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Nel Peach has been a member of TuDiabetes since November 2008. Almost a year later, she shares her diabetes story with us.
1) Can you tell us a bit more about you :
I was born in Netherlands in 1940, during the Second World War. At age 23 I chose Canada as my adopted country. I have always considered myself not to be from strong stock: my sibling has also diabetes and by 1972 both our parents were deceased.
I chose Food Service as my profession. I was Director of Food Service in a Hospital for over 15 years. I was diagnosed with diabetes in January 1983, diagnosed with breast cancer in November 1984 and had a mastectomy in December 1984. I got married on February 2 (Groundhog Day), 1985 to a wonderful supporter, Gordon, while taking radiation treatments.
I had difficulty handling the stresses associated with my job and possibly partly due to returning to my full time job too soon after surgery. The decision to smell the roses arrived in April 1986. I found a much less stressful part-time job, selling swim and sportswear for the next 13 years. We were blessed that we never had to rely on my management job income and survived, while planning for the drop in income. We moved from the Coast to a much smaller community in the Interior of British Columbia as a retired person with not too many dull moments.
My interests since the diagnosis of diabetes include a passion for the Canadian Diabetes Association. As a 26-year active volunteer I have been able to put numerous hours chairing Expo’s, fundraising events including Team Diabetes Canada, supporting groups for people with type 2 diabetes and insulin pumpers, mentoring pumpers and advocacy with Provincial and Federal Government elected members.
I have always enjoyed walking, cycling and did quite a lot of swimming at one time. Dragon boating has been on my list of exercise as well, however I never mastered my proper insulin dosage for this activity and decided to put this activity to rest.
Gordon and I like adopting senior Rottweilers from our local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Penny, Rottie number 4 is flourishing since she came home in Jan. 2009. She loves our cat Abby, also from the shelter.
2) How did you get diagnosed? I realized, that something was out of the norm while loosing 6 pounds in 5 days and eating chocolates received at Christmas. My eyes were not focusing. I was voiding and drinking [too much] water, not sleeping, my skin was itchy and [I had] yeast infection. My co-workers noticed as well.
I made an appointment to see my GP on Friday. I was told to void in a kidney basin into which he dipped a stick. I informed him of all my observations and told him I thought I had diabetes, which he confirmed.
The doctor’s visit was followed by a Lab visit on Saturday. As I recall I had a blood glucose of 340. I had a bad experience at the Lab, as the Lab tech did not counsel me on putting pressure on the arm. By the time I got home my raincoat was drenched with blood.
No mention was made about what type of diabetes I was diagnosed with. The GP put me on meds (I cannot recall the name) and was instructed to go to the lab weekly for blood results. I was frustrated by the weekly results after one month and suggested to him that I should be taking insulin. My GP listened and by early March 1983 he had me hospitalized for 5 days to teach me how to inject insulin. I was given privileges to leave my room and the hospital so I could continue my daily walking exercise program. I was always back in the Hospital’s lab by 4 pm for another blood test. I recall being told when I was in the Hospital that I had ketoacidosis. By the time I left the Hospital I was taking one shot of insulin daily (that was the norm then).
A few years later a C-peptide test confirmed I have type 1 diabetes, diagnosed at 42 ½ years of age. Today I understand it can happen even at age 65 and older.
3) How did you/your family react to your diagnosis? For both of us it was confusing, not knowing the impact it would have on the rest of our lives. [I became] more regimented in how I spent my working days and our leisure time, [doing] more, much more planning even if basically my lifestyle did not change, other than giving up liquors. Later in life I started to enjoy red dry wine instead. Regular exercise was something instilled in me well before being diagnosed. I ate nutritious meals: my working background helped and my Mom had taught me well.
Gordon always said that he would eat what I serve and he would get his treats when at lunch during his working days and the times we would go out for dinner.
4) What has changed for you since you got diagnosed?
I became more knowledgeable about my treatment requirements and have been able to share them and continue to learn from the diabetes community through meetings, Expos, advocacy and mentoring pumpers on a small scale.
I have made very nice friendships with other people touched by diabetes, including here on TuDiabetes. I still have thoughts such as what I would do with my time if managing this chronic disease took less time. Who knows…
I have found my passion: found a cause through the Canadian Diabetes Association to be able to be a champion, with a lot of self-satisfaction getting there. I received the National Volunteer of the year Award from the Association in 2008.
5) What are the top 3 recommendations you can give to someone with type 1 diabetes?
- Don’t give up… “play” with those that empower you.
- Be pro-active… and do your research. There is a lot of information right here on TuDiabetes.
- Test and try, test and try, test and try so you know what will work for you.
6) What has been the single biggest challenge you faced due to your diabetes?
The desire to control blood sugars to the best of my capabilities and with the tools made available to me from the moment I was diagnosed.
- We heard something about you and the Olympic Torch: Can you tell us more?
I am so proud that I will be one of the 12,000 Canadians, who will get to carry the Olympic Torch across Canada in my community Salmon Arm, BC on January 27, 2010. The Torch arrived and left Victoria October 30, 2009 to be passed along in a relay to small and large communities across Canada via land, air and water.
My Member of the Legislature Assembly, then Health Minister, at whose doorstep I have been on numerous occasions, including talking with him in the House in Victoria, BC as an advocate with the Canadian Diabetes Association nominated me.
8) Anything else you like to share ?
My mind works in a simple way. I do get moments of despair, because I have been trying so hard to do well and the numbers do not prove this. However I have been blessed so far with being able to tell me to “get off it”. Having an empathetic, supportive partner such as Gordon in this journey is most helpful. I am thankful that I live in a part of the world, even if there is room for improvement, where our medical system assists me in living well.
27 years of diabetes and living without complications… I plan to stay focused on good health for a long time to come.
You can read another inspiring interview with Nel posted in PeopleWithDiabetes.ca a few years ago: http://www.peoplewithdiabetes.ca/inspiration/people-living-powerfully.php
If you live in Canada, we invite you to join the Canada Diabetes group here in TuDiabetes.
Previous Member Spotlights
- Traveling the World with Diabetes: Bridget McNulty (September 2009)
- Fighting Colon Cancer and Diabetes: Brian's Story (July 2009)
- Gastric Bypass Surgery: Debb's Journey (June 2009)
- Kitty's insulin-free life after 40 years of diabetes (March 2009)
- Doug Klein: 50 Years With Diabetes (January 2009)
- Sandy dreams of a kidney transplant... and having a baby (December 2008)
- A conversation with Captain Glucose and Meter Boy (September 2008)
- Meet Chuck: a fun guy that makes you reflect (August 2008)
- Meet Mr. Peachy: a person with type 2 diabetes who loves to answer people's questions (July 2008)
- Olaf R. Saugen: Memories of a Great Life With Diabetes (June 2008)
- Charlie Cherry: Inspiring People With Diabetes Through His Podcast (Nov. 2007)