Tarby (let’s face it, we all call him that) knew of diabetes due to his good friend Harry Secombe having had it. Secombe was president of Diabetes UK. “In fact,” says Tarby, “It was Lady Secombe who asked me to take up the role when Harry died. I was honoured to do it, not just because of Harry’s experience with the condition but because I myself had been diagnosed as well. It was several years ago, and I was in Portugal at the time. I was told that my sugar levels were elevated and that I had diabetes.”
Tarby’s been lucky – having addressed his diet, he has lost some weight and having started on some medication to help improve his insulin receptivity and to help with cholesterol, he’s managed to avert becoming permanently diabetic. “I’m out of it now,” he says, “but it wasn’t easy. I had to take store of my life, and I found it difficult to give up many things that I was simply used to – whether it be eating or drinking. Having said that, there’s nothing that I really miss. In the end, it’s better to have your health than to have a couple more sausages! Every now and then I may stray a bit from the ideal diet, but in the main I’m happy to eat well.”
As the causes of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are not the same, not everyone can hope to be quite so successful, but changing your mind-set to learn to live with the diagnosis is certainly something that Tarby can relate to. As for working with Diabetes UK, he admits, “Harry left some big shoes to fill – and I’m talking about the fact that he was a big personality and a very dear friend. They’ve been hard shoes to fill, but it’s a very competent, efficient group and a pleasure to work with, as well as being for a good cause that’s very close to my heart – literally.”
As well as leading by example, having reassessed his diet and lifestyle having been diagnosed with diabetes, Tarby thinks that there are things that society has to do in order to stem the rise of diabetes diagnosis in the population as a whole.
“Anything I can do to help raise awareness I do willingly,” he says, “Many people have it and don’t even know. It’s better that you do know so you can start dealing with it. I also think there are things that we all have to do – as parents we need to instill the idea of discipline, that you can’t always have what you want, and that you shouldn’t keep indulging yourself or wanting everything right now. We have to help children to eat well from when they are young and all through their youth so it’s a habit they don’t want to break.”
Tarby has also recently spoken at a dinner which helped to raise money for the DRWF (Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation) held in May, which also celebrated its 10th anniversary in the UK. Monies raised came to £14,000 and will go to fund research in the UK. Says Tarby: “I was asked to help and it was a pleasure. We need to keep raising awareness and funding research to hopefully one day cure the condition, but in the mean time learn how to live with it or avoid developing it.”