Nel Peach: Carrying the Torch of Diabetes in Canada

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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?

  1. Don’t give up… “play” with those that empower you.
  2. Be pro-active… and do your research. There is a lot of information right here on TuDiabetes.
  3. 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.

  1. 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 a few years ago:

If you live in Canada, we invite you to join the Canada Diabetes group here in TuDiabetes.

Previous Member Spotlights

Hello Nel: :smiley:

Great to see you. Welcome Back!!

I so enjoyed reading your detailed answers. However, you certainly do come from strong stock. Your Parents are smiling. You are a remarkable Woman who has been through so much hardship since you were young and then more difficulties throughout your Life. You have such a vigor for Good health and Life. Many younguns couldn’t possibly keep up and score as many points, as you have. You also are compassionate, giving and have a Special sense of humour.

Look at you Girl. You’ll be carrying the Torch for the Olympics, for goodness sake. We’re sooo Proud of you. We’ll sure be watching for you on the tube. Can’t wait!! Knowing you, you’ll probably try to compete in one of the sports during the Olympics. :smiley: Good Luck and a Huge Congratulations to you. You’re a Great choice for that important job. **I’m also Very Happy that you have Gordon(your number 1 Fan) looking out for you. :wink:

p.s. Wear comfortable shoes and tie those laces securely… =)

Terrific photos.


What a great story. Keep up the inspiring work!


Thank you , TUDIABETES Team …you put " my story " together with great finesse .For me so appropiate to have this posted at Diabetes Month , November .
Terrie and Terry …thank you both for your kind words …a few tears here and there , when I read this today …it makes Celebrating Diabetes more real .

whoohoo go nel !! you are truely an inspiration to me :slight_smile:

Great job, Nel. Tough to fit your story and all your accomplishments in one article.

Bonjour Nel!
And here I thought I knew you ! What a wonderful story to read about your life so far. I can’t wait to hear about more of your adventures over the years - and hopefully I’ll be able to share some of them with you! I am truly blessed to have met you during the IDF congress a few weeks ago!
Take care my friend!
P.S. I promise to send on the pics of us all before the week is out!

Wonderful Nel! Big D-hugs!

Hi Nel,
WTG (way to go) Girl !
You ARE an inspiration , and deserve a medal of honor for YOUR commitment and for being such a advocate this
cause .
As of Oct. 2009 Ive had Type 1 diabetes for 38 yrs , and I have nothing to mention(other than staying complication free thus far) ,compared to what you have achieved through your advocacy efforts .



Thanks for sharing even more of yourself. You’re a shining beacon to us!

THANK YOU you Amanda , Danny , Carey, Judith , Anna , Jaimie, Cheryl and Gerri…for your special words …good to see you back Amanda !!; more observations …2 of you I know in person : Carey and Anna !!..Cheryl : 38 years with type 1 diabetes AND complication free and having children ; you probalbly did not have the time on your hands to do other stuff and manage your diabetes !! We are all helping making the world go around in our own special way .

Nel, give those Rotties a kiss from me & your kitty, too.

Gerri …I hope I had made it clear…one Rottie at the time …I have given Penny ( the one in the picture ) several kisses from YOU , Abby too …Bruce, Koda, Mia in doggie heaven , ashes spread amongst the fruit trees
( peach trees ???) , not too far from here…Can you believe it ? : Penny has lost 24 pounds since she came to the shelter , Oct. 2008 …fewer carbs and more movement …she does not have diabetes !!

Sorry, when you said your fourth Rottie I didn’t know if they were current or former furbugs.

Thanks for kisses to Penny! Adore those Rottie faces. I work in animal rescue & send you hugs for saving her. Ugh, shelter food is the worst. It’s the cheapest food full of corn. Dogs sure don’t need a lot of carbs:)

Wow, peach trees. Had no idea they’d grow near you.


Penny’s story by the time she came to SPCA …guardian ready to have her euthanized , overweight , no money to buy meds etc. etc , 9 years of age …SPCA rescued her , Oct. 2008 ; in Jan . 2009 we fostered her till TODAY , when we adopted …she is now Penny Peach …all in all she lost 24 pounds with the help of smaller portions starting at the SPCA , incl senior food …and we walk her .A different dog , from when she arrived at the shelter 13 months ago :wink:

I could a write a book, no ten books, of stories like Penny’s from almost 9 years in rescue. She’s certainly one of the lucky ones!

Wow, 24 lbs. is a lot. Poor baby being at the shelter for 13 months. Congratulations on Penny Peach being officially yours today.

Very inspirational story Nel. My dream is that my daughter Adele grows up to be a strong fighter like you.


This ia amazing I located this (presently close to 32 years after diagnosis and I carried the Olympic Torch 4 years ago :) ) ...I am actually looking for the post " In Memory of past Members " ...need to do a bit more " research " OR can someone help , please ??