Any of us T1’s who were diagnosed before 1975 were probably told that we wouldn’t live past the age of 50. While I didn’t really believe it, that fear was definitely planted in my brain.
I spent many high school Christmas holidays at the Joslin Clinic, getting regulated and educated. I knew that if I beat the odds and lived with diabetes for over 50 years, I’d be gifted a Joslin Clinic gold watch. I set my sights on that watch.
Fast forward to last year, when I “celebrated” 50 years of living with Type 1 diabetes. I eagerly contacted Joslin, who certainly had all my old medical records … I was ready for my gold watch.
Well, to my surprise and serious disappointment, since so many of us are living to 50+ years with diabetes, Joslin stopped awarding us survivors with a gold watch. (Guess it was getting costly for Joslin!) Instead, I got a brass medal in a pretty box. I am thrilled that I’ve made it this far and appreciate their recognition of all my hard work and luck and diligence. (But the little girl in me still wants my gold watch!)
Recently I came across an article about the special triumph of us folks living long lives with Type 1 diabetes. It’s a fun and fascinating article.
You’ll meet Liz, who was diagnosed 68 years ago, now 77 and an avid quilter and sports fan, flower arranger and a world traveler. Here’s a copy of the diet she was given in 1948 … notice her dose of Protamine Zinc insulin. How many of you remember that insulin?
Then there’s Wallace, diagnosed 62 years ago, now also 77, who says, “I have a general philosophy that diabetics should treat their condition with lifelong acknowledgement but not with restriction. Never let it be a preoccupation in terms of what you do or how you do it.” Interesting.
Joslin Diabetes Center (an educational, research and clinical care organization affiliated with Harvard Medical School) is now conducting a study to understand why some people with Type 1 diabetes can live for a long time without developing serious complications. They selected 850 patients from over 3,900 Joslin medalists who have lived with Type 1 diabetes for various milestones, from 25 to 85 years.
George King, the director of research and head of the Section on Vascular Cell Biology at Joslin and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School noted that he has rarely seen people with Type 1 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease (I found that surprising). And a hot tidbit: he commented that the hair of many women doesn’t turn gray until they’re 70 or 80 years old (YEAH for us ladies!!!).
One unifying characteristic: a positive demeanor. Liz attributes her optimism as the #1 reason she has been able to remain healthy for so long. As Wallace says, “There are no secrets out there. You learn to adjust and you learn to accept you can live a very good life with it.”
From US News and World Report on Health, reported by Kimberly Leonard
CORRECTION: I must make a correction, pointed out by my dear husband.
For my 50 years of living with Type 1 diabetes, I did receive a gold watch … from my loving husband Richard. And it is a VERY COOL watch, vintage circa 1965, the year that I was diagnosed!
Specifically, it is a 1965 214 Bulova Accutron Spaceview watch that features a running tuning fork movement and the crystal has the tuning fork logo on top and Accutron name below it. And if you hold it up to your ear, you can hear the tuning fork “hummmmm!”
Plus he gifted me a Roberto Coin diamond pendant necklace which I wear daily. It has a small ruby set on the back, in direct contact with the skin of who wears it. According the Coin, this magical signature, surrounded by an antique halo of legend, represents the message of good wishes that he dedicates to his passionate clientele.