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"I never thought I'd get this far.."

Anne Dobson says she has lived for 50 years with Type 1 diabetes with a little help from her family, faith, and the NHS.

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The Alan Nabarro 50-year medal 

This year I got my Alan Nabarro medal for living with diabetes for 50 years. I am so delighted as I seriously never thought I would get this far! When I was diagnosed in 1965 at the age of 10, the doctors seemed to instil fear, emphasising the complications that could occur. I really thought my life would be short and unpleasant. 

My mother joined the British Diabetic Association for me (as it was then) and shortly after I remember reading in one copy of Balance about a lady receiving a silver medal for living with diabetes for 25 years. Instead of being encouraged, my childlike logic thought, 'They won't give a medal to everyone, so that means I will be lucky to live to 35 and if I do, I'll be blind, in a wheelchair and on dialysis!' . Not exactly a positive outlook…….

The daily routine of using glass syringes, metal needles, boiling them to sterilise, testing urine with Clinitest strips, counting 'lines' was a shock to the whole family. However my mother was magnificent - she decided the hospital diet of mainly potato and cabbage was ridiculously restrictive. In those days there was no information on packaging about food, so she wrote to each food producer and asked what exactly was in everything and from their replies worked out what I could eat. It is so much easier now.

Change in outlook

The turning point for me was when I became a Christian at the age of 14 and from then I had hope for my life, no matter how long it may be. Looking back it is amazing how the diabetic life has changed - disposable syringes and then the pens, simple accurate blood tests for better control and information everywhere about what you are eating. We are all so blessed to live here with our wonderful NHS who provide these things and care for us. We also have brilliant support through Diabetes UK.

Despite the fears of my childhood, I have had no complications. I have tried to take good care of myself, and my mother was an inspiration for this. I married a lovely husband who supports me and looks after me when I have problems with hypos etc. I feel I have been very lucky.

One of my GPs once said 'Never let diabetes stop you doing what you want to do' and really that has been my motto. My husband's job took us abroad to live - we have had the privilege of five spells in different countries, and from these postings we never lost any opportunity to travel. We have enjoyed trips to Burma, Bhutan and Bali to name only three. Crossing time zones regularly and carrying insulin and sharps on a plane sometimes has its challenges - you just have to be organised with a doctor's letter and a plan for timings of injections.

Monitoring my children's health

We have had two children, now grown up, and I am proud of them - we also have a little grandson and a new grandchild on the way. I always feared that Type 1 diabetes may be hereditary and both our children say they remember me rushing to test their blood sugar whenever they said they were really thirsty. Usually it was because we were living in a hot country! So now they are both adult I can relax that they are not going to be diabetic like me. It seems I am just an oddity as there is no family history of either Type 1 or Type 2.

So I want to say how grateful I am to be living in the 21st century with so much information and help available. I am grateful for my family, for my good health and I am grateful to receive this medal. Thank you.

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