Fifty years living with type 1 diabetes

Speaker: Leonie Meadows speaking at the Diabetes NSW and ACT ceremony on Monday. Picture: Supplied

Speaker: Leonie Meadows speaking at the Diabetes NSW and ACT ceremony on Monday. Picture: Supplied

Leonie Meadows remembers what it was like growing up with type 1 diabetes.

Ms Meadows, 66, was first diagnosed with the disease when she was 13, resulting in daily insulin injections from the age of 14 to control her blood sugar levels.

“In the olden days you would have to boil up the syringe and needle,” she said. “It was quite a process until they introduced disposable syringes in the 70s.”

She said that simple invention made life a lot easier for her, meaning she could go on trips and camps.

The Beverly Park resident has now clocked up over 50 years of living with type-1 diabetes. She was recognised for reaching the milestone during a ceremony on Monday in Sydney, hosted by Diabetes NSW and ACT. 

The ceremony also celebrated World Diabetes Day held on November 14.

“It’s quite an achievement to have survived 50 years as a type-1 diabetic,” she said.

Her doctor put her name forward to receive the Kellion Award.

“He has been treating me for some 30 years and he heard about the award. He said he’d like to nominate me and asked for more on my background and that was basically the process.”

Ms Meadows has not let her diabetes hold her back – having played plenty of sport when she was younger and enjoyed a long career as a school teacher. 

“I’m very fortunate that I have had people all along the way that have looked after me. 

“I have passed out at times and swung violently from having a good, blood sugar level to being completely faint.”

She said her partner had especially been helpful.

She said she had looked back through her family’s history but found no trace of the disease.

“We went back three generations on both sides and we could not find a direct link.”

Type-1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. There is no known cure.

Life expectancy is shorter for people living with type-1 diabetes compared to the general population.