Mock The Week regular Ed, now 33, is lucky that his mother spotted his symptoms early after he developed diabetes due to a severe cold
When stand-up comedian Ed Gamble was 13, he caught a bad cold.
Unsurprisingly, it brought the usual symptoms, including a sore throat and runny nose.
More unexpected was the discovery – once it had cleared up – that he was now diabetic.
“What can happen is the immune system attacks the virus and then short-circuits and keeps on killing things,” says Ed, 33, who regularly appears on panel shows such as Mock the Week.
“In my case they think it went after the enzymes in my pancreas, which release insulin.”
While most Type 1 diabetics only discover they have the condition when they are rushed to hospital with extremely high blood sugar levels, he was lucky his mother spotted his symptoms early.
He explains: “Mum used to be a nurse and was a health visitor at the time, so she noticed I was peeing a lot and thirsty all the time.
“She took me to our surgery to be tested, and low and behold, that is what it was.
“I don’t think I took into account quite how much work it would be for the rest of my life – and, to be fair, I didn’t really look after myself properly until I was in my mid-20s.
“It’s all about blood sugar control and you can do the bare minimum if you want to. I was just too busy being a teenager to really worry about it beyond making sure I injected my insulin when I was eating.
“That is fine, but you have to get a handle on it eventually or it’s going to cause you some serious problems in later life.”
These days, Ed is more careful about balancing his blood sugars.
“I’ve made myself enjoy learning about what certain things do to my body, so now I’m just fascinated by it, whereas in the early days I just couldn’t have cared less,” he says.
One of the areas he is interested in is the advances in technology to help diabetics monitor their condition.
“I love a gadget, so that’s part of the reason being diabetic doesn’t get on top of me,” says Ed, who lives in London with his fiancée, Charlie.
“It’s fascinating to see where they are going with developments like constant glucose monitoring.”
Ed is trialling a Dexcom G6 Continuous Glucose Monitoring System.
“It’s a sensor which is permanently stuck to my stomach and places a little needle under my skin at all times,” he says.
“It measures blood sugars constantly so I can just check what’s going on using an app on my phone.
“It’s currently not available on the NHS, which is a shame because I think it will be hugely useful.
“It’s definitely helpful overnight as that can be a scary time for Type 1s, not knowing if your blood sugars are going to drop or creep up.”
If a diabetic’s blood sugars become too high (hyperglycemia) or low (hypoglycemia), they can fall into a diabetic coma, which can kill.
But while these advances are proving useful for living with the condition, Ed fears they will reduce incentives to cure diabetes.
He says: “They can just introduce a new gadget instead and make money from that while keeping diabetes a perpetual money-maker rather than providing a one-off fix.”
Having lived with diabetes for 20 years Ed is very relaxed about where and when he whips out his insulin.
“We live in Britain and people here are usually happy to ignore what’s going on around them,” he laughs.
“I’ll happily inject in public. You do have to explain to someone when you’re injecting at the table on your first date, like I did the night I met Charlie, but there’s no point hiding these things.
“Charlie’s great and conscientious about the whole thing and knows as much as I do about diabetes now.”