Although it was an unsettling diagnosis to receive in April 1931, three quarters of a century living with diabetes hasn’t stopped Spencer M. Wallace, Jr. In fact, it hasn’t even slowed him down.
Spencer, a Joslin 80-Year Medalist, developed type 1 diabetes at age seven. He attributes his active lifestyle to the guidance of his medical providers. He also credits the support of his mother and of his wife, Margaret, for his longevity and good diabetes health. “I feel it’s important to have someone to keep an eye on you,” he says.
In the early days, cleaning needles and testing glucose were challenging. Spencer recalls sterilizing his equipment by “placing the barrel, plunger and needle in a container and boiling them for a minimum of three minutes.” And testing glucose before each meal and at bedtime required a careful formula: five drops of urine and 10 drops of water mixed in a test tube with one Clinitest tablet. With modern technology, these elements of diabetes management have become much simpler.
Physical activity has always been a cornerstone of Spencer’s diabetes management. “I have been active all my life and feel exercise is essential for keeping in good condition,” he says. In high school, Spencer was a tri-season athlete, playing football, basketball and baseball. During World War II, he served with the United States Coast Guard Reserve “Temporary” on the shores of Kennebunkport, Maine, and walked a 2.5-mile patrol. Later, he spent winters skiing with his wife and son, and took up bowling.
At age 13, Spencer started to play golf, a pursuit he continues today. He is past president of the New York Seniors Golf Association. Spencer says, “Weather permitting, I play three or four rounds a week. I carry my bag nine holes and ride a cart nine holes.” He also rides a stationary bicycle and uses weights to maintain his strength.
It’s particularly fitting that Spencer became a Joslin 80-Year Medalist. After all, Spencer himself is a product of Joslin’s diabetes treatment methods. In 1940, he became a patient of the Center’s founder and namesake, Elliott P. Joslin, M.D., who was then practicing at 81 Bay State Road. Indeed, Dr. Joslin’s legacy lives on in the health of Joslin Medalists like Spencer Wallace.
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Page last updated: March 29, 2015