Diabetes Forecast

People to Know: Tom Beatson

By Kerri Sparling ,

When I look at Joslin 50-Year Medalists like Tom Beatson, I see my future. (And every time I say that to my husband, he becomes a bit confused. "You see yourself as a spunky old man on a bicycle?" Yes, yes I do.)

Olympians earn medals by means of their physical prowess and athletic talent. People with diabetes earn medals by inspiring, thriving, and surviving. Tom Beatson has been living with type 1 diabetes for nearly 70 years, earning his medal and then some.

He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1942, at the age of 10. He was admitted to the hospital with diabetic ketoacidosis, lapsed into a coma, and came to with an IV in his arm. His body was so weakened by the DKA that he had to learn to walk again. His childhood was spent boiling and sharpening needles for insulin injections, using urine tests to determine blood sugar.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tom at a gathering of Joslin medalists in Boston in 2011. (He gave me a warm smile and said, "Oh, you're a rookie," when I told him how long I'd had diabetes.) His advocacy for people with diabetes contributes to so much research, awareness, and hope. Tom has become a significant financial supporter of the Joslin Clinic in Boston, donating $1 million in 2010 to support the Joslin Pediatric, Adolescent, and Young Adult Clinic's care ambassador program. Tom is also a vocal supporter of the 50-Year Medalist Study, which focuses on people who have lived complication-free with diabetes for 50 or more years, citing its importance across social media platforms. His passion for the medalist study is rivaled only by his passion for exercise. Tom is known for his dedication as a distance cyclist, having clocked in more than 110,000 miles since 1975.

I look at my own life with diabetes, just now at the halfway mark to my own 50-year medal. The insulin pump clipped to my hip, the continuous glucose monitor on my thigh, the glucose meter in my purse—my ability to track and manage this condition with precision is a far cry from the urine testing and syringe sharpening of Tom's early years.

He inspires me.

The Joslin medal reads, "For 50 Courageous Years with Diabetes." Tom, I raise my vial of Humalog to you in hopes that someday, I'll earn that same medal.

Kerri Sparling has had type 1 diabetes since she was 6 and writes about diabetes at SixUntilMe.com.



Take the Type 2
Diabetes Risk Test