62 Years of Type 1 Diabetes

I was born in Roanoke, VA in 1939. In the early months of 1945 I had measels, chicken pox and mumps. Shortly after that I began showing all the classic symptoms of Type 1 diabetes. I lost my appetite and a lot of weight. I was skin and bones and very sickly. My parents took me to three doctors and not one of them had a clue. Not much was known about diabetes back then. Two of the doctors prescribed a tonic to help restore my appetite. The tonic was probably much like the old “snake oil” remedies that were often prescribed in the old days. A fourth doctor saw me in September of that year and he had my blood tested for sugar. My Type 1 was finally diagnosed on 9/15/45 just 5 days after my 6’th birthday. He referred us to a fifth doctor who was supposedly the “expert” on diabetes in the area. I was taken out of first grade and hospitalized. I was given the old beef/pork insulin. I started gaining weight and my health improved. Before I left the hospital I was even eating normally. That fifth doctor was the doctor in charge and he told my parents to never give me sugar or food that contained a lot of sugar. That’s all the advice he gave them. Nothing was said about carbs. I did not learn that I should eat a low carb diet until the early 1980’s. My health was much better and I continued going to school. I remained very skinny for many years but the beef/pork insulin was keeping me alive and relatively healthy.

My blood sugar was tested every six months. The only testing we did at home was for urine sugar. We used the old Benedict’s solution with 8 drops of urine added and then the mixture was boiled on top of the stove. The liquid then changed color to reveal the amount of sugar present. We used a glass syringe that had to be sterilized each morning by being boiled along with the metal needle that was twisted onto the end of the syringe. The needle was frequently dull and had to be sharpened with a whet stone prior to being boiled. The needle was much longer than needles on today’s disposable syringes. The injection was made into the muscle on top of my upper legs or on my arms.

As improvements were made in the beef/pork insulins I showed some weight gain and I actually weighed what I was supposed to weigh for the first time since well before my diagnosis. I did very well in school and completed 6 years of college. I earned a BS in math at Roanoke College and an MS in statistics at Va. Tech in 1963. I became a math and statistics teacher at the college level. I taught for 34 years and retired in 1997 when I was 57. I was having trouble with my diabetes and had to retire a few years earlier than I had intended. After starting the Humulin insulins in the early 1990’s I started gaining weight. By the late 1990’s I had gained 57 pounds and I was diagnosed with insulin resistance in 2000. I had increased my insulin dosages by 40% to compensate. I started taking Avandia about that time and it helped me very much. My dosages returned to normal. I was then given Humalog and it worked very well. The newer insulin, the Avandia and the carb counting made me healthy again. I test my blood sugar 12-15 times per day. I want to discover highs/lows before they become bad so I can take care of them more easily. I had A1c’s below 6.0 for several years prior to starting pumping on 6/19/07. I had a rrough start on my pump and my A1c in Nov., 07 was 6.1. I had scar tissue problems last month but now everything is going smoothly. Pumping is fantastic!

I have asked several doctors how I can be healthy with only a few minor complications after 62 years of diabetes. No doctor has had a satisfactory answer. My present endo says no one knows but there are other diabetics with good health after 60+ years of diabetes. Perhaps I have good genes. Perhaps I will never know the answer to this question in my lifetime. I am enjoying my lif to the fullest and I am going strong. I have been happily married for 43 years and my wife and I have two sons and two grandchildren none of whom are diabetic.



What an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing this!

Thanks so much for sharing, Richard. Sounds like you have been as proactive with your diabetes as the times have allowed. I have worked with other long time T1’s who have had difficulty getting out of their diabetes routine and trying new technology, so your story is inspiring. Hopefully your story will encourage others to go for it!

Hello Toni. I post on several sites and support my fellow diabetics. I try to encourage diabetics of all ages to do their very best to have good control. Thanks for your reply.


Hi Libby, thanks for your reply!..Richard

Hi Richard,

Thank you for sharing that with us Richard.

I think that your amazing self discipline is one of the reasons you have been in good health so long. Possibly your parents might have helped you out in the early years too. I had a lot of trouble when I was young. My parents would not follow what the doctors told them, and in turn I did not either… monkey see, monkey do mentality. Granted we were a poor, lower class family, and my father’s education ended at the 4th grade level, but that’s not an excuse, more an observation.

Trying to pinpoint the conditions that brought about your good health is an excellent idea. I would hope that people who have had diabetes for a long time, and are in good health, could reply with some of the situations that brought them to this point in their life too.


Thanks for sharing your story. Do you have people in your extended family with T1? I have over 30 - the children of my dad’s first cousins (yes, he came from a big family), but none of my siblings, or their children have it.
I will be honoring my 34th year w/db next month. I have never considered pumping. Please tell me in a sentence or 2 why you consider it “fantastic”.

Good for you Richard!You stuck it out and got what you accomplished.I have been a Type 1 for 22 years.I will be pumping insulin soon with my animas 2020.We really don’t realize how easy it is to take care of this condition with the better insulins and disposible syringes.

Hi Kathy, there is NO T1 on my familt tree. Mine was caused by those diseases when I was 5.

The freedom that pumping gives me is why I love it. I am free to eat whenever I want, sleep late, avoid frequent injections, vary my schedule at any time, and avoid high highs and low lows. Thanks for your reply.

I am so touched by your story. Sometimes I feel that I won’t make it to 50. My aunt, by marriage, lived to the age of 50 and took excellent care of herself for years but died from complications. It scares me that I will die this way too. Thank you so much!

Thank you so much for sharing your story. We are all just trying our best with the technology we have, aren’t we?

Yes Molly, we are indeed. I am so thankful for the technology. There was none whatsoever when I was diagnosed.


You have the right attitude, Judith! I am pleased to be of help.


Hi Richard,

I can see that time, diligent effort and some luck have come your way throughout the years of living with diabetes. It is truly amazing what we know today about diabetes, as to when it was first was diagnosed. I also had chicken pox, scarlet fever (severe strep throat) and the mumps within a year before developing Type 1 diabetes. I was brought immediately into the Joslin Clinic in Boston after being diagnosed 34 years ago. I remember it well, (DKA and all). At that point it was all about insulin, diet and exercise. There were 3 classes a day in the hospital, learning how to live with D. I have always felt that I was very lucky to have the Joslin Clinic and its resources available to me from the beginning.
You are a pioneer in living with this diabetes, from early on working with the traditional treatments, and now, the latest insulin pump therapy. In learning what works for you in your diabetic care as well as your daily life. You give courage and hope to ALL! Thank you. Sincerely, Linda

Thank you for your kind words Linda. One of my doctors asked me to consider going to th Joslin Clinic in the late 1970’s but my family situation would not permit it at that time. I had no complications and I steadily improved so I did not see the need for going there. I am happy for you that you were helped so much by your visit there. I hope you will be a strong and long survivor too…Richard

Wow. I love your story Richard.
I can’t imagine the experiences you have gone through. I didn’t know about the Benedict’s solution. I remember back in the 80’s when I was first diagnosed, I tested my blood sugar in my urine in a test tube and dropping a small pill inside and then comparing it to a chart. It seems forever ago now. I can’t imagine doing that now. How lucky we are to have such convenient technology.
I have never met someone who has had diabetes for 62 years. This is really quite amazing. I’m so glad to have read your chapters.

I’m pleased to see that you enjoyed my story. Thanks for your comments!

What an amazing story. I have a eight year old daughter who is pumping now. She was diagnosed in June of 2006. She was six years old then and started hyper -ventilating. I thought she was having a asthma attack and stopped an ambulance on the side of the road and she was taken to an emergency room in our area. Within the next three hours she was driven to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans and placed in ICU. With absolutely know family history with type 1 diabetes my husband and I were like complete lost puppies. I appreciate you taking the time to write about your experiences, it truly enlightens me and gives me so much hope for my daughter Chloe.

Thank you for sharing your story, Richard. I have a 2-year-old son with T1 and I worry that his life is going to be shortened or compromised because of his disease. It’s nice to hear from someone who’s battled it for 62 years. It gives me hope that Steven can fight it, too.

I am happy that you have gained hope from reading my story. I tried to show that I have been able to have a happy, productive and healthy life even though I have had diabetes since age 6. Good luck to you and your son!