Anne – Diagnosed in 1956
90,520. Read that number again: 90,520. Think about that number as you continue to read and try to grasp the enormity of a number that large. Our is a story about the number 90,520 and how it affected us.
In 1956, a five year old girl named Anne fell into a coma and shortly thereafter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Once out of the coma, Anne’s doctors and nurses had to prepare her for her “new normal.” She had to learn about blood sugar levels, what it meant to be “high” or “low” and how to inject herself with insulin—a lesson they taught her by using an orange to serve as a proxy for her skin. For the years that followed, she created a routine and fell into her new normal which consisted of boiling glass syringes, 16 gauge needles, and sanitizing them after each use. This little girl, named Anne, and her family, navigated the ups and downs of living with T1D. Many of her friends watched in amazement that she was able to inject herself with needles on a daily basis all while dealing with the struggles that life brings, especially during the teenage years.
As Anne approached her 20s, her doctors reminded her that she should not consider becoming a mom as her body, particularly her kidneys, would not be able to endure a full-term pregnancy. Yet, on April 2, 1973 she learned that she was pregnant. Panic hit and waves of terror overcame her. What about prenatal care? What about any effect her medications would have on her fetus? Once Anne was seen by an obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN), the doctors warned her and her husband about potential birth defects: immature organ development, extreme presence of fascia, lack of hair and fingernails, as well as undeveloped lungs. Even with those risks, on July 23, 1973, six weeks before her due date, Anne delivered a fully developed and healthy baby girl. That healthy baby girl was me, Kerry Shelke. My mom went on to have another child, another daughter who was also premature but healthy, fully developed and a thick head of curly dark hair. She miraculously carried us, birthed us, and recovered successfully from two c-section births, all while managing her type 1 diabetes.
My mom, Anne Mosher, fought her courageous battle with T1D for over 62 years. She passed away suddenly this year at the age of 67. It’s my honor now to share her story with all of you.
For years, my sister and I used to jokingly refer to my mom as “too complicated.” We told her we would make t-shirts for her to wear whenever she went to the ER or any doctor’s appointment. Her list of medications was not just lengthy, it was PAGES lengthy. Yet, my mom plowed through it all. Many times T1D took the best of her and slowed her down significantly, yet my mom’s heart always sparkled. Her kindness and unconditional love for her daughters and grandchildren was evident in all she did. She lived longer than she and her doctors expected. Ultimately, my mom went into kidney failure and heart failure simultaneously and passed away in May of this year.
During her lifetime, the advances made in the treatment of diabetes has ranged from the creation of disposable needles to the installation of insulin pumps and injectable pens. Each time a new product would come to market, my mom would eagerly try another approach to managing her T1D. Sometimes she had success, while other times, went back to the drawing board in hopes of finding a better solution.
As a family, my mom, sister, and I had our normal routines like any other family, but ours frequently centered around food and timing my mom’s insulin shots accordingly. We all knew we ate dinner at 6:00 p.m. each night—not earlier, not later. She always insisted on eating a salad with most nightly dinners and would try to limit sugar in our house. It was tough as a kid to want to have sugary snacks but not be allowed to have them in our house. Now as a parent to two kids I fight the same battles, yet for different reasons since they do not have type 1 diabetes. I finally get “it.”
Surgeries and illnesses certainly took a toll on my mom’s body, too. Recovery took significantly longer and was always complicated (see, told you she was complicated) because of what she was and was not allowed to be treated with. We nearly lost my mom in 2011 when she had double bypass surgery and developed pneumonia post-surgery. She wasn’t expected to survive, but she did and lived for seven more years.
My wish is that whoever is reading this, a parent of a child with T1D, an adult with T1D, or family member reading about a relative with T1D is able to use my mom’s story as one of hope and encouragement. My mom is the only I know who had T1D for as long as she did. She was the anomaly, the Energizer Bunny; she just kept going and going. Over a duration of more than 62 years my mom injected over 90,520 insulin shots. Not shots of choice, but of survival. Each shot was her fight to have one more day with her children, one more day with her grandchildren. Use my voice to hear hers and continue the fight to conquer this disease. Continue to research, continue to advocate, continue to tell stories with the goals of no more shots, no more injections, no more long recoveries, no more “too complicated.” No more T1D.
This story was written in honor of Anne M. Mosher by her daughter, Kerry A. Shelke: “I love you with all my heart, Mom.” Thank you to Kerry and the rest of Anne’s family for sharing their story and striving to make a difference in the T1D community!
If you want to be featured in an upcoming “My Diabetes Story,” please contact Jen Allen!