Joslin Awards 49th 75-Year Medal
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Dorothy Jane Williams was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes 75-and-one-half-years ago. And on Monday, she became a member of Joslin’s Medalist Study and was honored as the 49th recipient of Joslin’s 75-year medal.
The Joslin Medalist Program began in 1970 to acknowledge those living with Diabetes for 50-years, and it expanded to 75-year medals in 1996. The Joslin Research team invites all medalists to participate in the Joslin Medalist Study, a research effort that examines the biology and lifestyles of these individuals to discover the reasons for their complications-free longevity.
“I am so thrilled to be a subject for such a wonderful scientific endeavor. And I am very, very impressed with what you have found, and, incidentally, what you will find, too,” she said after the presentation.
Dorothy was diagnosed in 1936 when she was just 11 years old. Her care was always family-oriented—her mother, a doctor, recognized the symptoms of Type 1 early and started her on insulin right away. Dorothy’s mother made life normal, and helped to seamlessly integrate treatment into her life.
“She never let me feel sorry for myself,” Dorothy recalled. “I remember sitting at the dinner table with my head in my hand and elbow on the table, watching my father take each bite and he paid no attention to me! And I thought, ‘that’s not like Daddy, he should be feeling sorry for me! Now I know that inside he was aching. But they trained me to feel no different than the rest of the population. And I’m so grateful to them.”
Dorothy grew up, got married, started working as a speech pathologist in local schools, and had two daughters, all while keeping tight control over her diabetes. “At the time, it was just good, active living,” she said. “And I was thoroughly happy because I was so thrilled to have two kids who were growing up beautifully.”
“Nobody ever said ‘you can’t,’” she said of getting pregnant. “I was aware of course, from reading and so on, that complications could happen, and I was exceedingly careful with my diabetic care at those times.” Any time she felt a little strange or ill, she tested her levels to ensure everything was on track.
Dorothy now lives in an assisted living facility in Sarasota, Florida. She first learned about the Joslin Medalist Program and the 50-Year Medalists Study earlier this year, when she asked her current caregiver for an interesting favor.
“I had told her, ‘Paulina, if you could possibly find me a place that I could give my body for diabetic research, I would be eternally grateful,’” Dorothy said. A couple of weeks later, she was directed to Joslin. “I was both smiling and almost crying I was so happy,” she said.
Dorothy is proud to be involved with Joslin research, and plans to continue for a long time. “I have finally trained my kids to accept the fact that eventually, I will die!” she said, laughing. And when that happens, Joslin will be able to even better understand how she has managed to live so long and so well with diabetes.
She advises children who have been recently diagnosed to “be very, very respectful of your medical needs. And see your doctors often and follow their advice.” Now, she uses a continuous glucose monitor to keep up-to-date on the trends in her glucose levels, and she couldn’t be more pleased.
Learning about and being a part of Joslin research has meant a great deal to Dorothy.
“It really has given me a new lease on life,” she said, the medals around her neck ringing as they clinked together. “I’m a happy person.”
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