A WOMAN has described her feeling of ‘personal achievement’ as she was honoured for living with insulin-dependent diabetes for six decades.

Jenny Day was just nine years old when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1957. Her parents were told she would be lucky to live for another 20 or 30 years.

Now aged 70, she has confounded all expectations and been handed a Lawrence Medal from Diabetes UK to mark her achievement of managing the condition for 60 years.

Despite her condition, Mrs Day – wife of county councillor Keith Day - attended college, obtained good qualifications and had a very busy and high-powered job at Heathrow with British Airways. She retired in 2000. 

Mrs Day, of Bridport, said she had a ‘fabulous job’ in runway control, though the stresses of it meant she had to manage her condition carefully.

When diagnosed, she was handed a list of careers deemed suitable for diabetics – but never let this hold her back.

“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “I had to do four of five injections a day, I would take my own food and watch out for low sugar. Meetings were difficult, and it did give me a lot of worry but I managed it.”

She has seen the technology used to manage her condition change over the decades, and now has a sensor attached to her arm to give continuous blood sugar readings, showing if the level is going up, down or staying the same.

It wasn’t always so easy. As a child, her father would give her the injections needed to manage her condition, but as she got older she was told she would have to do it herself – or be sent away to learn how.

“I vividly remember sitting there with this great big glass syringe that you had to boil. Syringes are much smaller now. The best thing is the blood testing equipment – all you need to do now is prick your finger and you get the result. In the early days you had to put a tablet into urine and watch for the colour change, which would give you a vague idea of what your blood sugar level was about an hour ago.”

She described the diagnosis as ‘a shock’ for her parents.

“It’s terrible for children. As a teenager I just pretended I didn’t have it, but that made me really ill. You don’t think anything’s going to happen to you at that age.

“It wasn’t until I got to my early 20s that I started taking it seriously. I lost the sight in one eye when I was 30. It’s usually 20 years from your diagnosis when the problems begin.”

On the award, she said: “It is a personal achievement for me. Honestly, I never thought I would get this old. When I was diagnosed my parents were told I would be lucky to live for 20 or 30 years. My mum died about six years ago so she saw me get my award for 50 years. We were both thrilled.

“For anyone who’s just been diagnosed I would tell them, it is a liveable condition. I’m proof of that.”