In 1948 educational material was limited regarding the subject of Diabetes. The book my doctor recommended was too complicated for an adult, unless you had a medical degree. The book confused me more and made me feel life as a Diabetic was not worth living. At this point in my life, I became a very withdrawn child -- thinking I was the only youngster in the entire world who had Diabetes! I still thought I was going to die. In fact, I really did not care if I lived or not -- who wanted to spend the rest of their life taking shots and not getting to eat like other kids -- and having to do those horrible old urine tests! My doctor was wise and understanding and kept telling me I could live a healthy life. He often told me that if I took care of myself, there would soon be a cure for Diabetes. After his insistence, arrangements were made in 1951 for me to attend Camp Sweeney -- a camp for Diabetic children.
I rebelled against going to camp. I didn't want to spend the summer with a bunch of "sick kids." I'd rather stay home and be sick by myself! No one listened to me, so off to camp I went. Or should I say, I was literally dragged there! I was amazed as we drove through the gate that said, "Camp Sweeney." I couldn't believe my eyes -- no one looked sick. Kids were everywhere -- they were hiking, riding horses, playing ball, swimming, and participating in all kinds of sports and activities. I must be at the wrong place -- these kids weren't sick! I would not fit in -- I was too sick! I begged to turn around and go home -- I didn't belong here! But do you think my parents listened! No, they kicked me out and made me stay! It didn't take long to know they made the right decision. I soon realized that all the kids were just like me. We were all fighting the same enemy, Diabetes. The next two summers, I did not have to be urged to attend Camp Sweeney -- I could not wait for summer so I could attend.
While at Camp Sweeney it became fun and a challenge to learn to give my own shots and to adjust my diet, exercise and insulin. Oh yes, I learned a new procedure for testing urine! The Clinitest method had come into being. Just drop a few drops of water and urine into a test tube, add a Clinitest tablet, and watch the solution boil. In a matter of seconds the test was completed. What an improvement over the old method! In a few more years, the test strips were developed and it was even simpler. You could pass the test strip through a urine stream and have immediate results.
Things were finally getting simpler for the lives of Diabetics. It was also at Camp Sweeney that I was first introduced to disposable insulin syringes -- what a freedom -- no more hassle of making sure my syringes were sterile. No longer did I have to boil my syringes and keep them in alcohol. I did not have to sharpen the stainless steel needles with a whetstone and run tiny wires through the needles to keep them clear of mineral deposit. It was also at camp that I learned the importance of keeping logs of test results and how helpful it is to keep logs of the food you eat.
My trips to camp made me realize that others shared my same problem and that problem could be controlled. I made up my mind I was going to control my diabetes and not let diabetes control me! I was the one who had to control my Diabetes -- no one else could do it for me. Camp Sweeney made a difference in my life that has allowed me to live a happy, full life -- now over 50 years with Diabetes! If it had not been for Camp Sweeney, I probably would not have lived to be grown.
I have given much thought about why I have, after 50 years, have escaped the complications that plague so many diabetics -- and I must attribute my successful life with Diabetes as a blessing from God and from the influence of many people upon my life. Most of all it was my mother and father, who are now both deceased, that made me realize that I was special in the eyes of God and that He gives us only one day at a time -- and that we should live each of those days doing the best we can and leaving the rest to the Lord. So with this wise teaching from my parents and with their help, I learned that life was worth living even with diabetes!
For my successful life as a Diabetic, I must give credit to many other people who influenced my life. A former physician's knowledge of Diabetes helped carry me through a difficult pregnancy, but a safe delivery of my twin daughters who were born in 1955 -- a time when it was almost unheard of for a Diabetic to have children -- much less twins!
I never try to hide the fact that I am a diabetic, and because of that I have always had the support of all who know me. I will always be thankful to my childhood friends who recognized something was wrong the first time I experienced an insulin reaction when even I did not know what was wrong. All my family, friends, and co-workers have always been supportive. they never made me feel different because of my Diabetes. I have never used the fact that I am a Diabetic to keep me from doing the things I wanted to do. In fact, I have always thought I could do anything any other person could do -- except I had to keep in mind that I am a Diabetic and remember to follow the rules.
My twin daughters grew up knowing all the facts about Diabetes and they never complained -- well not much anyway -- when their mother cooked few sweets and they were forced to eat vegetables, broiled meat, and fruit to help me stay on my diet. My grandchildren at young ages learned about Diabetes and they assisted me with my insulin injections and checking my blood sugars.
In the 1970s I was introduced to the blood glucose meter. It has greatly improved the control of Diabetes. Each time I use the meter which is usually 4 to 8 times daily, I am reminded how grateful I am that I do not have to boil my urine!
In June 1983, I was awarded the Quarter Century Victory Medal. This is a bronze medal given by Joslin Diabetes Center. This award is given only to insulin-dependent Diabetics who have lived with diabetes for 25 years or longer -- I had been a Diabetic for 35 years! The criteria for the award are exceedingly strict. Because of this, less than 200 persons had qualified for the medal since the initiation of the award in 1948. In a letter from my physician he stated, "She has a history of insulin-dependent diabetes diagnosed at the age of 12. At the time I first saw her she seemed surprisingly free of the complications of Diabetes. It seems she would be a proper candidate for the Quarter Century Victory Medal." After a through study of my medical records, the staff at Joslin Diabetes Center agreed and I was awarded the Quarter Century Victory Medal. In the letter of congratulations from Joslin it says, "The purpose of this award is to recognize the character of the patient in addition to her intelligent use of diet, exercise and insulin to encourage other patients by the example of those who have lived long and are healthy, and to secure for study the records of those exceptional persons to promote better treatment of other diabetics."