Mathew Lewis-Carter is a presenter, having recently worked with Sky, BT Sport and Red Bull to interview professional sports stars. He’s also lived with type 1 diabetes since he was 14 years old. He tells JDRF about his inspiration behind writing a book for children newly diagnosed with the condition.
At what age were you first diagnosed? Tell us about it.
I was 14 when I was first diagnosed. My brother is also a type 1 diabetic so my mum knew the symptoms to look out for. I had lost a tremendous amount of weight and was constantly going to the toilet.
What was your inspiration to write this book?
When I was diagnosed the literature was very heavy. I speak with a lot of parents online who feel lost when their child is diagnosed, so having something to break down stigmas in an approachable way was a real inspiration for me.
Does your new book mirror your own experiences?
Very much so. The technology has changed so much since I was first diagnosed all those years ago, my mum would wake me in the night to test my blood glucose levels. But now the improvement in technology makes living with type 1 diabetes so much easier and manageable.
How difficult was it for you and your family to adjust to life with type1?
My brother was diagnosed when he was just 4 years old so it’s something I’ve always grown up around. We were able to adjust quickly however for some families it’s something that’s completely alien. This was one of the inspirations for the book.
What is something you wish you had known as a newly diagnosed child?
I was forever looking for a cure, thinking it was just around the corner. Then I took some time to fully understand the condition, and I understood that I control diabetes, it doesn’t control me! It never has and never will stop me from doing anything.
What do you think readers will gain from reading your book?
I hope they understand that diabetes is a hurdle but when managed properly it really doesn’t stop you doing anything. I hope it encourages people to talk about it more openly and not to hide it like I did the first few years of my life. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, quite the contrary.
What do you think could be done to support newly diagnosed children with type 1 better?
More books like this! Some of the literature used is still in the Stone Age, understanding diabetes doesn’t need to feel overwhelming. Once you get the basics right and understand getting it right 60% of the time is a big win. Don’t beat yourself up on being perfect all the time, it just won’t happen!
What is it like managing type 1 while working as a TV presenter?
I always make sure that I carry glucose tablets with me. The Freestyle Libre has been a real game changer for me the past 18 months, it makes testing so easy and puts my mind at rest before I need to record anything!
What type 1 technology do you use? How long have you used this technology and how does it improve management compared to finger prick tests?
I’m on pens and use the Freestyle Libre. It’s massively improved my control, being able to see where you are in a flash has made such a difference to how I manage my condition. My control has always been good on pens, I thought about going across to the pump last year, however I was told “if it’s not broken there is no need to fix it.” I recently got a timer that sits on my Levemir (background insulin) and it’s the best £20 I’ve ever spent! No longer do I question if I’ve done my background insulin or not.
What’s been challenging about managing type 1 during lockdown?
For me the physical side of diabetes has never really bothered me. The mental side is something I believe should be spoken about more openly. The fears or worries of going low in public is something that I go through on a daily basis but I’m always prepared in case it happens!
How has the coronavirus crisis impacted you as someone with type 1?
To be completely honest it hasn’t changed how I go about living with diabetes a great deal. Like everyone else I observe social distancing measures and I’m definitely washing my hands a lot more. I’m very much in the mindset that my condition has never stopped me doing anything, as long as I’m smart about it I’m not going to let covid-19 change that now.
What are your plans for the rest of this year?
I’ve got a couple of projects that I’m hoping to get the green light for when we can eventually get the cameras rolling again! In the meantime I’m going to be normalising diabetes, discussing mental health and chasing my dog around Richmond Park!