud to be the cool diabetic black sheep…”