In our last blog post, we talked about the importance of sharing stories. Recently, I attended a momentous diabetes event that reminded about the significance of this. During National Diabetes Week in Australia every year, the Kellion Victory Medal acknowledges and celebrates a special milestone for people who have been living with type 1 diabetes for 50 years and over. We know how challenging living with diabetes can be and many of us celebrate or acknowledge our diaversaries. So it’s only fitting that we throw a big party for a milestone like 50, 60, 70, 75 and 80 years of living with a broken pancreas!
As part of the Diabetes Victoria Consumer Engagement Community, I was invited to present the medal to awardees. To me, this is a tremendous honour as I got to read each of the recipient’s stories as they received their award. Their stories talked about their struggles, achievements and most importantly, how they’ve lived their best lives. It was a huge privilege to share such a special moment in their lives with them.
Reading out story after story, it dawned on me how much diabetes technology has evolved and how quickly it has advanced over the years. Time and time again we heard about how blood glucose monitoring was the biggest turning point from them when we’re here pining for the next CGM update! We heard about boiling syringes for to sterilise them before use and innovative ways of collecting urine samples from babies to test their sugar levels. We also heard how many of these inspiring people with diabetes advocated for change and pushed the boundaries and stereotypical perceptions of what we can achieve while being pancreatically challenged. We heard about women with diabetes having healthy babies and raising thriving families and business people travelling the world and navigating time zones and different cuisines with what we consider now to be basic technology. Yet, time and time, we hear the resounding them of people living full lives despite diabetes. We heard about resilience, hope and love.
For many of the Kellion Victory Medalists, they attributed their successes to having adequate support from family, friends and loved ones. Love and support came through in different ways, from helping with hypos to being a sounding board. These guys showed us that diabetes is tough, but having your tribe around you makes it a bit easier. Speaking to some of these medalists, they would never consider themselves to be inspirational figures. Little do they know how much it means for the younger generations of those living with diabetes to hear their story and the hope that it brings. These individuals have paved the way for us forward be it as a role model, for future research, technological improvements or support services. To our Kellion Victory Medalists, we say thank you.