Andrea Deck is an actress who has featured in a number of highly successful TV dramas, movies and is even a recognised voice in a number of hit videogames. Andrea has lived with type 1 diabetes for over 17 years and vlogs as ‘ShesDiabetic.’ It was a privilege to do a #TeamDiAthlete interview with Andrea, who shares her journey here: (Interview first published November 2018 on DiAthlete social media)
1. G.G: Hey Andrea, thank you for your time! Starting with ‘empowerment talk’ regarding life with type 1 diabetes, perhaps a majority of it often gets associated with sports or extreme endurance challenges; however, I strongly feel that in finding that motivation to work closely with your condition your own way, any achievement can be made possible, in any part of life. Your example, as a successful, young actress – who has already featured in a number of globally popular dramas including The City & The City & Mr Selfridge – is an absolute epitome of that! So, to start gun’s blazing: what is Andrea Deck’s message to others living with type 1 diabetes around the world?
A.D: “Firstly, I think your own definition of ‘empowerment’ is a pretty darn good one! But okay…if you want me to put this into ‘Andrea’ words – here goes! I think it takes an enormous amount of confidence to live with Type One Diabetes.
You have to have the confidence to advocate for yourself within the healthcare system. The confidence to carve out space for yourself (at work, home, etc) in order to do what you need to do for your condition. You have to have the confidence to listen to your body and give it what it needs. The confidence to know and accept that you won’t always get it right. The confidence to fail and know that that’s okay. The confidence to try again. The confidence to wear an insulin pump or administer insulin in front of others. The confidence to ask for help when you need it.
Confidence!! It. Takes. A. Lot. Of. It. So when I think about empowerment, I think about it on a very basic level – I want other T1D’s to know that they can do anything they want to; emotionally, spiritually, practically, but I personally also like the idea that empowerment for T1D’s starts at a the very basic level of: you can do this, on a daily basis. You can take that insulin, you can carb count, you can eat that glucose tablet, you can fail, and still you’re awesome and you deserve and can live a wonderful life.”
2. G.G: In appearing in such esteemed dramas like ‘The Crown,’ is it a challenge to manage your blood glucose levels when on set? There must be quite a bit of adrenaline pumping around! Or do you go into character and not get impacted at all? – I was thinking at the very start of Series 1, Episode 9 of The Crown the character ‘Porchy’ proposes to you and then suddenly… your CGM alarm beeps!
A.D: “Yeah!!! I was like “Oh, Porchy! Just hang on a sec – I need an orange juice – STAT!” Bahahahaha! Right you are, and very well observed – the adrenaline is out of control! It can be really tough.
When you’re filming there are so many variables. The days are incredibly long, schedules can change on a dime, the catering is both supremely delicious and unpredictable, and if you’re wearing a corset for a period piece, well, how do I put this…organs can be…smooshed…! Then you hit the set – you have 2 of 3 takes to nail the scene (which may or may not contain huge amounts of physical activity and more often than not a heightened emotional state) and then maybe the day is over or maybe you move onto another scene and do it all over again.
The two things that have helped me the most to deal with all of this are my Dexcom CGM and my insulin pump. With the CGM I’m able to keep a close eye on things in real time and act accordingly (without the hassle of finger-sticking) and with my insulin pump I can set temporary basal rates to better deal with the climbs and drops in blood glucose that this stress causes me. But it’s more of an art than a science – that’s for sure. And I try my best – but I definitely don’t always get it right – not even close!
3. G.G: How about auditions? If adrenaline is one thing on set, trying to get a role and perform to your best ability amongst the adrenaline – and the pressure on to do so – must be even more of a challenge?! What is your advice for aspiring T1D Superstars when it comes to auditions?
A.D: “Okay…advice to aspiring T1D superstars (I’m an avid list maker so here goes)
Try to create a routine for yourself that you can stick to, regardless of all the mayhem and lack of structure that exists within the entertainment industry.
Take hypo treatments to auditions (when I’m nervous I find it very hard to eat and if I don’t play my cards right – bam – hypo!) So I have those treatments stashed everywhere, just in case.
But considering the above try to eat regularly on audition days. Your body and sugars will thank you for it!
Have patience with yourself. You’re going to feel anxiety and stress because if you’ve chosen this path it’s because you care. Massively. And massive care can equal stress because you just want to do your best, and achieve your dream. Remember it’s not always going to be perfect and also – how lucky are you to care so much about something!
4. G.G: You have also been a voiceover boss in a number of successful video games, can you tell us what they are and how you got involved? – and what is that like, in comparison to filming for a TV Drama, in regards to managing your diabetes and adrenaline?
A.D: “Yes! I voice a ton of video games and I loveee ittt!!! I got into it after graduating from Drama School. I think I was initially auditioned because I live in London, but am American so I have an authentic American accent. I did a few smaller video games, and then voiced the lead in Alien: Isolation and things have just snowballed from there. I love voicing video games because it doesn’t matter what you look like – only what your voice sounds like, so I get to play characters that my looks would otherwise betray.
The recording studio is one of the most creative spaces for me. Regarding my diabetes, it’s pretty ideal. I can have my Dexcom receiver out on the stand in front of me (where my lines are) and glance at it as many times as I want. I also end up drinking a lot of water while I’m recording to keep my voice hydrated, and that seems to have a very positive effect on my BG levels. (excuse me while I go drink a litre of water, will be right back…)”
5. G.G: Can you share with us a bit on your diagnosis, what you recall your initial reaction was and how it impacted you personally in those early years?
A.D: “I was diagnosed smack dab in the middle of puberty. Both my Dad and Brother are T1D so my diagnosis was probably caught earlier than most. We were on a road trip and I could hardly make it from one rest stop to the next. I was also losing weight and extremely tired. All your classic symptoms: I had ‘em.
I remember returning home from that road trip, it was a Sunday, and my Dad wanted to test my blood glucose with his machine. I was extremely resistant and scared because of the finger poke!! We did it (after probably an hour of my freaking out) and the machine read over 450mg/dl (25 mmol/L). I remember that moment and the hours that followed. Not really knowing exactly how but that my life was definitely changed forever. I stayed in the hospital for a week after and then went straight back to school – just this time with syringes and insulin stashed away in my backpack. It was really difficult.
The confidence I speak about in the first question…I lacked it…massively. I wanted to hide the shots, the blood sugar checks. I was so embarrassed to have a hypo in front of anyone. I honestly didn’t like, let alone love or accept who I was with this disease. The years that followed were up and down. I would go through spurts of determination and confidence in controlling my sugars and being diligent with my diabetes, but then there were other days/weeks where I just felt completely and utterly burnt out with no escape. It was tough, but it definitely got better!!”
6. G.G: Final word. From all of your experiences with type 1 diabetes so far, how have you evolved as a person from those early, mid-puberty years post diagnosis to the person you are today?
A.D: From early diagsosis to now, I’ve evolved a lot! Firstly, I’m way more confident (this interview should be sponsored by the word confident lol) and outspoken about my T1D (cue my YouTube channel – ha!). I’m a really active and engaged participant in my self-care. Though I experience burnout (oh yes I do) I know better how to work though it and come out the other side fighting. I’ve learned and am continuing to learn just how amazingly resilient the human body and mind is. And I think I’ve evolved into a more caring and understanding person. Because T1D can be such an invisible disease, it’s made me question what other people are going through that I can’t explicitly see.