Have you or a loved one lived with insulin-dependent diabetes for more than 25 years?
American diabetes treatment pioneer Dr. Elliott P. Joslin (1869 – 1962) believed that proper self-management was key to longevity for people living with diabetes. In 1931, he decided to honor some of his longterm patients by officially recognizing those who had lived with the disease for a decade or more with a 10-year medal.
After the founding of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Mass., Dr. Joslin’s recognition program evolved into the Joslin Medalist Program, which celebrates those who have lived with insulin-dependent diabetes for 25, 50, 75 and 80 years. Since 1970, Joslin Diabetes Center has presented more than four thousand 50-year medals and has awarded sixty-five 75-year medals from 1996 to the present. (Read more about Dr. Joslin and the history of the Joslin Medalist program.)
Many Joslin Medalists have shared their inspiring life stories and experiences with The DX:
“My mother was really innovative,” said Judi, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1958. “I remember her taking me to a meeting she wanted to have with the hospital dietitian. I was left in the waiting room to color and this woman is screaming at my mother saying, ‘You’re going to kill this child, you can’t give her ice cream and pound cake.’ But my mom had gone to the library and studied and had come up with a point system where a half a cup of ice cream was equal to one bread and two fats. She wouldn’t feed it to me for every meal. But her theory was if you let your daughter go to a friend’s birthday party and not have cake or ice cream, you’re doing more harm than good in not letting her have those things at all.” (Read more of Judi’s story.)
Kim said he didn’t make life easy for his parents after he was diagnosed at age 7 in 1963. “I was not a vegetable eater,” he recalled. “Carrots were about the only thing I wanted to eat. When my parents would give me a carrot to eat, I would go outside with it after dinner and I would sometimes stick it in the manhole covers in the street. All the neighbors and my mother and father would see these carrots sticking out of the manhole covers when they would leave in the morning. But generally my parents were supportive and watched out for me wherever they could. They were always proud of me for what I was able to do and manage with my diabetes.” (Read about Kim’s healthy transformation as a young adult.)
Diagnosed with T1 in 1954, Prudence said she decided to “have a good life and make it count for something. Life is precious and I want to squeeze every drop of goodness out of it I possibly can. It’s been fun,” she said.
A librarian and Braillist, Prudence said she embraces opportunities for adventure whenever they arise. “I couldn’t figure out what to do for my son’s birthday so I thought I’d take him, my other son and a group of their friends skydiving,” she said. “I absolutely was dying to do it so it seemed like a good excuse. … It really empowered me.” (Read about Prudence’s other adventures living with diabetes.)
Known as Richard157 on diabetes forums, Richard Vaughn has lived with type 1 diabetes for nearly 70 years. “It was 40 years before I could test my blood sugar,” Richard said. “Before that, I tested urine. I had my first A1C test around 1980. So from 1945 to 1980, I really didn’t have any idea of what my blood sugar was or whether it was good or bad. There was just no clue.”
Richard said that, even as an adult, he didn’t have much contact with other people living with diabetes. “It wasn’t until 2006 that I found diabetes support groups online,” he explained. “The first one I joined was DLife.com. Another one of my favorites is DiabetesDaily.com. I really got into visiting the forums, and would spend hours each day talking with other diabetics. They were interested in what it was like in the old days, and somebody suggested that I should put my blogs together and publish them; that’s how my book came into being.” Richard self-published his autobiography, “Beating the Odds: 64 Years of Diabetes Health,” in 2010. (Read more about Richard’s experiences in the DOC.)
Now retired, Bill said he spends his days reading and walking his two dogs. He said his wife of nearly 40 years, Meme, is a big part of his diabetes support system. “She is extremely scientific in her food preparation,” he explained. “She prepares these wondrous meals, although I do breakfast, and they all fit into my diet pretty well. She keeps an eye on me and suggests when I maybe need something to eat occasionally.”
Bill’s advice for living with diabetes? “Keep track of what’s going on with your health and don’t get diverted. To anyone who’s just starting to deal with diabetes, I’d say really work on it. It’s worth it. It can make your life livable and worthwhile.” (Read more of Bill’s story.)
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Judi Hoskins, Kim Stone Prudence Barry, Richard Vaughn and Bill Pittman received no compensation for their interviews on Discuss Diabetes. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewees and/or contributors, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2016 The DX: The Diabetes Experience