62 Years Of Type 1 Diabetes, My Story


Some of my friends on diabetesdaily.com asked me to write about my 62 years as a Type 1 diabetic. I have done so and my story has been presented on that site in a 21 chapter format. I have included many autobiographical parts of my life as well.

I have spoken to Manny and he wants me to post my story here on this wonderful site.

The fact that I am alive and well today, after 62 years of diabetes, is due in large part to my Mother and my precious wife who gave me such loving care all those years. My Mother died in May of 2005. My wife and I will celebrate our 44’th anniversary in May of this year.


I was born Richard Alvin V. in 1939 in Roanoke, Virginia. My parents were both raised in the mountainous regions far to the south of Roanoke. There were no paved roads when they were young and going to a doctor involved a day’s journey by horse and wagon to Stuart, Va. My Father tried to save his younger brother’s life by taking him on one of those trips in the cold winter. His brother was very young and they wrapped him in blankets and laid him in the wagon. He had whooping cough and was very ill. He died before they could reach Stuart. My Mother had an older sister die of diptheria. There were no vaccines available in the early 1900’s.

When my parents were married my Father was 27 and my Mother was 19. They moved from their mountain homes to Roanoke hoping to find a better life. My parents settled in a one room cottage on a plot of land owned by my Mother’s uncle. The plot was covered with shrubs that my uncle had planted there. That was my uncle’s business. My Father took care of the grounds and sold the shrubs when people came to buy them. That was my Father’s only employment at that time. I was born in that one room cottage on Sept. 10, 1939. A midwife saw to my birth there. The three of us moved a year or so later to a rented house and my Father drove a milk truck and started delivering milk in glass containers to people’s homes. My sister was born in June of 1942. In very early 1945, when I was 5, I had measles, chicken pox and mumps, all within a few months time. After I had somewhat recovered I started losing weight and by mid-summer I was skin and bones. I had no appetite, I drank water all the time and I urinated very often. My parents took me to our family doctor. He had no diagnosis and prescribed a tonic to help me regain my appetite. This tonic probably contained sugar and was most likely much the same as the old “snake oil” remedies that were not uncommon back then. The tonic was ineffective, of course, and I was taken to a second doctor. Still no diagnosis and so I was taken to a third doctor. No diagnosis there either. Despite my condition my parents enrolled me in first grade at a nearby elementary school. There was a bathroom in one corner of the classroom. I spent much time there. Mrs Thompson, the teacher, became very annoyed with this despite the fact that my Mother had explained my symptoms to her.

My parents took me to a fourth doctor who had read about diabetes and had my blood checked for sugar. I have no idea what the blood sugar level was. I only remember one thing about that doctor visit. When the doctor told my parents of my “sugar diabetes” my Mother’s face turned white and the expression of fear on her face frightened me. My Father stood behind us and I did not see his face. My Mother’s expression will always be with me until the day I die. The doctor gave them a reference to a fifth doctor who was supposed to be the “expert” in the area for diabetics. He was a far cry from an endocrinologist. I was hospitalized and given beef/pork type insulin. After awhile I regained my appetite and I started gaining weight. Insulin from pigs and cows saved my life and I regained much of my health. I do not remember all of what happened back then but my parents told me all the details years later.

Dr. Davis, the “expert”, told my parents that I should never eat sugar or anything with high sugar content. There was no other advice given. So there we were with containers of insulin taken from animals, a glass syringe and metal needles that were twisted onto the end of the syringe. The syringe and a needle were sterilized by boiling them on top of our stove every morning. I had one injection before breakfast each day. We also tested my urine for sugar prior to my injection. A blue liquid called Benedict’s solution was poured into a large test tube, 8 drops of urine were added to the solution and then the tube was placed upright into a metal container and the water in the container was boiled for awhile. When the tube was removed the content might show any one of several possible colors. Blue meant 0% sugar; green, 1%; yellow, 2%; orange, 3%; and red, 4%. I may be wrong on some of those percentages, my memory is not too good on that now. The needle was very long. I don’t remember the actual legth but i think it may have been about twice as long as the needles on today’s disposable syringes. We were instructed to stick the needle directly into the muscle on top of my upper legs. The diameter of the needle was greater than the ones used now. The injections were very painful. I remember those very clearly.

While I was still in first grade my parents bought a ten acre property and my grandfather and three uncles came and built us a four room house. My grandfather was a professional carpenter and he was training his sons to follow in his footsteps. The house went up very fast. Bricksiding, no basement-just a crawlspace underneath, no insulation in the walls. The only plumbing was one spigot in the kitchen. We had to walk about 100 feet from the back door to reach the outdoor toilet. That toilet was attached to the chicken house. Down the hill was a pig pen. Further along we had a pasture and there were two cows and a horse. We had a large orchard with many fruit trees and a 2.5 acte garden space. Yes folks, we had us a ten acre “farm”. It was a lot of fun. I used to help stack hay, pick peas and beans. gather fruit from the orchard. Later on I slopped the pigs and milked the cows. A lot of good memories, but a hard life in so many ways. My Mother canned 100 quarts of beans, 50 half gallon jars of tomato juice, 50 quarts of peaches, 50 quarts of applesauce, and much more every year. There was much more canning, I cannot remember it all. We had grape vinyards and there were was canned grapes and grape juice. We made apple butter too. We had an old fashioned churn and we churned the milk and we had butter milk and our own butter. Eating was great! My Mother was an excellent cook!!! I ate carbs by the hundreds every day but I avoided “sugar” and never cheated. We followed the doctor’s instructions but there was no advice about carbs. I had high urine sugar almost all the time. My blood sugar was tested at my doctor’s office every six months. There were no other blood tests that I can recall until I was in my late teens.

This is just the start of this saga. I will continue in the days to come. My name is Richard Alvin and my parents intended to call me Richard but decided they liked “Alvin” better. I grew up as Alvin or, later on, “Al”. I always wished to be called Richard or Rich. That is why I want all of my online friends to call me Richard.
I assure you I am not related to Alvin of Alvin and the chipmunks. Lol! I know they made a movie but I did not go to see it. I was teased by my school mates when I was in my early teens. That was when Alvin and the chipmunks got their start.

Looking forward to hearing more!

There’s something to look forward to… :slight_smile:

Greetings, Richard!
I won’t be able to read your entire saga until I return home later this week, but wanted to say hello, and welcome you to the club of diabetes veterans. I have lived with it for 64 years, and have never felt better than I do now (with the aid of CGMS and other diagnostic tools that didn’t exist back then). More power to you!

Thanks Carlet, yda and Olaf. I appreciate your comments.

Congratulations Richard,
I was diagnosed in mid 1950 at age 11- 1/2. We lived in the St. Louis metrpolitan area where a greater variety of Doctors were available, and my symptoms were recognized early on. The treatment wasn’t much better however. I also credit my mother for caring for me and teaching me to care for myself. I’m still in great health. Mothers are great, aren’t they.
Good luck and keep up the good work.
Gary Taylor

As a mother of a son with type 1 diabetes it is great to hear the stories of long and healthy lives. I can’t wait to read more. Thank you Richard.

Hi Richard!

It’s great to have supportive and caring parents! I truly believe that this aspect is so important in the life of a diabetic.

My parents were hit hard with my diagnoses. I look back on those times with sadness. They had five of us and only I was diagnosed in the 70’s. I feel that they did everything they could for me.

I was raised in the “do as you are told” mode. Change was never factored in. So I grew up thinking I was doing the right things. Changes in anything were hard for me to accept. I’m better at it now though. :slight_smile:

I look forward to reading more. Just four years ago I was proud to declare I had no terrible complications but things changed for me. I still declare a fighting spirit and look forward to my doctors and science in helping me to survive in spite of the complications.

Gary and Barbara, I do not think I would be alive today if my parents had not been so caring and supportive. Thanks!
Stephanie, I wish you and your son the very best of luck in the years ahead. Thanks!

Music to my ears! Please tell us what you consider your “secrets” of good control and long life with Type 1. I do gather that it is imperative to keep active every day? Where can we find the rest of your story? I would like to follow the whole thing. More information from the veterans is always appreciated.

Richard, It is so heartening to hear your story and to see your longevity with this disease. My grandson has Type 1 and is blessed with terrific parents who check him several times throughout the night and are equally diligent during the day. My son-in-law has slept through the night maybe 6 times (out of town on business trip) in the 7 1/2 years since my grandson was diagnosed but I believe his devotion will be rewarded when his son is a Pro baseball player and blesses him with grandchildren, too. Congratulations, Richard!

I’m looking forward to reading more of your story. What you wrote about the Benedict solution reminded me of my dad - he used the same method to test his blood sugar, and keep the vials and stand in the washroom. My siblings and I were always mystified by the testing ritual!!

Jan, the secrets of good control and long life with type 1 would require a very long blog. What has worked for me might not work for other type 1’s. Some of the secrets include caring parents when young, a very good doctor who really knows diabetes well, testing frequently (I test at least 12 times per day), lots of blood testing to check on possible complications that might be developing, carb counting taken very seriously and logs kept of all tests…carbs eaten…insulin used…etc. Read the books written by the experts and research type 1 on the internet. Join a couple of really good websites like this one and learn from and help fellow members. Keep up with the rapidly developing technology like the pump and the CGMS. Keep your A1c below 6.0 if at all possible. All those suggestions must be accompanied by an insatiable desire to do the very best you can possibly do. Sounds impossible, well maybe just improbable? That is my recipe for success.

The rest of the story will be posted here , one chapter every few days. If you want to read it sooner then go to the following site:


Click on “new posts”, look on the right hand side of the page that comes up. Blogs are listed. Go through the list until you find mine. At the bottom of the page of any of my chapters you will find access to the other chapters.

Nana, I hope your grandson gets along well with his diabetes. Having such caring parents will help so very much. A pro baseball player, eh? LOL! Thanks for your comments.

Maureen, we are all still testing but we have such wonderful equiptment now and we test our blood instead of our urine. That is sooooo much better! Thanks!

What a wonderful story! Thinking about that little boy with injections into the muscle with that huge needle brought tears of compassion to my eyes. The great thing about it is that you survived to tell the tale; to share your wisdom to help others. My 12 year old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes only 7 weeks ago. I feel encouraged to read your success story so thank you so much for sharing it. I can’t wait to read the rest! We live in New Zealand.

Thanks Sharon! I wish you and your daughter well.

I have posted chapter’s 2 and 3 among my blogs. I hope people are finding them.


Click pn "My Blogs " at the top of this page for additional chapters.

I just started reading your 62 year journey and am enjoying it greatly.

Well Richard,

What a wonderful first chapter!! I can’t wait to read about you and your family!

It does bring back some memories for me. My twin sister would get up early every morning with my Dad. He would place the glass needles and syringes into boiling water hoping they would not break. He made sure there were no air bubbles with the insulin in the syringe. My sister would have her urine tested and wait for the results (the color) then give her a shot. He was the best dad ever and truly kept her alive with what medicine had to offer back in the late 1950’s 1960’s. I remember how she always felt left out. There were no diet drinks or substitutes for cake at birthday parties. You must remember Richard!!!
Your story helps me to reflect on my childhood and living with my twin sister who had juvenile diabetes.

Take care Richard.

Hello Ann! Yes, I remember thos days very well. There were no artificial sweeteners either for the first few years after my diagnosis. A few years later saccharin was introduced and I could sweeten my tea and have lemonade. I thought that was great!! Then came Kool Aid. I loved Kool Aid!