Richard Vaughn is a bit of a legend in the diabetes online community. Known more widely as Richard157 on several diabetes forums, Richard began sharing his story of living with type 1 diabetes for over 60 years via forum posts in 2007 and has become an inspiration for many. Last week, Richard also became a self-published author, releasing his memoirs, Beating The Odds: 64 Years of Diabetes Health, on Amazon.com.
Born in 1939 in rural Virginia, Richard was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 6 years old, a mere 22 years after insulin was discovered. In his book, Richard details the struggle of managing diabetes using only urinalysis and a rudimentary idea of nutrition (“sugar” was out, but bread and potatoes were fine! – carbohydrates were not recognized per se). Richard also shares how diabetes impacted his parents, his romantic relationships, and his education. It’s an inspiring story of overcoming the challenges of having next to no diabetes education or the modern medicine that we now take for granted. Richard didn’t test his blood sugar until the late 1970s, over 30 years after diagnosis!
In 2005, Richard applied for and was granted a Joslin 50-year medal, awarded to individuals who can prove they have managed their diabetes well for as many years.
After raising two sons and working as a college professor, Richard is now retired and living in upstate New York with his wife — and spending his time freely sharing his wisdom and experiences.
Richard was kind enough to chat with DiabetesMine about his book, his social networking experiences and his advice for longevity with diabetes.
RV) Friends on Diabetes Daily asked me to tell them what it was like to be a diabetic in the 1940s and 1950s. They really liked hearing about my early years and urged me to continue with my life story. My series of blogs is now posted on 10 diabetes websites and have accumulated many thousands of views.
What made you decide to self-publish your own book?
After finishing my series of blogs, David Edelman, owner of DiabetesDaily, wanted to make the series an eBook. It became “sticky” (well-read) in the Type 1 Forum. Many readers wanted me to expand my story and publish. I chose Amazon.com’s self-publishing service because it does not cost me anything up front, and it’s a very widely known site that gives the book a lot of exposure.
How did you get involved in the D-OC? Was it an adjustment after caring for your diabetes on your own for most of your life?
I was watching the dLife TV series on CNBC and saw the dLife.com website advertised there. I had never heard of diabetes support groups online. I became an avid poster on the site in 2006. Then I joined Diabetes Daily in early 2007, it is my favorite. I have also joined several other sites including ChildrenwithDiabetes.com where parents of diabetic children appreciate my story.
Two doctors in the 1970s and 1980s told you that you wouldn’t live past 40. What would you say to them now?
They were very old doctors who had not kept up with the more up-to-date information on diabetes. I think they had good intentions. Scare tactics are often used by many doctors at the present time as well.
When you were first diagnosed, your parents didn’t share with many people that you had diabetes and you didn’t disclose your diabetes to many of your girlfriends. Now you’re on the Internet sharing your story with hundreds of people. What changed?
I saw how many diabetics in the online support groups were very open about their lives and the problems they were having. I began offering help and support to hundreds of individuals. They appreciated my help and it made me feel great that I could give them much needed-assistance and support.
Were you eager to use glucose meters and new insulins after so many years with just urine testing and pork insulin, or were you hesitant? How did you adapt to all the new changes?
I had no objections to new insulins, but I was hesitant about glucometers and insulin pumps. I felt great and had no complications. It seemed that I was too healthy to require such changes. But after seeing all the high numbers on my first glucometer, I realized how wrong I had been. Now my glucometer, pump, and Dexcom CGM are three of my best friends. I will never again hesitate to take advantage of new devices and treatments that are developed for improving diabetes control!
There are many times people with diabetes want to throw in the towel. Having had diabetes for over 60 years, what keeps you motivated and how to do you overcome the mental exhaustion of managing diabetes?
I was so young when I was diagnosed. I thought that was the way my life was supposed to be. I obeyed my doctor and my parents, and never cheated. I can remember very little of my life before my diagnosis.
I think people who want to throw in the towel are usually the ones who are diagnosed later in life and they remember how much better it was before they were diagnosed. That can easily make them bitter and resentful about their diabetes. I have not experienced that. I had a loving family as a child. I married a wonderful lady and had two fantastic sons. I have not experienced things that led to mental exhaustion. I am almost always upbeat and optimistic. I have a sense of humor and that has helped me in so many ways.
You profiled several other people who have lived long lives with diabetes at the end of your book. What do you think is your secret to living a long, successful life with type 1 diabetes?
My research has shown that the pork insulin that I used for more than 40 years contained C-Peptide, which is known to help prevent diabetes complications. Several years after using modern-day insulins, without C-Peptide, I developed mild neuropathy and retinopathy. Tighter control and using an insulin pump eliminated those complications. Now I am 70 years old, have been type 1 for 64 years, and I am complication-free.
Congratulations on that accomplishment, and on your book too, Richard. I wouldn’t say I’m bitter, but I sure do want to throw in the towel some days. Thanks for being so upbeat, and an inspiration!