After Forty Years on Insulin, Operating Room Nurse Still Goes Motorcycle Camping

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Anne Williamson has had type 1 diabetes for forty years, since theage of seven. But because of the Easter basket incident, she stillvividly remembers her time in the hospital. Anne was alone in herhospital room when a volunteer insisted on leaving a candy-filledEaster basket by her bed.

She recalls, "I told them not to leave theEaster basket because I couldn't eat candy anymore, but theywouldn't take it away. I just kept looking at that basket for whatseemed like hours."

When her parents finally appeared, her father made a big fussabout the Easter basket and asked her, "Did you try anything?" Little Anne just burst into tears, sobbing "Daddy, you told me Iwasn't allowed to eat sugar anymore!" She later realized that herparents were probably standing outside the door watching her andthat the Easter basket test was their way to discover if they couldtrust her to resist temptation.

It was an unforgettable lesson, and Anne proved extremelytrustworthy. She never ate anything she wasn't supposed to untilthe age of fourteen, when she chewed a piece of Bazooka bubble gum. "But I never really went through a period of rebellion," she says."The only thing I remember being a drag as a kid was when I wasoutside playing and my mom would call me into the house for theClinitest test. I'd have to go to the bathroom and drink a glass ofwater, and then twenty minutes later I'd have to go to the bathroomagain." She recalls getting two insulin shots, once in the morningand once at night.

Back then, Anne recalls, people were really strict about sugarconsumption. She wasn't allowed to have sugar at all. The familyhad a gram scale, and her mother weighed all her food until shebecame a teenager and began to use food exchanges.

At about age eleven and again at age thirteen, Anne went to diabetescamp in Michigan. "I had a great time," she says, "and it wasreally nice to be with other kids who had diabetes because then youdidn't feel like you were the only kid in the world that had it. Iremember canoeing and arts and crafts, and it was where I learnedhow to swim."

Anne's been on an insulin pump for ten years, ever since she got fedup with the inconvenience of having to eat on a rigid schedule. Sheuses a basal rate of 0.7 units throughout the day and 0.6 units atnight, and she boluses one unit of insulin for every 15 grams ofcarbs. Her first pump was a Disetronic, and now she's on a MinimedParadigm.

She finds no drawbacks to being on the pump, "except waking up inthe middle of the night when it's digging into your side." "Before Iwas on the pump," says Anne, "I went low quite a bit. When I was achild, I passed out three years in a row on Christmas Eve because Iwas so excited that I just burned up all my carbohydrates."

Anne checks her blood sugar at least five or six times a day, andher reading is usually under 150. Her last A1c was 6.4 percent. Thehighest it's been in the past ten years was 6.5 percent, and thelowest was 5.9 percent. She has no complications at all. She staysaway from fried and fast food, and she counts her carbs. "Myweakness is bread," she says, which makes it particularly hard atrestaurants that serve up delicious breadbaskets. But she's astrustworthy as ever and just doesn't eat any.

Anne works as an operating room nurse. She recalls, "One of mybetter memories is of working in a diabetes treatment center. It wasa real eye opener for me. I remember one patient who just read methe riot act up one side and down the other, about how I didn'tunderstand what it was like to be poked every day for blood sugarsand insulin. His A1c was off the charts.

I finally said, 'For your information, I know what it's like tobe on that side of the fence because I have had diabetes since I wasseven years old.' And he responded, 'You poor thing, why do youlook so healthy?' I sat down and talked to him, saying that itdoesn't do any good to fight the disease because the disease willwin. But after a year and a half of such patients, it was enough."

Because insurance is so difficult to obtain when one has diabetes,Anne figures that she'll have to keep working for a really longtime. She's healthy, well controlled, and free of complications, butbecause the insurance companies lump everyone with diabetestogether, her insurance premiums would be astronomical without anemployment health plan. She also has added expenses for her suppliesevery month, and she takes Cozaar, lisinopril, and lovastatin, noneof which she believes she would need were it not for her diabetes.

About the prospects for a cure, Anne's a little skeptical. She notesthat everyone's been hearing about a cure for years now, and she'sconvinced that somebody must be close or has actually found it.However, she firmly believes that any such findings are not beingpursued wholeheartedly because of the income that Big Pharma wouldlose if a cure were found.

In spite of her disillusionment about a cure, Anne's an unfailinglypositive person who lives by the motto "attitude is everything."Without diabetes, she believes, she would have been worse off in thelong run. She's been forced by the disease to pay attention to herhealth and her diet, with excellent results. She says, "I make sureI count carbohydrates and bolus accordingly. If I go on a sugarbinge for one meal, I make sure that I eat veggies and a salad fordinner. I always like it when somebody tells me I don't look like adiabetic."

She insists that diabetes has never stopped her from doinganything. She rides a three-wheel Honda Goldwing with her husbandthroughout the summer, pulling a small camping trailer behind thetrike and exploring the side roads and small towns. She fullyexpects to be healthy and adventurous all her life. Apparently, thelesson of the Easter basket has served her well.

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