Marong woman Heather Chalmers recognised after living with diabetes for 50 years

Heather Chalmers was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 13, 50 years ago.
Heather Chalmers was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 13, 50 years ago.

A lot has changed in the 50 years since Marong woman Heather Chalmers was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

One thing Mrs Chalmers remembers distinctly from the early days of her diagnosis at the age of 13 were the glass syringes and large needles used to administer insulin.

Today glass syringes are a thing of the past, and people with diabetes now use insulin pens and computerised pumps to maintain their insulin levels.

Glucose monitoring is also far more accurate than it once was.

“It’s incredibly different, I never would have imagined we’d have treatment the way we have now,” Mrs Chalmers said.

All these developments are not only keeping people with diabetes alive for longer, but allowing them to enjoy their years in good health.

Mrs Chalmers said diabetes did once impact on quality and length of life, but today she was “as good as anyone [her] age”.

This week, National Diabetes Week, Mrs Chalmers was recognised for living with diabetes for 50 years with Diabetes Victoria’s Kellion Victory Medal.

“I suppose it’s nice to be recognised for all the hard work to keep myself healthy,” she said.

But Mrs Chalmers said it was not only her own efforts that had kept her well.

She said she had had a lot of strong support from her husband, “guardian angel” Gordon, and her four children, as well as good medical professionals.

Luck has also been on her side.

“I’m very lucky I live in the day and age that I do… If I was born 100 years ago, I wouldn’t have survived,” she said.

According to the Australian Diabetes Map, 5.1 per cent of the population of the City of Greater Bendigo is registered with the National Diabetes Services Scheme.

In central Victoria, Central Goldfields Shire has the highest proportion of residents with diabetes, at 8.6 per cent.

Statewide, 5.2 per cent of residents have diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, the hormone that allows the body to use sugar for energy, and is usually diagnosed at a young age.

Type 2 diabetes is when the body becomes resistant to insulin and/or loses the ability to produce enough insulin, and is considered to be largely preventable, linked to lifestyle factors including poor diet, smoking, low physical activity and being overweight.