kellion bookletToday, things got a bit fancy with a visit to Government House for the annual Kellion Victory Medal Award Ceremony. The Kellion Medal celebrates people who have lived with diabetes for 50 plus years with awards given at 50 years, 60 years, 70 years and even 75 years. This year in Victoria, twenty-one people received 50 year medals and an additional fourteen were given their 60 year award.

I have written before that this is my favourite day of my work year and it really is! I am so honoured and privileged to be able to sit in a room with this remarkable group of people and hear their stories of long, full lives despite diabetes.

When it comes to diabetes, I am a mere teenager. With only 15 years under the hood, my Kellion medal is a long way off. But I love this day so much because I leave feeling positive and hopeful and encouraged.

If you’re looking for inspiration, this is the place to come.  Interspersed with tales of boiling glass syringes and sharpening needles are the attitudes and the approaches that have seen these people not only live, but live well with diabetes.

Here are just some of the things I heard today.

Marjorie (50 year recipient) has given herself over 50,000 injections in her lifetime.

Judy (50 year recipient) says ‘I don’t feel sorry for myself, but it makes me happier if I can say sometimes that it’s crap to have diabetes’.

Kevin (60 year recipient) says he’s ‘led a good normal life’ but is frustrated there is not yet a cure.

Plus some great tips such as the one from Guy who received his 60 year medal today. ‘Never give up your sense of humour!’

Garth (60 year recipient) believes that ‘Common sense and a positive attitude are invaluable tools. The best way to treat diabetes is to lead a normal life.’

And the fabulous Peg, who is a DA-Vic Board Member and has run a support group for people with diabetes for many years says, ‘Join a local support group so you can meet others with diabetes, to exchange ideas and experiences. Never let diabetes stop you from experiencing life!’

I also learnt that even though there has been amazing progress when it comes to diabetes management tools and technology, some things never change. At diagnosis 60 years ago, Kevin was told there would be a cure in 5 years’ time. That old chestnut seems to have been around for a long, long, long time!

A bit fancy? Maybe. But if anyone deserves a special morning tea and a bit of ceremony it is people who have lived with diabetes for so long. It is people like this who we should be celebrating and throwing ticker tape parades for (and I say this not only because in 35 years I’m expecting ticker tape!). We should be looking to these people and acknowledging that surviving diabetes for such a long period does deserve awards, tributes and accolades. I want to be just like them when I grow up!