73-year-old Maria Crisci has been defying her doctors for 50 years.
She remembers, “Four years after I was diagnosed, I went to the doctor for something small and he told me off. ‘What’s the point of coming to me,’ he said. ‘You’re not going to reach 30 anyway!’ I was only 27 at the time.”
“Fifteen years ago, I had another issue and I wentto the doctor. They said to me, ‘You’re nearly 60 now, how much longer do you expect to live?’”.
Determined not to let negativity from those doctors get her down, Maria made up her mind to be strong and to continue working. “I’ve been working since 1976, after I had my three children. It’s kept me busy and active, and energetic. It’s three hours in the morning, and it gets me out of the house.”
The first few years after diagnosis were difficult though. When she was diagnosed in 1965, she was seven months pregnant with her first child.
“I was really thirsty all the time. I went to the doctor and they told me about diabetes…well, I had never heard about it before, and I didn’t know what they were talking about. I was very upset, and they put me on insulin straight away because they were worried about the baby. It was a great shock for me and my husband.”
“I had issues with insulin in the few months afterwards, and fell into a coma three or four times before the baby was born. My husband was so upset and worried, and he couldn’t sleep during the night because he was always checking on me.”
“After we had all three of our children, diabetes was never the focus in our life. We didn’t have much money at the time, so I spent all my time raising our children, sewing clothes for them. I was always at home by myself because my husband was at work making money for the family. Our expenses were always higher than most people because of my diabetes – I had to buy special food, my glass syringes, and so on.”
Life with type 1 diabetes is definitely easier for Maria and her husband Frank now.
“I remember having to boil and sterilise my glass syringes, which could break easily. Once when my syringe broke, Frank had to go to the chemist to get a new syringe, and they gave him a 100mls syringe instead of a 50mls syringe. I kept having hypos and I didn’t know why. The plastic syringes with the shorter needles now are a big improvement. Even the blood testing is a lot easier to do now.”
Maria still manages to stay positive.
“I haven’t had an easy life, but I try to stay positive. I have a loving husband, who always looks after me. He brings me tea with honey whenever I’m low, or chocolate with almonds.”
“We have three wonderful children, and five grandchildren. They all live close to us, and we get to see them all the time. They come over for lunch or dinner. I want to be around to see them get married.”
She’s dedicated to giving back to others with type 1 diabetes as well. Maria’s been running a fundraising lunch for type 1 diabetes for almost ten years. In the past five years alone, she’s raised almost $20,000 for type 1 diabetes research through JDRF. Her next lunch on 12 July is a sold-out event.
Thank you Maria for sharing your story and for being such a fantastic role model for all people with type 1 diabetes in your determination to live a long, happy, and healthy life!