I will write about my life as a diabetic and I will also include some of my personal life, some autobiographical sketches. My friends on another site asked me to do this. Merien, creator of this site, asked me to post my story here as well. My friends on the other site say it gives them inspiration and hope for their futures. I hope it helps some of you.
The fact that I am alive and well today, after 62 years of diabetes, is due in large part to my Mother and my precious wife who gave me such loving care all those years. My Mother died in May of 2005. My wife and I will celebrate our 44'th anniversary in May of 2008.
I was born Richard Alvin V. in 1939 in Roanoke, Virginia. My parents were both raised in the mountainous regions far to the south of Roanoke. There were no paved roads when they were young and going to a doctor involved a day's journey by horse and wagon to Stuart, Va. My Father tried to save his younger brother's life by taking him on one of those trips in the cold winter. His brother was very young and they wrapped him in blankets and laid him in the wagon. He had whooping cough and was very ill. He died before they could reach Stuart. My Mother had an older sister die of diptheria. There were no vaccines available in the early 1900's.
When my parents were married my Father was 27 and my Mother was 19. They moved from their mountain homes to Roanoke hoping to find a better life. My parents settled in a one room cottage on a plot of land owned by my Mother's uncle. The plot was covered with shrubs that my uncle had planted there. That was my uncle's business. My Father took care of the grounds and sold the shrubs when people came to buy them. That was my Father's only employment at that time. I was born in that one room cottage on Sept. 10, 1939. A midwife saw to my birth there. The three of us moved a year or so later to a rented house and my Father drove a milk truck and started delivering milk in glass containers to people's homes. My sister was born in June of 1942. In very early 1945, when I was 5, I had measles, chicken pox and mumps, all within a few months time. After I had somewhat recovered I started losing weight and by mid-summer I was skin and bones. I had no appetite, I drank water all the time and I urinated very often. My parents took me to our family doctor. He had no diagnosis and prescribed a tonic to help me regain my appetite. This tonic probably contained sugar and was most likely much the same as the old "snake oil" remedies that were not uncommon back then. The tonic was ineffective, of course, and I was taken to a second doctor. Still no diagnosis and so I was taken to a third doctor. No diagnosis there either. Despite my condition my parents enrolled me in first grade at a nearby elementary school. There was a bathroom in one corner of the classroom. I spent much time there. Mrs Thompson, the teacher, became very annoyed with this despite the fact that my Mother had explained my symptoms to her.
My parents took me to a fourth doctor who had read about diabetes and had my blood checked for sugar. I have no idea what the blood sugar level was. I only remember one thing about that doctor visit. When the doctor told my parents of my "sugar diabetes" my Mother's face turned white and the expression of fear on her face frightened me. My Father stood behind us and I did not see his face. My Mother's expression will always be with me until the day I die. The doctor gave them a reference to a fifth doctor who was supposed to be the "expert" in the area for diabetics. He was a far cry from an endocrinologist. I was hospitalized and given beef/pork type insulin. After awhile I regained my appetite and I started gaining weight. Insulin from pigs and cows saved my life and I regained much of my health. I do not remember all of what happened back then but my parents told me all the details years later.
Dr. Davis, the "expert", told my parents that I should never eat sugar or anything with high sugar content. There was no other advice given. So there we were with containers of insulin taken from animals, a glass syringe and metal needles that were twisted onto the end of the syringe. The syringe and a needle were sterilized by boiling them on top of our stove every morning. I had one injection before breakfast each day. We also tested my urine for sugar prior to my injection. A blue liquid called Benedict's solution was poured into a large test tube, 8 drops of urine were added to the solution and then the tube was placed upright into a metal container and the water in the container was boiled for awhile. When the tube was removed the content might show any one of several possible colors. Blue meant 0% sugar; green, 1%; yellow, 2%; orange, 3%; and red, 4%. I may be wrong on some of those percentages, my memory is not too good on that now. The needle was very long. I don't remember the actual legth but i think it may have been about twice as long as the needles on today's disposable syringes. We were instructed to stick the needle directly into the muscle on top of my upper legs. The diameter of the needle was greater than the ones used now. The injections were very painful. I remember those very clearly.
While I was still in first grade my parents bought a ten acre property and my grandfather and three uncles came and built us a four room house. My grandfather was a professional carpenter and he was training his sons to follow in his footsteps. The house went up very fast. Bricksiding, no basement-just a crawlspace underneath, no insulation in the walls. The only plumbing was one spigot in the kitchen. We had to walk about 100 feet from the back door to reach the outdoor toilet. That toilet was attached to the chicken house. Down the hill was a pig pen. Further along we had a pasture and there were two cows and a horse. We had a large orchard with many fruit trees and a 2.5 acte garden space. Yes folks, we had us a ten acre "farm". It was a lot of fun. I used to help stack hay, pick peas and beans. gather fruit from the orchard. Later on I slopped the pigs and milked the cows. A lot of good memories, but a hard life in so many ways. My Mother canned 100 quarts of beans, 50 half gallon jars of tomato juice, 50 quarts of peaches, 50 quarts of applesauce, and much more every year. There was much more canning, I cannot remember it all. We had grape vinyards and there were was canned grapes and grape juice. We made apple butter too. We had an old fashioned churn and we churned the milk and we had butter milk and our own butter. Eating was great! My Mother was an excellent cook!!! I ate carbs by the hundreds every day but I avoided "sugar" and never cheated. We followed the doctor's instructions but there was no advice about carbs. I had high urine sugar almost all the time. My blood sugar was tested at my doctor's office every six months. There were no other blood tests that I can recall until I was in my late teens.
My name is Richard Alvin and my parents intended to call me Richard but decided they liked "Alvin" better. I grew up as Alvin or, later on, "Al". I always wished to be called Richard or Rich. That is why I want all of my online friends to call me Richard.
I assure you I am not related to Alvin of Alvin and the chipmunks. I know they made a movie but I did not go to see it. I was teased by my school mates when I was in my early teens. That was when Alvin and the chipmunks got their start.
Prior to the discovery of insulin there were several treatments for diabetes. Those treatments included bleeding, opium, starvation, exercise and diets. A diet low in carbs and high in fat and protein was sometimes used. Without the availability of insulin these treatments extended the lives of diabetics by approximately one year.
Insulin was discovered in 1921 and became available to the general public in 1923. The first insulin was taken from pigs and cows by a Canadian team. Thank God for the Canadians!!! The insulin was impure and large doses were necessary and they frequently caused abscesses at the injection site. At first the beef/pork insulin was short acting and multiple doses were needed each day. In the 1930's, the first long acting insulin, Protamine Zinc, was introduced. In the 1940's NPH insulin became available and it is still widely used today. In that same decade the first standardized insulin syringe was introduced. It was made of glass. The needles used with that syringe had to be sterilized by boiling. The needles had to also be sharpened frequently. My family lived in an area where all the residents had their own wells. Our water was "hard water" and contained material that caused a deposit to form on my needles when they were boiled. Each morning before the syringe and needle were boiled my Father took a whet stone and rubbed the needle against it to remove the deposit. If there was some of the deposit still left on the needle then it became very difficult to push the needle into my flesh. I got used to that after awhile. I found injections on my arms more painful and we usually used my upper legs. I was supposed to inject the insulin into muscle so my abdomen was never used in my childhood. I started giving myself my own injections when I was 12.
There is a wonderful video on "The Story Of Insulin". I will give the site for that video at the end of this blog.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch......er.....the farm, things were shaping up very nicely. My Father built a small barn all by himself and there were stalls for our cows and our horse. The doors were left open so the livestock could use the shelter during bad weather and at night. Two calves were born each year and after they were fattened we would take them to the stockyard and sell them. The extra cash was much needed. My Father hitched the horse to a plow and plowed the 2.5 acre garden space every spring. It was very hard work for one horse and so Daddy tried renting a second horse. The rental was more than we culd afford. A man offered him a mule, cheap. We soon found out why it was a low cost deal. The horse and mule were both hitched to the plow. The mule had no intention to pull that plow. The horse would move and the mule just stood there. My Father had worked on farms all his life and he approached the mule and spoke in soft tones. He fed the mule some corn and took a special comb used to groom livestock and combed the mule on his sides and back. It must have felt great. The mule was very cooperative and the plowing was done in no time. HEEEE HAWWWW! There was one time years later that we did rent a horse and I approached the horse and tried to pet him. The horse reached down and grabbed a chunk of my abdomen and I made a motion and screamed and the horse let go and ran away. That horse could have pulled a big part of my abdomen off my body. I was lucky to have only a few heavy teeth marks, not much bleeding. I would rather have injections any day!! Another time Daddy had the horse hitched for some very light plowing. The horse keeled over in the middle of the garden and died. Daddy dug a very large pit beside the horse and rolled the horse into the pit. We never had a horse after that. Later on that year Daddy bought a used tractor. We had a mowing machine and a hay rake that we hooked to the tractor and I drove the tractor and Daddy controlled the machines while riding them behind me. We mowed the fields and made hay for the livestock. We raked the hay and stacked it ready for feeding the cows during the winter.
I was not a very good student during my first few years of elementary school. I made a lot of C's but I never failed a grade. I studied hard and my Mother was a great help. She was a good tutor. She was the valedictorian when she graduated from her high school. Impressed? Well, I guess I should tell you that there were only four students in the senior class that year. She attended a very small school house in the area where she was raised. When she started school it was a one room schoolhouse and one teacher taught grades 1-12.
I had hypos during the night about once per week and then ran high blood sugar during the day. All those carbs caused those highs. Mother was afraid I would have a hypo while at school. She approached the teacher at the beginning of each year and explained my condition and why I should not exercise like the other kids. She convinced Dr. Davis to write an excuse before school started each fall. I never participated in play period or gymnastics of any kind . I sat and watched the other kids. Mother would not have it any other way. My classmates knew I was different and they ignored me but never made fun of me. I tried to make friends but I was never very successful. I became very withdrawn and terribly shy. I hated my diabetes because I knew it was responsible for my misery in school. I never blamed my Mother because I also feared having a hypo in school. Mother always brought me out of my hypos at night by feeding me water containing a lot of sugar. I knew there would not be anyone to do that for me at school so I sat and watched the kids play and felt comfort in knowing I would not have a hypo. I would have been so embarassed if I had had a hypo at school.
By the time I reached fourth grade I started making better grades. In the sixth and seventh grades I made several A 's and B's, not many C's. I was always the best in my class at spelling. I took great pride in my ability to spell complicated words. I do make typos though. You may spot a few. When I reached high school my Mother still wanted me be excused from gym classes. I was rather good at basketball, at home. Daddy nailed a basketball hoop to the side of the corn crib and I became very good at making baskets. I played and worked hard at home but always under Mother's watchful eyes. I still had that fear of having hypos in high school so I agreed to not participate in gym classes. I wish now that I had rebelled and taken gym. I was still withdrawn and shy in high school. I made a few friends though and my grades were very good. I graduated number 13 in high school in June, 1957. My math teacher in my senior year found that I was not intending to go to college. She begged me to go. I considered it but I knew my parents would not approve. More on this tomorrow.
Some of the content of this blog comes from the following site:
Banting and the Discovery of Insulin
The history of insulin is revealed in the following video. It is a must see if you use insulin and have not previously seen it:
The Story of Insulin - A dLife Special Presentation
Before I was diabetic Daddy drove a milk truck and delivered milk to people's homes. Mother was always a stay at home Mom and there was barely enough income to pay the rent on the house and put food on the table. A few years later Daddy applied for a job at the Roanoke Post Office and was accepted. The salary was substantially larger and that was when we made a down payment on the 10 acres that became our farm.
The house across the street from ours was huge and was made from big, beautiful stones like the ones in the buildings on the Va. Tech campus nearby. The people living in that mansion probably hated seeing us building a little four room shanty directly across the street from them. We were very surprised when they came over to see us and welcomed us with open arms. Their son Larry became my very best friend and we spent much time together playing cowboys and riding our stick horses, climbing trees and building a make-shift tree house, and hunting black birds that would land in our corn field with our BB rifles. We were good buddies until we went to high school and then we drifted apart. They bought a TV set when they were first available at the stores. No one else we knew had one. I was so thrilled to get to sit in his beautiful living room and watch the black and white TV. What a thrill!
My sister was three years younger than me. We were always close and loved each other very much. We still do. My friend Larry, my sister and I were playing Tarzan one day on our back property, no houses in site. There were four acres of tall corn there. I was Tarzan, my sister was Jane and Larry was Cheeta, the chimp. The corn field was our jungle. Larry and I were 7 and my sister was 4. Cheeta and I went forth to hunt wild animals for food and left Jane in the middle of the jungle. Cheeta and I stayed away too long and we heard Jane crying. We were in no hurry to rescue Jane so we took our time. When we got back to her she was bawling. We led her out of the jungle and took her home. On our way we picked dew berries and ate them and I picked wild flowers for Jane...er...my sister and by the time we got home she was happy and laughing. Mother never knew about the corn field incident. My sister and I still kid each other about that day. We tease each other and we have such a great sense of humor. My Mother was nuts, so silly. We got our sense of humor from her. I don't remember ever doing any other cruel thing to my sister. We are great friends.
My parents saved money and when I was in the ninth grade they built a big, beautiful brick home. The four room shanty was torn down. The house was just as big as Larry's house across the street. We were so proud of it! We had a TV too!
My senior year high school Math teacher insisted that I go to college. My parents told me I could not do that. They thought I would not be successful because of my diabetes. None of my relatives had ever gone to college. Many of them had good jobs and good salaries and lived in fine homes. My parents did not understand my being so obsessed with going to college. What they did not understand was that I was deeply hurt by their telling me I would not make it through college because of my diabetes. I had to show them and the world I could do that and do it well! I had a good mind and I wanted to use it in a meaningful way. They begged me to apply for a job at the post office and become a post office clerk. So I had to choose between standing at a counter and selling stamps and weighing packages or going to college. The only coed college available was Roanoke College, just 20 minutes away. If there had not been a college nearby I would never have gone to college. My parents were disappointed in me and Mother cried. They were so dead set against my doing this that they refused to pay for any part of my tuition or my college expenses. They were kind though and gave me free room and board and Daddy let me drive his older Chevy instead of trading it in when he bought a new car. He kept the car in good shape and paid for the gas. I had no money of my own and so I had to get a job. I started working at a supermarket the very month I graduated from high school. I worked about 30 hours per week and started off at 75 cents per hour. Every few months I would get a raise of 5 or 10 cents per hour. I saved enough to pay for half of my tuition for the fall semester. I was supposed to pay the other half later during that semester.
Roanoke College is affiliated with the Luthern church and has always had a very good reputation. I was frightened at orientation because the incoming freshmen I met had followed the academic curriculum in high school. They had chemistry or biology and physics in high school. I did not because I followed the general curriculum and did not intend to go to college until that math teacher in my senior year of high school convinced me to do so. I knew I was unprepared for college. I was signed up for chemistry for my freshman year. I was the only student in the class who had not had chemistry in high school. There was no lower level chem course to prepare me like today's colleges offer. I was very discouraged. I could not give up and tell my parents I would not go to college. That was not my nature. I would go to college and do my best. If I failed then I would at least know I did my best.
My parents and most of my relatives were very religious people. All of my grandparents and several of my aunts and uncles belonged to the Primative Baptist churches in the southern Virginia area. That may be a Christian denomination with which you are unfamiliar. It is characterized by no music in the church, no sunday school, no choir, just very plain and simple. The preachers are not called ministers and they do not go to college to become preachers. The preachers feel the call from God and they know that that is their calling. People who join have some kind of sign such as a dream that makes it clear to them that God wants them to join the church. At the conclusion of a Sunday meeting a prospective member will walk down the aisle to the front of the church and announce that he/she wants to join. That person is usually very emotional and may be crying and finding it difficult to speak. A discussion usually follows and the people may hear what made this person know that joining was the proper thing to do that day. There have been instances that were not convincing and the person was denied membership. If the member is accepted then there is great rejoicing and lots of crying and hugging. Daddy had this experience several years before he died. I was living far away and I did not know he was going to join. He didn't either until the preacher was about done for the day. Then Daddy became very weak and stumbled down the aisle shaking and crying as he explained why he knew he was supposed to join that day. He was accepted and he was changed in many ways after that day. Daddy was always a wonderful and very kind man. He would give a person in need "the shirt off his back". He was baptized in a creek far from any city or town and the banks of the stream were lined with well wishers. It is a very joyous occasion when a Primitive Baptist member is baptized. Much crying and hugging took place there.
Several years later Daddy had pains in his chest. The doctor told him he had a weak heart valve and that it should be replaced with a pig's heart valve. Daddy felt that God would take care of him and surgery was unecessary. Mother begged him to get the surgery. He finally gave in and the surgery was scheduled and was to take place in approximately three weeks. It was springtime and their was a drought in the Roanoke area.
Daddy had made the two acres surrounding the house very beautiful by planting many wonderful shrubs that had grown very large. Daddy was gifted at landscaping and the two acre yard was a virtual show place. Mother's large flower gardens added to the beauty of the place. People would stop and want to take pictures of the landscape. The magnolia trees had become quite large and were beautiful to see. On one occasion a wedding party stiopped and they got my parent's permission to have their pictures taken on the grounds.
The drought was bad that year and some of the beautiful shrubbery was turning brown. Daddy had a lot of muscle and he would carry a five gallon bucket of water in each hand and go up the hill from the back yard water source to the front yard to water his boxwoods. The shrubs were so important to him that he wanted to continue despite his heart problem. I was visiting at that time and I begged him to stop. I have never had much muscle and he would not let me help. He felt that God would protect him. If he died then God wanted it that way. He seemed to be OK when I left and went to my home. On Mother's Day that year he was sleeping while sitting up in a comfortable chair in the den. Mother was watching TV. She looked over at Daddy and he suddenly made a little gasping noise and stopped breathing. He died in his sleep. Mother grieved long and hard. There were many people including Primitive Baptist church members at his funeral. There were relatives there whom I had not seen in so many years. Mother had hoped for so long that God would give her a sign that she should join the church, but it never happened. One of her brothers became a Primitive Baptist preacher and he baptized many new members. He still preaches at many churches in the south central Virginia area. Mother died in May of 2005, many years after Daddy died. More about her in another chapter.
I wanted to become an architect. There was a pre-engineering program at Roanoke College and I chose courses that would enable me to transfer after two years to Va. Tech and become an architect. I made all A's and B's (mostly A's) during my freshman year, except for chemistry. I was not ready for college chemistry. I talked to the chemistry teacher and she understood my problem but she could not do anything for me. I received C's in both semesters of chemistry but I knew almost nothing about chemistry when the spring semester ended. Not having had the high school prerequisite chem course made it almost impossible for me. I felt the C grades were a gift. I was very grateful, but I felt guilty about it. I made many new friends while in college and we visited each other's homes and we played golf and went bowling many times. Good friends. I had a crush on several girls while in high school and during my freshman year of college but I was too shy to ask them for dates. I had my first date ever during my sophomore year of college.
One Saturday night I had to stay after hours at the super market to help with the mopping detail. Every aisle had to be clean and bright before we went home. I was so tired. I had not been on mop detail before. I got in my car and headed home. I thought my strange feelings were due to my fatigue. I turned a corner and collapsed at the wheel. I did not remember anything after that until I was awake and my parents were standing over me and a crowd of men were behind them. Several cops too. I had had a hypo. I never straightened the wheel after the turn so my car went off the road and down a steep hill into a creek bed. The car went between two vertical posts that were supporting a huge bill board. The people were measuring the distance between the posts and the width of my car and they said the opening was about two inches more than the width of the car. How could my car have passed between the posts and not touch either one of them??? I was not hurt and the car did not have a scratch on it. The guys standing in back were from a bar across the road. They had seen my car leave the road and they found my parent's phone number in my wallet. Everyone but my parents thought I was drunk. I had never been drunk in my life. I had never tasted alcohol. My parents told the cops about my diabetes. I really don't think anyone there believed their explanation. There was no ticket though and a big wrecker pulled my car up the hill later that night, or on Sunday. I was back at college Monday morning. It was like the whole thing was just a bad dream. I had many hypos during my early years during my sleep or after a lot of exertion. There was no way for me to test my blood sugar before starting home that night. Glucose monitors were not available until many years after that. I had to go by the way I felt. It was that way for about 40 years until glucose monitors became available in the 1980's. My parents thought that God had protected me and that was why I was not hurt. I wasn't too sure about that but I was certainly happy about having my car back and going to classes Monday morning. I never missed a class during my four years of undergraduate work. I never had a bad hypo on campus but I had many lows and had to eat sugar from a small container in my pocket. There were no glucose tablets for a long time to come. Sugar worked very well. I remember having lows during tests and my teachers never let me let me take a make-up test. I took my test with my class or not at all. I had a low during a calculus test that was so bad that my vision ws blurred and I could not read my test paper. My teacher would not believe me. That was the only math test I failed in college. There were only three tests and a comprehensive final exam in each math course I took. My failing grade on that test resulted in a B grade for first semester calculus. I made A's in all of my other math courses in undergraduate school.
We did not know any other diabetics for many years while I was a child. It seems now that might have been a disease that diabetics would hide and be ashamed to reveal. I was a "closet diabetic". I never told classmates prior to going to college. Only my closest friends knew in college. My teachers knew nothing about diabetes. None of my relatives had type 1 diabetes, so far as we know. There was one of my father's second cousins who was reputed to have some of the symptoms of type 1. She lost weight rapidly and died when she had stopped eating. There was never a diagnosis of her condition. Her parents may not have taken her to a doctor. I had relatives who believed in home cures and medicines and did not go to doctors. Many mountain folks were that way back then. My Grandmother would gather parts of some tree roots, berries and bark and things and boil them in water and give homemade medicine to her 5 kids. Mother had a sister and three brothers. The medicine seemed to work very well.
My relatives did not talk to me about my diabetes. They would talk to my parents in private. I will never forget one visit to my grandparents house one summer, about a year after my diagnosis. I was playing with my cousins and the door to the living room closed. The talking in that room grew much quieter. I was suspicious and I pressed my ear to the door and listened. My grandparents and uncles and aunts were asking about me. We had not all been together since I was diagnosed. It was a reunion of Mother's family. They asked Mother if I was going to die. Mother had a hard time answering that question. She told them she did not know and that the doctor did not seem to know much about how she should take care of me. She explained how she never gave me sugar, candy, cookies, etc that contained sugar. I did not want them to know I was eavesdropping so I left the door and went back to my cousins. I was very frightened about what I had heard. I thought I might die soon! I was very quiet on the way home and I never told my parents I had heard that conversation. I wish I had never listened , the thought of dying caused me a lot of depression in the months to come. I should have talked to my parents about it but I never did. That visit will always linger in my mind, like it was yesterday.
We went to visit one of Mother's uncles not long after the family reunion. It was early evening and my aunt wanted to serve refreshments so she took me by the hand and led me to a room down the hall. It was kind of dark in there but I could see well enough to eat part of the big apple she handed me. I wasn't really hungry. I could hear the rattling of dishes where the rest of them were having cake and lemonade. I didn't care that they were eating their cake, I was hurt because my aunt did not want me to be with them. I never liked her after that visit. Of course I was permitted to join them after they were finished but I just wanted to go home. I never got much of an explanation for what had happened. I suppose my aunt thought it would be cruel to have me see them eating cake.
When I was diagnosed we knew nothing of artificial sweeteners. I'm not sure there were any. A few years later a drug store was selling saccharin in liquid form. It was about that time that unsweetened Kool Aid was introduced. There were no artificially sweetened drinks until we had the combination of saccharin and Kool Aid. The Kool Aid was in little bottles in concentrated liquid form. I thought I was in heaven! I loved Kool Aid. Mother used the saccharin and started making me pies, cookies and other desserts, I always had one of her delicious desserts at dinner and supper. I had sweetener for cereal at breakfast. i had lemonade in the summers. Life was definitely looking up!! There were so many carbs in the pies, cookies, and cereal but we thought they were OK since they did not contain sugar. I ate so many potatoes, corn, homemade bread and rolls, chicken and dumplings (my favorite dish of all time) and the overload of carbs caused me much high urine sugar. Oh how I wish we had known about carbs back then.
I finished my freshman year at Roanoke College with very good grades, except for chemstry. I went to campus for the fiest day of classes in my sophomore year. I was shocked to learn that the pre-engineering department had been closed down. I could not afford to go to Va. Tech to continue at that time. It was only about an 80 minute drive to Tech from my home but we decided it would be too much for me. I needed my income from the supermarket to pay my tuition. I had to continue at Roanoke College. I was tempted to quit college, my dream of becoming an architect was shattered. Then Dr. Walpole, head of the math department, entered the picture. He knew my situation and he told me I was such a good math student and I should consider becoming a math major. I was very hesitant but I thought that was better than quitting college.
I worked 20 hours per week at the store and 30-40 hours per week during the summer and vacations, whenever classes were not being held. The manager at the store was very cooperative. He had wanted to go to college but his parents were very poor and they lived too far from a town or city for him to get a job. With all those hours I was able to pay my way through four years of undergraduate school. The store manager even gave me days off when I needed more time to prepare for the harder tests and final exams.
I had to take physics in my sophomore year. That was the hardest subject for me in undergraduate school. It was the same situation as with the chemistry. I did not have the prerequisite high school physics and that made college physics seem almost impossible. Two more C's but again I made several A's and a couple of B's for the rest of my grades that year.
I also had my first date ever that year. Her name was Linda. She was a senior in high school and a good friend of my sister. I felt weak when I approached her front door. I wanted to turn around and go home. Too late, I saw two faces at the window looking out, with the curtain pulled back. She did not seem shy like me. Sweet, pretty and a great smile. I had a hard time talking to her. We went to a movie. That was a relief since I did not have to talk to her or even look at her. WHEW!! I did not hold her hand. I felt like a miserable failure. I asked her for a second date. I was shocked when she said yes!!! I probably just sat there in the car with my mouth hanging open in disbelief.
I have read about young diabetics who cheat and rebel. I was diagnosed at the tender age of 6. I loved and respected my parents and I did not question their demands involving my diabetes care. I was NEVER to eat sugar or candy or other items containing sugar unless I was having very low blood sugar. I followed that rule to the letter. Mother was so good to make me wonderful desserts sweetened with saccharin. I loved her desserts so much that I was not tempted to eat their desserts. Some of my favorites were banana cream pie, cherry vanilla custard pie, baked custard pie, chocolate pie, rhubarb pie, peach pie, and raisin pie. The pies had homemade crusts that were very thick and they were divided into five pieces for my dinners and suppers. Can you tell I liked pies??? There was also applesauce cake for my birthday and again for Christmas. The cake contained lots of nuts and raisins and and applesauce to make it stay moist. None of these desserts contained any sugar so they were OK for me, right? We thought they were. Can you imagine how many carbs were in these desserts? A typical breakfast had two kinds of meat, perhaps sausage cakes and thick ham slices which I ate with my eggs. There were homemade biscuits with lots of butter and I would dunk them in my saccharin sweetened homemade apple butter. That and a big glass of milk from our own cows completed my meal. Is it any wonder that I had terribly high blood sugar....er....urine sugar? The breakfast was so large because both of my parents were raised on a farm and they and their families worked hard and needed that food for energy as they set out to do their farming chores. I do not think my parents knew any other way to live. We had three large meals every day and I am certain I must have eaten more than 500 carbs per day. When the peaches were ripe in our orchard I would climb up on the lower branches and reach up for a mellow, juicy peach. They were as big as a grown man's fist. I would eat two and my tummy would hurt. I was covered with juice so I would go home to wash up. Daddy always sprayed our fruit and every time I ate our fruit I was eating dangerous chemicals. We did not know any better. It never hurt any of us so far as I know. We had plums, grapes , strawberries, raspberries, apples and pears. I ate too much fruit but I loved it. I was in charge of the melon patch. I planted canteloupes and watermelons each year. They required sandy soil and lots of water. The were left on the vine until they were fully ripe. They taste so much better that way than when they are picked green and ripened afterwards. The same is true with all fruit and tomatoes. My mouth is watering terribly as I write this chapter today.
Daddy milked the cows at daybreak and cleaned their stalls. Then he ate breakfast and went back out and hoed or plowed the garden, watered and pruned trees and shrubs, and did so many other things. He would then go home for dinner and sleep on the floor for an hour afterwards. He then reported to the post office where he worked from 2pm until 11pm with a one hour break for supper. The lunch pail Mother packed for him was unbelievable. He ate some of what we had at home for our supper. Daddy would get home late and try to be in bed by midnight. I have never known a man to work so hard. On some days he made time to pick up a load of shrubbery at my uncles nursery and plant them at people's houses. We told people that Daddy had three jobs. The farm, the post office and the nursery. Daddy had a lot of muscle and was never much overweight. None of us were ever much overweight, even though we ate food like there was no tomorrow. I was always skinny until many years later when I started using modern day insulins. We worked hard and we all loved each other so much. Good food, hard work and lots of love. That is my recipe for a successful family and growing up well.
My parents never smoked cigarettes or drank alcoholic beverages. They were my guiding light and I intended to follow in their footsteps. When I was 10 a young lad two years older than me came to our house. He was in my homeroom when I was in fifth grade. He had failed two times and had been held back. He had never ridden a horse and he wanted to ride our old work horse. So Bobby, Larry and I climbed aboard and we rode through the pasture. Bobby offered us cigarettes. Larry and I had never smoked but we did not want to be called chicken so we smoked a couple. After Bobby went home we decided we would continue smoking after school each day. Larry took a pack of Lucky Strikes out of his father's pickup truck and we headed to his back property where no one would see us. We smoked our way through several packs in a few weeks time. Larry's Father eventually caught on. He was missing his packs of cigarettes and his Mother had smelled the tobacco odor on Larry's clothes. One night after dark Larry and his parents came to visit. That was most unusual and I knew something was up. Larry would not look at me and he hung his head. The jig was up. My parents were shocked to hear what I had done but they did no dicipline me at all. It was not necessary. I was so ashamed that I had disappointed my parents whom I loved so much. I think they knew I would never do anything like that again, and I didn't. My urine sugar had been 4+ every morning all that time I had been smoking. Now we all knew why. I had not been eating well either during that time. Things improved a lot in the weeks to come. Except for abandoning my sister in the corn field, smoking was the only bad thing I ever did as a child. My parents were good examples to follow and my sister and I were good followers.
After I was grown I found that my Mother and Dr Davis had been working together for my "benefit". Mother would phone him and tell him things that she wanted him to tell me before she drove me in for my appointments. "Now Alvin, you can't drink or smoke. that will make your diabetes much worse." That was after my cigarette episode. "Now Alvin, you can't participate in gym at school, that will make your sugar go too low and you may have a hypo." I do not know exactly how Dr Davis expressed himself on these occasions but I can still hear his voice and his advice. I always trusted him without question. I was very disappointed in my Mother and the doctor for their plotting and scheming. He also questioned my going to college but he did not sound so forceful as he had the other times. Mother admitted that she had called Dr Davis about college. I was onto their wicked ways! HA!! Never again! I never argued with Mother about this. I just told her I was disappointed in her and she apologized. Daddy did not know anything about this. Maybe he never did. I never told him.
Throughout my early years as a diabetic I had no major health problems and I coasted along rather easily. I was always very skinny, maybe slightly underweight, until many years later. I had high urine sugar every day and usually at night. There were, however, some nights that I had very bad hypos. My bedroom door was always left open at night and my room was immediately across the hall from my parent's room. Mother was keyed in to my thrashing about and the moans I would make when having a hypo. She would jump out of bed and grab the glass containg several tablespoons of sugar. She stopped at the bathroom and partially filled the glass with water, stirred the mixture with a spoon and entered my room. Daddy raised my body and sat on the bed behind me and held me while Mother slowly poured the sugar water into my mouth. This usually worked very well but occasionally my mouth was clinched so tightly that she could not get any of the liquid into my mouth. She would rub some of the liquid on my lips and I would lick my lips. This gave me just enough sugar so I would start to relax and then she could get me to swallow some of the sugar water. I would come out of these hypos not remembering any part of what had happened. I was always so grateful that they took such good care of me at those times. I have no idea how many of these hypos I had before I was an adult but I know there were many of them. There was probably one per week on the average.
Mother had a very hard time with my diabetes even though she was an excellent caretaker. She had terrible asthma during most of my preteen years. I remember her smoking cigarettes that contained a kind of medicine. She would inhale the smoke and the medicinal vapor entered her lungs and helped her to breath more freely. There was no tobacco involved. These cigarettes were prescribed by our doctor. Mother would have a terrible time with her asthma after each of my hypos. She was a very nervous person and took medicine for her nerves. She also had large vericose veins. They were causing her many problems and she would wear elastic stockings to give herself some relief. A doctor suggested that she have the vericose veins removed from her legs. The surgery was very successful. She stopped wearing the elastic stockings and her asthma improved. After a few months she never again had asthma problems. Now how do you explain that? I was still having hypos and that still made her nervous but no more asthma. Is it possible that the surgery had some connection? It does not seem likely but we were all very happy that her days of terrible asthma were over.
When I had just started eighth grade I had intestinal flu. I stayed at home several days and I could not keep anything in my stomach, not the medicine the doctor had prescribed and not even water. My parents thought that since I was not eating then they should not give ne insulin. They were afraid I would have a hypo. They did not check this out with the doctor. After several days of no food, no water, no medicine and no insulin I was so weak I could not lift my arms and I was barely able to move my head. The doctor came to our house. He called an ambulance. I stayed in the hospital almost two weeks. I recovered very well and returned to school. I hope that those of you reading this know that you need your insulin even if you are not eating. You still need your "basal" insulin under these conditions but you do not need your "bolus" insulin if you are not eating.
I have reported on my first two years of college. I was dating Linda during my sophomore year. We continued dating, on and off, for four more years after that but it it was only a friendship and we never fell in love. I never dated a second girl until after my first year in graduate school.
A very strange thing happened during my junior year in college. I was taking second year French and my teacher was from Paris. There was a teacher exchange program and one of Roanoke College's English teachers went to Paris to teach and a French teacher taught for two years at our college. He was an excellent teacher and I really liked him. I loved the French language and he praised me for having excellent pronunciation of the French words. I gave an oral report on a French book I had read and he singled me out and told the class that they should all give a report like I had done. I was very embarassed. I felt like a teacher's pet. I had never been in a situation like that before. I had friends in the class who were giving me funny looks but they never talked to me about it. During the second semester there was a French play and my teacher wanted me to be the leading character in the play. I told him I could never do that, I was much too shy. It took all the courage I had in me to give that book report. I was concerned that my grade for the second semester would be affected by my refusing to appear in the play. I received an A and I was relieved. He was going to return to France at the end of that semester. He approached me and asked me to consider going with him. He said my French vocabulary and my pronunciation were so good that I would fit in immediately. MOI??? I told him I thought I might teach math at the college level. He insisted that I could teach at a college in France. He wanted me to live in his home with him until I found a place of my own. I was very naieve and immature then and I just explained that with my diabetes and my having more years of college ahead of me I could not go. He was disappointed but we were on good terms the last time I saw him. Should I have gone??? I am glad I didn't, I had a very wonderful life ahead of me here in the country I loved so much.
I quit working at the supermarket just before the fall semester of my senior year. I had saved enough to pay for all the tuition for that year. My grades had not been as good as I had hoped during my first three years of college because I had worked so many hours at the supermarket and I went to classes with incomplete homework and I would fall asleep while studying at night after work hours. I always became very tired even when I had not worked very hard. I am sure that was due to my diabetes. I could not fully concentrate in class and on tests. I would have made better grades, if I did not have to pay my own tuition and work at that store. My senior year was different and I did not have to work at the store ever again. I made four A's and one B each semester. That pulled up my overall grade point average and I graduated with honors. My parents and some relatives attended my graduation. I wanted to tell my parents "See! You said I could not do this because of my diabetes, but I DID!!!" I never told them that. I'm happy that I kept my mouth shut. Working my way through college was good experience and it really helped me mature. I loved my parents and they loved me. Nothing ever came between us.
Dr. Walpole, head of the math department at Roanoke College, wrote a letter to the Statistics Dept. at Va. Tech on my behalf. They offered me a Fellowship for doing graduate work. The National Institutes of Health was the sponser of that fellowship. Va. Tech, at that time, was one of the top four schools in the country for graduate level statistics. There was much demand for statisticians nationwide at that time. Dr. Walpole had been my teacher for several courses during my undergraduate years and he thought I was a good candidate for the Fellowship. He must have written a glowing letter of recommendation. The fellowship paid all my expenses including room and board and there was some left over. I was in awe of the other beginning graduate students in my classes in the fall of 1961. Many of them had come from big name schools like Dartmouth and Stanford and some were from foreign countries. I talked to them and they made me feel so small and insignificant. My background was indeed insignificant compared to theirs. I was very insecure and felt very much out of place.
Now let's get one thing straight! I am not super intelligent. I made good grades in high school and undergraduate college but I had to study long and hard to get my grades. I had friends who studied much less and still made better grades than I did. I have better than average intelligence but I am nothing special. These other beginning graduate students talked circles around me, how could I possibly compete? A "B" average was required in order to remain in graduate school and to keep my fellowship. I thought I would be very lucky to keep that average. I never worked so hard. I tried working in study groups and I was so depressed, I could not understand what they were talking about. I had to hoof it on my own. A high "B" student from little Roanoke College did not have the preperation that an "A" student from Dartmouth did. There was no comparison. I hated that year in grad school. I squeaked through with a "B" average and the posted grades showed most of the other members of my class had "A" averages for that year. I was not sure I wanted to return for a second year but I did not tell anyone at Tech that.
I had always been a shy kid and had great difficulty standing before a group and communicating. I had to do something about that. I went back to Roanoke College one weekend that spring. I talked to Dr. Walpole about a summer school teaching position. Someone had already been hired but that individual learned that he had cancer just two weeks before my visit that day and he would not be available to teach that summer. Dr. Walpole was delighted I wanted to teach. My mouth dropped and I wanted to run to my old chevy and drive away. Was this actually happening? What was I getting myself into? HELPPPP! I agreed to take the position. I was to teach four classes that summer. That is unheard of in this day and time. A max of two classes is allowed at colleges for summer school now. Teaching four summer classes is like teaching eight classes in a regular semester. I taught Elementary Algebra, Finite Math, Calculus I and Calculus II. I approached my first class in June and I was petrified. My knees were so weak that I thought I would collapse. I sat down fast so I would not fall down. Calling the roll gave me some relief. I don't remember how I got through that day, but I did. Actually I was doing very well by the end of the week. I was amazed.
I was not able to test my blood sugar. I don't know if I ran high or low but it was probably high. I did not know until about 23 years later that counting carbs was necessary for good blood sugar control. No hypos, that was the only good thing about running high blood sugar. I was so accustomed to running high that I did not notice anything peculiar. I always felt that way. It was my perpetual state of being. If I was high there was nothing I could do. There was no fast acting insulin like Humalog available then. I took one injection of my beef/pork insulin in the morning and that was it.
I became a successful math teacher that summer. I was doing this to force myself to lose some of my shyness. I did not intend to ever teach again. I did not know what I would do after graduate school but teaching wasn't so bad! How about that!!!
I told my students at the end of summer school that they could call me at home (my parent's home) and get their grades so they would not have to wait so long for report cards to be released. One of the students who called me was Mary Louise. Cute little thing! She made an A in both Calc I and Calc II that summer. She had the highest grade in both classes. I gave her the exam grade and course grade and then we talked for awhile. It was so easy to talk to her. I felt so confident and at ease. I asked her for a date. She was only three years younger than me. She was happy to go out with me. We made a date and after I hung up I remembered I had a date scheduled with Linda the same day. I called Linda and said I was too busy finishing summer school. So, I lied, but I was really looking forward to dating Mary Louise!!!
A little extra. Not only did my parents never drink alcohol or smoke tobacco but they never used inappropriate language. My sister and I were not supposed to use the word "sex". I remenber one time when my sister and I were preschool age and Daddy was gathering turnips from the garden. He pulled an extra large one out of the ground and said "Boy that is a golly whopper!". Mother yelled at him to never talk like that in front of the kids. She was so disappointed in him. I had never heard her scold him in that way. I guess that is why I remember the incident so clearly. I rarely use a curse word now, even in anger. Only my wife and kids have heard me use a few very mild ones. My sister and I always avoided curse words when we lived at home.
Mary Louise did not care so much about her first name so I called her Louise. She had been a straight A student throughout elementary and high school and also had all A's for her first two years at Roanoke College. She did not have to study hard at all. A very smart cookie! She was a chemistry major. Va. Tech was only one hour from my home in Roanoke so I stayed in Blacksburg during the week and drove home late in the afternoon on Friday's. I was starting my second year of graduate work and I was much more interested in Louise than graduate school. Louise kept my spirits up and gave me confidence in myself. She told me I was a good teacher, considering it was my first teaching experience. She thought I ought to consider making teaching my profession. I had never known a young lady who was so intelligent but she was very sweet and kind and made me feel so comfortable when I was with her. We dated Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday almost every week during the fall, winter and spring until my graduation from Tech in June of 1963. It did not take long until I realized that I was in love with Louise. I was 23 and she was the first girl I had ever kissed, and kissed and kissed,...
I took my daily insulin injections in the morning and there were no glucose monitors back then for testing my blood sugar so it was easy to go on a date without letting my girlfriend know that I was diabetic. I never told Linda even if we ate together. I only avoided things containing sugar back then, I did not know I was also supposed to keep my carb intake low as well. I did not eat desserts when I ate out. Louise was so different and I felt so relaxed with her, so I told her about my diabetes. She was very interested. We went on a few picnics and she baked a pie with saccharin when we did that. I still hated grad school but Louise kept me happy and I coasted through that year without much frustration. I barely made a B average again when the spring semester was over. I had to write a thesis for my MS degree. It's title was "An Analysis of Some Aspects of Population Projection". I won't bother you with the details of that. I had to take orals as a final step to being approved for my MS degree. I was so nervous. Several teachers in the Statistics Dept. asked me questions about my thesis and other things concerning statistics as a suject matter. I do not think I did so well and when it was over. I left the room feeling I had flunked. Less than thirty minutes later my advisor told me I had passed because they really liked my thesis. I think the orals were of secondary importance and they certainly knew I was very nervous during my presentation. I was overjoyed!!! The next day the department head told me that my fellowship would be for only half as much if I continued towards my PhD. I told him that I did not want to continue, I had reached that decision a few months earlier. I do not think I would have been capable of getting a PhD. I will never know.
I had been looking for a teaching position at colleges that were advertising for math and statistics teachers. Louise and I drove north to Bridgewater, Va. one Saturday during April of that year. The president of Bridgewater College and his wife interviewed me and offered me a job. My salary would be $5,000 for one school year. I thanked them and went back to my car and told Louise I was offered a job. She and I went to a nice restaurant to celebrate after driving two hours back to Roanoke. I had also been hired for a second year of summer teaching at Roanoke College that year.
Louise and my parents attended my graduation at Tech in early June. Larry, my old friend from my neighborhood, graduated there too that year with a BS degree.
The day after graduation Louise and I had a date. When I took her home she told me that was our last date. I was dumbfounded! I felt numb all over. I did not see this coming. She intended on spending that summer in Tennessee in a summer program for top ranked undergraduate chem majors. We would not be able to see each other. When I was at Bridgewater that fall she would be in her senior year at Roanoke College. She thought it was time for us to break off our relationship. I was almost speechless. She wished me well and left the car and walked into her house without looking back. She would not let me kiss her good bye. On my way home I realized that she had dated me for nine months in order to encourage me to finish gratuate school and keep me going until I graduated. I cannot help but think that way. She enjoyed our dates but any kind of permanent relationship between us was not meant to be. She realized that but I was blinded by my love for her and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. In many ways she was more mature than me. I could not sleep that night and I did not tell my parents what had happened. I told them the next day and I could see that Mother was happy. She knew that Louise was not the girl for me. She had told me that several times. It always made me mad.
My teaching was not very good for the first few weeks that summer. I called Linda and we resumed dating. Finally I concentrated more on my teaching and things were going more smoothly. All in all I had another good experience teaching that summer. I still thought about Louise and what she had meant to me. I had been angry with her for awhile but I came to realize that she gave me a lift whenever I needed her and she saw me through all my rough spots for nine months. I will aways be very grateful to her. Years later I was looking at a Roanoke College alumni directory I had purchased. I looked for Louise immediately. She was married and was employed as a chemist by Eli Lilly in Indianappolis. That is the company that makes the insulin that many of us take. Is this a small world or what? I couldn't believe it. She was such an intelligent lady that I would not be at all surprised if she had a hand in the development of some of the modern day insulins. She may still be helping me even now, if that is the case. I gained 57 pounds on modern day insulins though. Can I blame Louise for that??? Nahhh! I want to have good thoughts about her, forever.
In August of 1963 I moved out of my parent's home and set up a room at a lady's house in Bridgewater, Va. She was an elderly lady and a substitute dorm mother and she was living there by herself. I was free to use the kitchen and watch TV. All that for $75 per month. It did not seem like such a good deal back then.
I started teaching at Bridgewater College that fall, I was 24 at that time. I had had diabetes for 18 years and I had no complications even though I ran high blood sugar so much of the time. I still did not know about carb counting and I ate many carbs every day but I avoided sugar, just like the doctor said. I was using the test tape method of testing my urine. A little urine placed on the strip of tape would make it turn various shades of green. The tape was initially yellow and if it remained yellow after inserted in urine then there was 0% sugar present. If there was sugar then the tape turned green, the darker the shade of green then the higher the urine sugar. I used that type of urine testing for many years. I do not remember exactly what kind of beef/pork imsulin I was using at that time. I just know that certain improvements were made and there wold be some occasional changes but it was still insulin from pigs and cows. It kept me very much alive and I had a good life and good health despite my high blood sugar levels.
Teaching was going reasonably well that fall but it was much more challenging because I had a full schedule of five classes. It was very different from summer school. I had noticed that the head of the math department, who was about 5 years older than me, was dating one of the coeds on campus. I discovered teachers were permitted to date students as long as the students were not members of their own classes. There was another young male teacher who was not at all good looking but he was dating a very attractive female student. I thought "Hey, if they can do it so can I!!!" I looked at the 1963 college yearbook and started with the senior class and made a list. Bridgewater College was a small college then and had less than 700 students. I shared an office with the head of the physics dept. and he knew many of the female students on campus, at least by reputation. He looked at my list and immediately said no to all of the seniors on the list. They were either married, engaged or had questionable reputations. I asked the dorm mother where I was staying and she confirmed his decision. Oh well, on to the junior class. There was one very attractive gal named Wanda. She was a junior and a physics major. My office mate knew her well. She had the same kind of reputation as Mary Louise, very intelligent, straight A student and a good reputation. I called her that evening and we had our first date on Friday of that week. She agreed to date on Fridays only so I called her "my girl friday" like in the book "Robinson Caruso". She wanted to get a PhD in nuclear physics and she was a very interesting gal but I saw no real future in our relationship. I could see a pattern developing. My girl friends had been very pretty and very intelligent with great reputations. Why was I able to get dates with such young ladies? I found out later on that dating a teacher was a really big deal among the girls in the dorms there and so I felt I had a chance with just about any girl I chose. Back to the yearbook. Let's see, one for Saturday, one for Sunday,....... Can you tell I had delusions of grandeur? I had more juniors and some sophomores in a list in my little black book. I showed the list to my dorm mother friend. She looked very carefully at my list and said date this one, her name is Anita, she is wonderful, and forget about the others. That was not my plan but I agreed to give Anita a call. After a few dates with Anita I was not so interested in calling any more girls so I just stuck with Anita and Wanda. I dated Wanda on Friday and Anita on Saturday, Sunday, Monday,..... I guess the dorm mother had hit the nail on the head. Anita was different in a very positive way. Beautiful and so sweet and I felt very comfortable with her like I had with Mary Louise. I looked for that little black book one day and it was gone. I have wondered if the dorm mother had cleaned my room one day and saw my list and threw it away??? She really did like Anita. I DID TOO!!! I stopped dating Wanda and Anita and I were going steady. Anita eventually told me that the girls at her dorm had helped her fix her hair, pick out the dress she wore, etc before our first date. I think the whole campus knew we were dating. At that stage I was even dating her on Fridays. Dating every day of the week. I wonder if any other couple ever did that. HMMM!
I took Anita home with me for the Thanksgiving weekend. Mother loved Anita! Daddy did too! Hey, this is getting serious here!!! Anita and I had already admitted our love for each other. When the semester was over I went home for Christmas and Anita went to Falls Church, VA to be with her family. It was agreed that I would go to Anita's house the day after Christmas so I could meet her family. Late on Christmas Day a terrific snow sorm hit Roanoke. The roads were plowed late the next morning but the driveway at our house had about 18 inches of snow. My parents insisted that I stay home and wait to see my sweetie when the spring semester began. They were out of their minds!!! I shoveled the driveway and packed my car while Mother was screaming at me. I started up the hill on our driveway. Too much ice, it was bitter cold. My tires were spinning and Daddy helped me put chains on the rear wheels. I still could not make it up that hill. I was about to give up when I saw daddy coming with his tractor. He pulled my car up the hill to the road and off I went. The roads between Roanoke and Falls Church were slick and dangerous but nothing was going to stop me. It took me about six hours, normally it would have been four hours. I found her house and I met her parents and her brother. Nice people! That evening we went downstairs to the rec room where there was a fireplace, all warm and cozy. I proposed marriage that evening and she said yes!!! HURRAY! Months later her Mother said she knew that we were engaged, she could tell by Anita's grin as we walked up the steps. We were going to keep it secret for awhile because we had been dating for less than two months, but they knew. We planned our wedding for May 31, 1964. We were married after 7 months of courting. We celebrated our 43'rd anniversary on May 31, 2007. We have had a wonderful marriage, still going strong!!!
Anita read this after I finished. She proof reads all my chapters. She says it is to find mispelled words and grammatical errors but I know she has other reasons as well. She was an English major in college. She howled all the way through this chapter.
As I have already stated, my blood sugar ran much too high from my diagnosis in 1945 until the 1980's when I discovered that I was supposed to eat a low carb diet. I did not know about carbs being part of the equation prior to that time. I could only test my urine to get some idea of my blood sugar level. Of course urine sugar does not necessarily correlate well at all with the blood sugar level at any given time. I did not know that though and I always tested my urine before eating and limited my portion sizes and types of food accordingly. Through the years I had learned that certain foods were not good for me. I could feel my highs and lows quite well. (Much later on I discovered the highs I felt were like 250 or greater and the lows were actually in the low 100's.) I knew that too much fruit, pasta, bread and the desserts Mother made for me made me feel high if I ate big portions so I limited these portions so I could feel better. I knew nothing about carbs but this was still a very crude form of carb control. I am sure that it helped during my teen years and until I learned what an important role carb counting could play in the 1980's. I never was more than 5 pounds overweight until the 1990's. Weight was not a problem. I did not keep a log until I started carb counting. No doctor prior to the 1980's ever suggested that I keep a log or limit my portion sizes on certain foods.
My wife and I moved to different locations several times during our early years. I had an MS degree but not a PhD. To get tenure at a four year college a PhD was required. I was a full-time teacher at two four year colleges in the south but I was allowed to teach only two years at each of them because I did not have a PhD. We moved from Bridgewater, VA to Wingate, NC then to Richmond, VA and finally to Kingston, NY between 1964 and 1970. Every time we moved I looked for a new doctor but I never found one I especially liked. They were OK for diagnosing and writing prescriptions but none of them knew much about diabetes. Either knowledge about diabetes progressed very slowly prior to 1980 or else the doctors I saw were just not keeping up with any advancements being made and so I learned so little during all those years.
While we were living in Richmond I found a specialist in diabetes listed in the yellow pages. I do not remember if he was an endocrinologist but I do not think he was. It was 1970 and there may not have been endos at that time, at least not in the areas where I lived. I was very excited about this diabetes expert and I made an appointment. His office was very crowded and patients were spending, on the average, about 15 minutes with him. He saw me for the first time and looked at my blood test result that his lab technitian had performed on me when I first arrived at his office complex. He frowned and said the result was very high. I do not remember the level now. He spent so little time with me even though it was my first visit. He gave me a book about diabetes that had been written about 20 years earlier. I am almost certain it was written in the early 1950's. I do not remember the author or title of the book. He told me to pay particular attention to a certain page. That was a very strange doctor visit, very short and not at all informative. I was very disappointed. I liked my previous GP's better than this so-called expert. I went to my car and immediately turned to the page he felt was so important. There was a chart on that page. In the leftmost column there was a list of ages at time of diagnosis and in the adjacent column there was a prediction of age at time of death. According to that chart I was supposed to die in my late 40's. I was 30 at that time so this suggested I had less than 20 years to live. I was terribly depressed!!!!! I went home and showed Anita and she hugged me and gave me the comfort I desperately needed but that chart nagged me terribly for many years after that day. Anita and I discussed the office visit, the doctor and the book and we decided I would not see the doctor again. We threw the book in the trash can. We knew that I had no complications and I felt good even though I had high blood sugar almost all the time. We wanted to believe that I was an exceptional individual and the statistics in that book did not apply to me. Actually that did turn out to be the case but we did not know that at the time. It was merely wishful thinking.
We moved to Kingston, NY in Augst of 1970. I had to go that far to find a college where I could get tenure and advancement in rank without a PhD. Only an MS degree was required in the community college system of NY state. We were very impressed with the job I had there. The fringe benifits were fantastic. I looked for a doctor and found a GP with a heavy German accent. He was the best doctor I had had at that time. He knew much about diabetes and he spent as much as 30 minutes with me on each visit. He tested my blood himself while I watched. It was high but with his instructions I learned a little about carbs and certain things I should eat in very limited portions. I followed his advice and before he was in semi-retirement in the late 1970's I had the best control I had ever had. My urine sugar still showed high much of the time but I also had frequent lows and I began feeling very high in the upper 100's whereas I had previously felt good at that level. It was extreme highs well over 200 that had made me feel high and somewhat sick prior to that time.
In 1977 I knew that my doctor was about to move out of the area and I needed another doctor. A neighbor recommended a new doctor who had just opened up his practice. He was from Thailand and had a heavy accent and he was a specialist in internal medicine. His office was in the basement level of the Kingston hospital. He was in charge of the dialysis department at the hospital and still has that position at the present time. He spent a lot of time with me on my first visit. He obviously knew very much about diabetes. I was so impressed and I thanked my neighbor for recommending him. Dr. B. is the best doctor I have ever had and he is still my doctor today. He is only a few years younger than me and may retire at any time. I dread the day I will have to do without him. He has helped me so much. He has had many diabetic patients and they talk about him in the waiting room. Everybody loves Dr.B. I appreciate this doctor so much that I have tears in my eyes while I am writing this chapter.
He told me to buy a glucometer in the late 1970's. I had never heard of one. It was the AccuChek meter, perhaps their first model. It was much bigger and more cumbersome to operate than today's meters. It took a much longer time to produce my blood sugar level. Almost every time I used the meter it showed me a high number. Many times it was a little over 200. I did not trust or like this crazy meter! It could not possibly be correct! I felt good, how could all these highs be correct? This had to be a defective meter. But no, it was not defective. I realized for the first time that I had been running very high blood sugar for 35 years. Dr. B. confirmed my suspicions and we talked at length about it. What a revelation!!! Why hadn't I developed terrible diabetic complications after 35 years of high blood sugar? Dr. B. could not answer that question and he still can't today but he did tell me he had other patients who had diabetes for a long time and many of them were on dialysis or had heart or eye problems or amputations. In the early 1980's I started keeping logs of my BG levels, insulin dosages and number of carbs eaten. It was a very new experience for me and I enjoyed making out those logs and watching my control gradually improve. I was on Humulin N and R at the time I first saw Dr. B. I stayed with those insulins for quite some time. I had thrown my old glass syringe away and was using disposable syringes. They were great. No more boiling the glass syringe and needles every morning in order to sterilize them for repeated use.
I do not remember when I had my first A1c or what the result was. I think it was in the mid 1980's and I know it was higher than Dr. B. wanted. I kept on plugging away and kept improving but it was still too high. Dr. B. asked me to consider going to the Joslin Clinic in Boston for diabetes treatment. I was doing so much better and I kept on improving so I did not want to go to Boston. Later on he asked me to consider using an insulin pump. Again I refused because my A1c was getting better and better. He saw room for improvement and wanted me to pump. He never pressed me to make changes if he saw I was opposed. I kind of wish that he had insisted that I use a pump back then. I started using vials of Humalog separately from my NPH and I had the best control ever. I had been using an NPH & Humalog mix prior to that time. Dr. B. had hesitated letting me use the vials of Humalog because he knew I had hypos rather frequently. I had been taken to the ER once during the 1980's when Anita was not able to bring me out of my unconscious state. There were two or three other ambulance visits when the same thing occurred but the shot they gave me each time worked so quickly and I immediately stood up and walked around. I was fully aware of my surroundings and I told the guys I did not need to go to the hospital. They had me sign a paper that allowed me to stay at home. This has not happened in recent years. My hypos are not nearly as bad or as frequent now.
After Anita and I were married on May 31, 1964 we drove away and left all our parents and siblings standing there waving at us. We drove a mile or so and I realized that I did not ask for our marriage certificate. I thought that might be important, so we turned around and went back for it. The minister who married us was a Dean at the college and the son of the dorm mother who was responsible for our getting together. I told her that if the marriage did not work out I would know whom to blame. She said she was not worried. She was a very sweet lady. So her son signed the marriage certificate and we were off to Niagara Falls. I had seen the falls previously but Anita hadn't. It is one of my favorite places. We loved it there and our honeymoon was great !!! I cannot remember anything we did there except see the falls. There must have been something else too. We were there several days. My memory is failing me. Hmmmm!
That summer I was scheduled to teach for the third time at Roanoke College. That gave Anita a chance to really get to know my parents, my sister and other relatives. They all loved Anita! When the summer session ended we drove back to Bridgewater and I started my second year of fulltime teaching. We were living upstairs in a three room apartment that had no air conditioning. It was miserable until the cooler weather arrived. The teaching that year was fair, I still was not sure I wanted to make teaching my permanent profession. Anita fit in very well with the faculty wives at functions she attended. Some of the wives had been her teachers and it seemed strange to her being a member of the faculty wives group. That was my last year at Bridgewater since I lacked the PhD that was needed for tenure status.
In the the years that followed I taught three years at Wingate College in NC and our first child, David, was born on Sept. 21, 1966. I wanted a son because I was the only male child with my last name who could continue our branch of our family tree. We were so happy and everything was perfect. We left Wingate in 1968 and moved to Richmond, VA. I taught two years at Virginia Commonwealth University. My second son, Gary, was born in Richmond on Sept. 9, 1969. I left VCU after two years because of my not having a PhD. My uncle in Roanoke called me a gypsy math professor. It was time to find a place where I could get tenure and stop all the moving around. I looked high and low. All college teaching positions available required a Phd. Even the community colleges in Virginia required a PhD for tenure. Time was running out when I discovered that the community colleges of New York required only an MS degree. There was a job opening at Ulster County Community College near Kingston, NY. I got the job and we moved to Kingston, NY in August of 1970. Kingston is a small city of about 30,000 people and it was the first capitol city of NY state. It was burned to the ground during the Revolutionary War but was rebuilt in later years. The present day capitol is Albany, Ny and is located 50 miles north of Kingston. Kingston is a very historic city. Reenactments of the burning of Kingston are held in the fall and people come from all over to watch the spectacle. Peiople dressed in colonial garb and carrying old muskets and the British storming the mock village in their bright red coats all make an interesting display.
We were very hesitant about moving to New York. I had always heard southerners say the people were unfriendly and cold and we would not like it there. Nothing could be further from the truth. People in Ulster county and the surrounding regions are very friendly and wonderful. We have always had good neighbors here during the 37 years we have lived here. I loved teaching at the community college. I made many wonderful friends there, I became a popular teacher. My students would sometimes laugh at my southern accent but I eventually lost most of that accent through the years. I will always have an accent though. There is an old saying : "You can take an ole boy outta the south but you can't take the south outta the boy".
I had some rough times with hypos while teaching in NY. I was using Humulin N & R insulins and NPH insulin later on and I had more low blood sugar than I had ever had before. I would have lows while teaching and my vision would get blurry and I would have to eat sugar from my briefcase and apologize to my students. I did not want to have the reputation of a teacher whose performance in the classroom was jepordized by diabetes. I never missed a class meeting during my 34 years of teaching because of my diabetes. I will always be proud of that fact. I also attended every class meeting when I was a college student except for one day in graduate school. I was too weak and sick with the flu to climb to the fourth floor where my classes were held. There were no elevators.
I had hypos at night after using the new insulins and Anita had to bring me out of those hypos many times. I wished so often that I could go back to the beef/pork insulins. I rarely had hypos with the older insulins but I had so much high blood sugar then. I still did not know about carb counting in the 1970's. Dr. B. insisted that I stick with the newer insulins. I wonder if the beef/pork insulins were available then.
In the 1980's I learned about carb counting and I bought my first glucometer. I had a high blood sugar reading almost everytime I used that contraption. I did not like it! All those highs could not be correct! I wanted to throw it away. Anita convinced me to stick with it. I soon realized that the highs were indeed correct and I had to adjust to that fact. I had always felt normal and good with high blood sugar. That was my perpetual state of being from 1945 until the early 1980's. I soon saw that many of the hypos I had been having occurred when I was in the low 100's. Those are now called false hypos but they sure felt real to me. It took me a long time to adjust to using carb counting to control my blood sugar more effectively. I started feeling comfortable with my blood sugar in the low 100's and even in the 90's. Carb counting had turned my life around. I had lots of hypos but they were no longer false hypos and I had highs too but I knew I was experiencing much better control than I had ever seen before. Dr. B. was my guide through all these changes. I feel that he is largely responsible for me being alive today.
It was August of 1970 and Anita and I were in Kingston, NY, far from familiar surroundings in Virginia. People talked so differently! We walked into a little shop and the young woman at the counter asked "Can I help youse?" What did she say? I thought "youse" might be like a plural for "you". So two you's would be youse. I had never heard that word before.
I was nervous about teaching in a NY college. The students had had a much better high school background than most of my students in the southern colleges. High schools in the north are typically given much higher ratings than those in southern states. My fringe benefits package in NY was vastly superior to what I had in the south. In all the colleges in which I taught in the south the fringe benefits were very poor and almost nonexistent. During the beginning weeks of my first year teaching there there was a strike by the teaching staff at my college. I could not believe it! The best salary and fringe benefits I had ever imagined and the faculty wanted more along with higher salaries. I could not relate to any of that. I explained my feelings and my fellow faculty members seemed to understand but classes were not held while faculty picketed in front of the college. I did not participate in the picket lines. I just watched. Some of the faculty members were arrested and jailed for one night. The community college is a state college and striking by faculty is illegal in NY State. I was happy that I was not arrested but I was sorry for my friends who spent the night in jail. After a week or so the bargaining between the faculty and the county ended. Fringe benefits were even better and there were faculty wage increases of 20% retroactive for the preceding year and another 20% for the year in progress. The faculty won at the bargaining table, big time! I got the benefit of the raise for the current year and that was a big bonus that I felt I did not deserve. I did not participate in the strike in any way. If a faculty in a southern college even talked about striking, heads would roll and it would never take place. Things were sure different in northern states.
My years of teaching at Ulster County Community College were very enjoyable. My diabetes gave me very little problem. Dr. B. became my doctor in the late 1970's and my diabetes control routine changed drastically. I started carb counting in the 1980's but was not keeping any logs until a few years later. I had much lower test results with the use of a glucose monitor. I eventually adjusted to lower blood sugar and my diabetes health was improving. I had more frequent hypos though and that was a major concern. My A1c's were taken in the mid 1980's and they gradually improved. Dr. B. knew that I had frequent hypos and in the late 1990's he had me use an NPH/Humalog mix. I had many highs and lows but better A1c's because the high and low readings gave a good average blood sugar level and good Aic's. I think I may have had A1c's in the 7's at that time. I eventually convinced Dr. B. to let me use separate vials of NPH and Humalog. That way I could take meal boluses with my Humalog and my carb counting could really help me. Dr. B. had hesitated to do this because he thought that my taking separate doses of Humalog would give me even more hypos. He was right. I had some very serious hypos and there were 3 or 4 visits to my home by the paramedics. On one occasion I spent a couple of days in the hospital. Dr. B. knew about the hospital episode but I did not tell him about the other hypos. I did not want him to take my Humalog away from me. My A1c's were in the 6's and still improving.
In the mid 1990's I had a new problem. I had been gaining weight with these new modern day insulins. That had actually started in the early part of that decade. By the mid 1990's I had gained 57 pounds. I worked so hard to keep my weight under control but I kept on gaining. I had been running a lot of high blood sugar and I had increased my dosage by 40%. My next A1c was much higher. Dr. B. had new blood tests done which showed I was experiencing insulin resistance. That is a Type 2 symptom. At that time I was a Type 1 with Type 2 symptoms. I was a "double diabetic". My performance on campus was not so good in the mid 1990's because of these new developments. I felt so run down and I bacame tired so easily. My energy was zapped after my morning classes. I still had afternoon classes and, on some days, evening classes to teach. It was just not possible for me to have any enthusiasm when I met those later classes. I had nothing left in me. My last good year was 1993. After that year everything went steadily downhill. I was 54 and I had intended to retire when I was 62 so I could start drawing social security. We were heavily in debt. We had put both of my children through 6 years of college. I taught lots of overload and summer school in order to finance their education but my earnings were not enough. We took out a second mortgage on our home and we borrowed money until we were not permitted to borrow any more. Our sons had their MS degrees and good jobs. That was very important to us. I struggled with my teaching until 1997. Then something wonderful happened. The county offered retirement incentives to retiring faculty members. I announced my retirement and I received 70% of my annual salary as an incentive. That enabled us to pay off all our remaining debts. I retired in June of that year and we were out of debt. A miracle just when I needed it. I still had higher than usual A1c's and a roller coaster type of control. I continued part time teaching. We needed that extra money until I qualified for social security. I desperately needed to lose weight and get better control.
In the very late 1990's Dr. B. told me there was a new product called Avandia being used in Europe. It was not yet introduced in this country because there was a chance it caused liver damage. By 1999 it was considered safe and I started taking Avandia tablets twice per day. In just a few days I started improving. My insulin dosages returned to normal. A few weeks later I had regained my energy and I was no longer suffering from depression. My part time teaching was fun and I was a good teacher again. I almost wanted to become fulltime again but that was impossible. My fulltime position had been filled and I would also have to give up my retirement income if I was fulltime again. I was happy, I felt great and I was really enjoying my retirement. My weight was my only big problem at that time.
In the early 1980's we decided we needed mortgage insurance on our home. I went to a local insurance company and they told me it would require a physical examination. A very old semi-retired doctor had me fill out a form. He asked me for a urine sample. He tested the urine with the special tape used for that purpose and it turned a dark green. That indicated high urine sugar. He said he could not recommend me for mortgage insurance based on that urine test. He walked outside with me and we stood by my car. At that time I had been diabetic for about 35 years. He told me that I was very lucky to have lived so long without complications. He went on to say he had known another male diabetic like me who was doing very well but had high urine sugar almost all the time. Less than one year after he had seen the man he developed kidney failure and was going blind because of his diabetes. The doctor told me I should not expect to live much longer than I had at that time. He wanted me to prepare for dying. This reminded me of the doctor visit in Richmond, VA when I was told I should not expect to live beyond my 40's. I paid very little attention to this doctor with his antiquated ideas. The next day I went to the local Metropolitan Life building. They called Dr. B. on the phone and they learned that I was doing very well after 35 years of diabetes and I had no complications. They offered me a mortgage insurance policy. We also got one for my wife. I wish I had gone to Metropolitan in the first place. The insurance policies gave us peace of mind. We never had to use them. Our house was fully paid for in August of 1995.