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Performing live on stage with diabetes

Warren Driscoll is Freddie Mercury – at least in the show ‘Queen: It’s A Kinda Magic’. And he’s living with Type 1 diabetes. “How?!” you might ask. That’s exactly what we asked… Here’s what he says about being a performer with diabetes.

Can you tell us your diagnosis story?

I was scuba diving, working for my father on an island resort, and I had come home for the holidays. While I was home I got extremely thirsty I was drinking 4 litres of water a day and still thirsty! For some reason I also struggled to wake up in the morning, I just couldn’t get out of bed until sometimes 3pm.

This lasted for almost 3 weeks, until I was out shopping with my mother and I passed out at the shops. My father, uncle and grandmother also had diabetes and so my dad, who wasn’t home at the time, said I should get my glucose tested. The machine just said “HIGH” and that is how I found out I was diabetic… It’s been in my family so I kind of suspected that it would be me next.

What do you wish you’d known when you were diagnosed?

At the time I knew the lifestyle and knew my lifestyle was going to change drastically… But to be honest I wish I got it at a younger age so it would have been an easier transition and less habits to break (if that makes sense), because it’s a really overwhelming transition, as many of you know, turning from a real boy into a “Pancreas Pinocchio”!

You have an unconventional career – can you tell us about it?

I am a musician first and foremost… I studied classical music (mainly singing) from a young age. Started at the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir, eventually specialising in Baroque music when I got to University. But my career ended up falling into the “pop” music scene.

I now tour as the lead singer of world touring show called “Queen: It’s A Kind of Magic”. In a simple, less elaborate description: I’m a Freddie Mercury impersonator.

What’s the hardest part about being a performer with diabetes?

I would say keeping my glucose under control… my show is a very high energy show. I burn about 700 calories during the first half alone… so I need to be extremely diet conscious on tour, especially what I eat on show days and for dinner before the show. When my glucose does drop, I have my stage manager backstage ready with Powerade in hand.

What do you do if you go low while you’re on stage?

I’ve never had it drop on stage during a song that I am involved in… Luckily it’s only happened in moments where I am not on stage or just before I walk off stage. But as mentioned above, I do have an emergency plan!

How has sensor technology made your life easier?

Having the data from my FreeStyle Libre in terms of graphs to see how my glucose reacts to certain foods has been life changing. Not to mention the fact that you can get an instant reading in seconds…. I’ve just got regular access to the FreeStyle Libre, so I haven’t used sensor technology on stage yet but I am working towards that.

What advice would you offer to someone who’s struggling?

I think it’s important to remember that nobody is perfect. When it comes to diabetes, it’s very easy to judge yourself harshly… so I’d say have self compassion when things aren’t going smoothly and don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. Progress is happiness and if you’re doing better today than you were yesterday, that’s a win! This fits in all aspects of life, not just diabetes.

What makes your life sweet?

My family, my girlfriend, and her family. It is important to have something to live for, especially when it takes effort like it does for us. I also LOVE wine, I collect wine and whiskey at home and love sharing great wine!

Connect with Warren online



Instagram: @queeniakmshow

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.