It was Christmas 1965 when Ann Imrie’s uncle took one look at her and knew she had diabetes. Living with diabetes himself he recognized the signs, but he didn’t have the heart to tell Ann’s mother during the holidays.
She was diagnosed a few days later. Ann remembers the date – Jan. 4, 1966. “I was 10. I had dropped 20 pounds in two weeks. I remember being so thirsty I ate an entire box of mandarins all at once, one after another.”
Today, Ann, 61, is proud to be among the 2016 recipients of the Diabetes Half Century Awards being presented on Nov. 9 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London, having lived well with diabetes for 50 years.
The awards are presented annually by St. Joseph’s Health Care London and Novo Nordisk Canada Inc. Patients with insulin-dependent diabetes who reach 50 years since their diagnosis are nominated by their endocrinologist. They are honoured for their personal commitment and diligence in looking after their health, and for acting as a role model to all those living with the condition. Each recipient receives a print of London’s Banting House and a special medal to commemorate their achievement.
Ann describes an “over protected” childhood being “watched like a hawk” by her worried parents who limited her to more sedentary activities. She recalls being the only student with diabetes in her school, which inspired so much awe and intrigue among her classmates that one boy chose diabetes as the subject of his Grade 6 speech.
Something else Ann never forgot is being told she would not live a long life and having to give up on her dream of becoming a nurse because the hours, she was warned, would be impossible to manage.
Fifty years later, it’s a very different world for those living with type 1 diabetes, and few are as struck by the stark contrast as Ann, whose daughter was diagnosed 18 years ago, at age 13.
“I was in and out of hospital, staying up to two weeks at a time,” says Ann. “My daughter has never spent any time in the hospital except to have her baby. She was a figure skater. Whatever she wanted to do she could do.”
Ann credits the difference to better diabetes testing, control, research and knowledge. Like her daughter, she uses an insulin pump. And like her daughter, there are now no limitations to what she can accomplish with a little planning. Despite some diabetes-related complications, she has travelled the world and is reveling in being a grandma. Her advice to those just starting out on their journey with type 1 diabetes is simple
“Take care of yourself. The more you learn about yourself and diabetes, the better off you are.”