50 years of Diabetes

Some of you may know Anne Daly, from the scrumptious website “The Artisan Diabetic” but do you know that she has lived with type 1 diabetes for 50 years? This weeks post is from Anne who takes us briefly through all the changes in diabetes over those 50 years and what inspired her to start The Artisan Diabetic.

Representing a Generation of 50 years of Diabetes

My name is Anne Daly, and I am a Galway girl, living in lovely countryside outside Loughrea. ‘Girl’ is a bit of an exaggeration, seeing as I have type 1 diabetes (T1) for 52 years. I was diagnosed when I was 3 years old.

Treatment and knowledge has come a long way since I was diagnosed.

My insulin was injected using glass syringes with steel needles, which were reused. They had to be boiled to sterilise them. I can still remember the smell of methylated spirits when the syringe container was opened.

Meals and insulin routine was very regimented due to the insulin and lack of knowledge about glucose at the time. Anything with sugar was banned, apart from sugar for hypos. There was no internet and very few books about diabetes. The life long learning about T1 ‘bug’ didn’t hit me for many years after that.

Urine testing was the only method of glucose testing. It wasn’t accurate and it didn’t show if glucose levels were dangerously low as it could only identify ‘no glucose present’ or ‘glucose present’. It was also very inconvenient.

I had to attend the Mater Hospital in Dublin for routine things like getting tonsils and appendix removed due to T1. Hospital stays were much longer and included multiple blood tests and being on a drip for days. Thankfully all that has changed. If I had a procedure today I would expect to be home in the same amount of time as someone who doesn’t have T1.

I was a bit rebellious in my teens, eating sweets (they weren’t allowed then) and not giving the correct insulin. I had no idea how to factor enough insulin for anything except bread and potatoes. I eventually ended up very ill in hospital. The thought of the inevitable consequences has kept me on the straight and narrow most of the time since then.

I was lucky to have two healthy babies despite the lack of a blood glucose meter. Thankfully neither of them has diabetes. When they were small, the attitude of doctors was that I would get complications and live a much shorter life because of T1. Of course, I hoped that I wouldn’t die before my children grew up. So, I’m amazed to be still here! I’m lucky that my husband Pat is very supportive and never complains about any delays due to T1 or the bedside light being on in the middle of the night due to highs or lows.

My life is enhanced with each new development

My life is enhanced with each new development that comes along, from different types of insulin, pens, needles to meters. When I got my first blood glucose meter in 1984, it took a while to realise that it was life changing.

At the moment I take multiple injections but I will be going on a pump later this year. I have been using the FreeStyle Libre system for over a year and I love it, but not the cost! I had no idea what happened my blood glucose overnight until I started using Libre. It has eliminated setting alarms in the middle of the night to check my background insulin and I have been able to tweak my basal insulin and food to get fairly good overnight levels.

I work to keep my awareness of low and high blood glucose, which is hard to maintain the longer you have T1. I am always conscious of getting a hypo in public. When I was young I was very embarrassed about having diabetes and also felt that if I didn’t keep it well managed at all times, that I had failed.

About 10 years ago I got very interested in the nutritional aspects of food. I hate the term ‘diabetic diet’. I have more a hatred of unhealthy additives than I have of sugar.

Food has changed so much particularly in the last ten years.

I have tried lots of different things to influence my glucose levels, some successful and some not. Different things work at different times of my life, so it’s an evolving process.

Until recently, there was no awareness of the stress of having diabetes. T1 has been challenging and sometimes stressful many time over my life, but there is nothing for it but have a moan, sit down and think about what I can do to sort out any issues and get on with it. T1 problems sometimes pop up and go away for no reason. Overthinking makes me stressed which makes it worse, so I try to get out and meet friends, do something a bit different or sometimes I just need a rest.

I used to be critical of myself when I misjudged the amount of insulin I gave and ended up high or low. I eventually accepted that I was doing my best and couldn’t replace a pancreas.

I never thought about the length of time I had T1 until I celebrated my 50th birthday and realised that in only 3 years time I would have lived with my co-partner T1 for 50 years too. I searched online for other people who had it for 50 years and longer and I found references to people but nothing written by the people themselves. I decided it was time to represent my generation’s T1 population. I hope I have done that in theartisandiabetic.ie. I had no T1 online presence before then and I found a whole new support group from all over the world that I never knew existed.

I am a Quality Technician by trade but I am studying nutrition and I hope to be of help to others in the near future. I made and decorated wedding cakes and gave cake decorating classes for about 15 years before becoming a QT, so I have handled a lot of sugar both inside and out!


Thank you Anne for sharing some of your diabetes story with us. You can follow Anne on The Artisan Diabetic on her website, on Facebook and on Instagram as TheArtisanDiabetic