Readers Share Stories of T1 Longevity

Insulin Nation received a lot of great feedback from our recent article celebrating people who have survived and thrived for 50 years or more with T1. Some readers sent in their own success stories, and we wanted to share: 

Mary Louise Granger, 56 years (not pictured here)

“I was 12 years old when my teacher sent a note home to my parents stating that I was constantly asking to be excused from class to use the lavatory. Of course, every time I left the classroom, I also had a huge drink from the water fountain because I was constantly thirsty.

They made an appointment with our family doctor, and a blood test confirmed it. They told me at the hospital I had to learn to give myself a shot before they would release me. I spent two weeks in the hospital, first practicing giving shots to an orange before attempting to inject my legs with insulin. When it was time to be discharged, a nurse told me I would die if I did not follow my diet exactly. Nice, eh?

At that time, individual glass syringes and large metal needles were boiled every morning. My mother sharpened the needles by scraping them across a smooth stone.

Once a month, I went to my diabetic specialist for a fasting blood test in the morning, and then back to his office that same day after lunch for another blood test.

My first at-home urine testing was done with something called Test Tape. At home I would catch a urine sample in an old, sterilized pickle jar and then dip this paper tape in and watch to see what color it turned.

Because there was very little public knowledge or understanding of what diabetes was, there were a couple of neighbors who would no longer allow their children to associate with me.

A couple of times, my mom, and then my husband, had trouble waking me up in the morning. An ambulance was called; a trip to the hospital for an IV to inject glucose and I was good as new. The mental and emotional strain was never addressed back then.

A funny story: two years after we were married, my husband and I took a vacation to Florida. With all the sun, sand, and dancing, I had a terrible low sugar incident where my husband couldn’t wake me up in the morning. An ambulance was called. First thing at the hospital, my husband mentioned that I was a Type 1 diabetic. They checked my sugar level and administered a glucose IV.

Now the problem was that my husband had only dressed me in a beach robe. We took a cab back to the beach hotel. I didn’t want to walk in the front lobby looking the way I did, so we had the cabby drop us off in the alley behind the hotel. We climbed a fence and then just sauntered past the trash cans to the pool area. People were still discussing the awful incident of some woman being taken out by ambulance. We just pretended it was someone else.”

Denise_SchefflerDenise Scheffler
40 years

“I just reached an incredible milestone of living with diabetes for 4 decades, almost all my life! Being married and a mother of two, my life is rich and full, but it requires a unique balance to manage my diabetes. I am proud that I am able to live life fully and be there for my family, friends, and those with diabetes. I want to share my story so others can feel as optimistic about their future and living with this chronic illness.

My story began as an infant with an uncontrolled diaper rash. My parents endured the stress of hearing that their baby had a diagnosis of T1. My parents spent 24 hours in the hospital learning about a new way to care for me. Forget all the general how-to books, they had to face an unknown new path of caring for an infant with diabetes. And in 1974, all at-home tests for sugar levels were done through urine. I was still in diapers, so they needed to quickly potty-train me for accurate testing purposes.

A few years later, my 9-year-old brother was diagnosed with T1. It was shocking and scary for him, but he was so familiar with the treatment that he was able to immediately begin giving himself his insulin. In 1988, my father was diagnosed with T2. He also quickly became insulin dependent. Although sharing this disease with family members is upsetting, there is also comfort that we all understand and support each other.

There have been remarkable advancements in the treatment of diabetes. Testing has gone from urine evaluations to simple blood tests; an insulin pump has eliminated the need for several daily injections; a continuous blood glucose monitor has replaced the need for 6 to 10 blood tests throughout each day; and the availability of glucose tablets has enhanced daily living. Also, advancements in education and awareness have made life easier; the general population is much more aware of the disease.

Having a support group of family members or others living with diabetes is essential for understanding and embracing life with this challenge. My strength comes from the support of my family. We share our hemoglobin A1C test results and discuss new innovations that will help us control our disease.

There are so many children and adults living with diabetes that you don’t have to look far to find a support system. Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is a great first step to connecting with others who have similar circumstances, and I am so glad to be connected with the Diabetes Research Institute.

So what am I going to do to for the next 40 years? I will do my best to keep myself happy and healthy by eating right and exercising. I will continue to raise awareness and funds to advance the goal of successfully living with diabetes and ultimately finding a cure. Additionally, I will continue to support others who want to know how to manage their daily life with diabetes.”

David Bolt, 53 years

“Camp was an important part of my childhood. I attended Camp Huronda for children with diabetes when I was 8. I continued as a camper, then as a staff member until I was 26. Greatest thing for my diabetes education!

Good luck to all you Type 1s out there!”

Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.

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