In 100 stories for 100 years of insulin

“As my use of this technology is improving my overall health and wellbeing, I am less likely to need to use medical services due to complications.”

Carol Penney, 54, type 1 diabetes

When Carol Penney was diagnosed with type one diabetes as a teenager in 1983, she had barely even heard of the condition – and had little understanding of how it would impact her life.

“People didn’t know much about diabetes in the 80’s, it was far less common” Carol says. “Even when I was diagnosed, I didn’t know anything about it. I had heard of it, but had no understanding of what it would mean.”

Not only did she have to constantly explain her condition, but at the age of 18, she even had to enlist the help of the Discrimination Board to get her first job.

“In 1984 I was successful in gaining employment with a bank, only to find out at the Medical test, that I was unable to be employed as I didn’t meet the requirement to have private superannuation cover,” she explains.

“At the time the particular bank made all staff have superannuation (this was before the Government mandated Super). I had to contact the Discrimination Board and the bank was forced to relax this rule for me to be able to start work.

“As an 18 year old, this was very confronting, and I thought how bad it was to have this illness. You can imagine my joy when it was no longer required to provide a medical clearance to obtain superannuation cover”.

There was also the social awkwardness of living with a condition that was little understood by the general public – like the time she was “caught” trying to discreetly bolus in the ladies toilet at a friend’s wedding.

“I needed to leave the [toilet] door open for better lighting” Carol says. “I was drawing up my insulin into the syringe when another guest walked in. They were clearly alarmed by the sight.”

Carol says while there is greater awareness of diabetes today, there are still many misconceptions.

“The general public think you either have the ‘good one’ or the ‘bad one’, and that if you eat too much sugar you get diabetes. I get tired of trying to dispel this myth,” she says.

She lists her pregnancies as being particularly challenging. But she says living with type 1 diabetes today is radically different to when she was first diagnosed.

Thirteen months ago, Carol simplified her day-to-day diabetes management switching to an insulin pump and Continuous Glucose monitor (CGM).

“I love it [my insulin pump and CGM], and it has made my everyday life pretty easy. I had been stuck in old school thinking about diabetes management, and this had brought me more up to date.” she says.

Although she wishes the Government would provide better financial support for people living with diabetes.

“The cost of my pump, CGM and consumables that go with using this is technology is quite costly.” she says.

“If I had a Health Care card, I would get some assistance with this, but as I don’t, I’m paying it all.

“As my use of this technology is improving my overall health and wellbeing, I am less likely to need to use medical services due to complications.”

“The more help they can give to everyone the less likely we will need general health services moving forward.”


To mark 100 years since the discovery of insulin, Diabetes WA is sharing 100 stories from West Aussies living with diabetes. If you would like to #DWAjointhefight and share your story, complete these questions.

We will sharing new stories through out the year so follow us on Facebook to stay up to date.

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