Marking 50 years with diabetes

The Diabetes Half Century Awards will be presented on Nov. 25 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London

Twenty six years ago, the Flame of Hope at London’s Banting House was lit for the first time as a beacon to those living with diabetes that a cure is only a matter of time. It was kindled by The Honourable Judge John M. Seneshen, the driving force behind the flame’s creation. 

Among those who find comfort in that eternal flame is Bob Seneshen – the late judge’s son and motivation.  Now age 63, Bob will be among those receiving the Diabetes Half Century Award on Nov. 25 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London having lived well with diabetes for 50 years.  

50 years medalThe 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 for the awards. Each receives a print of London’s Banting House and a special medal to commemorate their achievement. The medal was designed by a St. Joseph’s diabetes patient and features the Banting House Flame of Hope.  It’s most fitting that Bob will receive it. 

“My dad would be absolutely pleased, but then he would say we still need to work toward a cure,” says Bob. 

St. Joseph’s – the only hospital in Canada that hosts the awards – has honoured more than 125 patients over the past 11 years for reaching the half century mark with diabetes. This year there are eight recipients.

Diagnosed at age 13, Bob never thought he would live past 30. No one actually told him that but as a voracious reader he did his own research and assumed he would not live a long life. When a friend with diabetes died at age 19, it added credence to Bob’s ominous theory. But it didn’t stop him.  He was a downhill skier, a scout, lifeguard, took up martial arts in adulthood and has his black belt.  

“My parents were very supportive. I never heard ‘you can’t do that’.  They were concerned and caring but made a conscious decision to let me live a normal life.”

The only barrier Bob experienced was the police service, which, at the time, didn’t allow people with diabetes to enter the force. Bob’s eyesight also met a failing grade. 

“I wanted to become a police officer.  My father and grandfather were police officers. It was a disappointment but not a huge thing. That’s the way it was.”

He became a businessman and later a Justice of the Peace, following, after all, in the footsteps of Judge Seneshen, who was passionate about developing Banting House as a museum.  Bob jokes that Banting House and the flame “was all about me.” 

While he wishes a cure was closer for the next generation of those with diabetes, Bob is pleased with his success at living with the condition. He thanks his parents, physicians and wife Linda – “you have to be patient to be the wife of a diabetic”  – for helping him do so.   

“I’m grateful to have lived for 50 years with diabetes and to have benefitted from the tremendous advances in care and education.”

Read about past recipients of the Diabetes Half Century Awards: 

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