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Mr Universe

American Doug Burns, aka Mr Universe, has had Type 1 diabetes since he was a baby.

When you were younger…

...How did you feel when you were diagnosed with diabetes?

A little scared, because not that much was known about the condition then. I also felt alone because no one else in my neighbourhood had it. Later I met one kid in school with diabetes, and that helped.

...How did you deal with telling your friends about your diabetes?

In the beginning I didn’t tell anyone because I wanted to ‘fit in’ but after a while I told more people. 

...Did you have difficulties at parties, friends’ houses or sleepovers?

As a kid I wasn’t too worried because I had a good routine when I was sleeping somewhere else. But sleepovers were rough to start with - I was always afraid I’d pee in someone’s bed, so a few times I stayed up half the night!

Where I grew up most of the people were kind-hearted towards anyone who had something like this to deal with. You had a few unkind people like anywhere else, but for the most part people want to help. In time your friends accept you and when you explain more about diabetes people are usually interested to know more.

You can feel like an ‘oddball’ sometimes but that’s because most of us don’t want to shout about what makes us different. By the time I started going to parties I was an athlete and felt more happy and sure of myself.

What advice would you give to someone just diagnosed with diabetes?

Three things:

  1. Find other guys and girls with diabetes and talk to them about it.
  2. Decide what you’re going to do about it, and stick to it. And don’t feel bad if you make mistakes - everyone does.
  3. Stay as steady as you can with your blood glucose control.

Who did you last talk to about diabetes?

I phoned a friend, Dr Andrea Hayes, way down south in Tennessee (She has Type 1 diabetes too). I also email different people about diabetes pretty much every day.

What good things has diabetes brought to your life?

I’ve met so many wonderful people, kids and adults, I have been able to make people feel less worried about their diabetes.

I have been inspired by it to win and to overcome it, no matter what. I’ve met so many great athletes whom I’m honoured to consider friends, and so many great-hearted kids too.