I met the love of my life, Betty, in 1947. She was a freshman in high school, and I was a sophomore. We dated on and off over the next four years, and not long after her graduation, I decided that I wanted to marry this girl. I was on leave from the Air Force and was about to head to Japan, where I would be stationed for the next three years. One night not long before my departure, I asked her to marry me. I knew it was probably asking too much to ask her to wait three years for me to come home from Japan. But her hesitation had nothing to do with waiting for me. Before she answered me, Betty had to tell me something: She had type 1 diabetes.
I was surprised; in all the times we had spent together, I never suspected that she was diabetic. But she had been living with the disease since she was 2 years old. I felt that we could address any problems together when I got back from the service. We agreed that diabetes was going to be our problem and not just her problem. She accepted my ring, and we managed to survive the long engagement. We were married on Jan. 16, 1954.
One of my first responsibilities was to assist in giving Betty insulin. I had to practice on an orange with a glass syringe and a 15-gauge needle. I was very nervous about giving her the shots, but I got comfortable with it over time. Checking urine sugars was a bit more complicated. We had to add a few drops of Benedict’s solution to a few drops of urine in a test tube and boil the mixture. It was not until 1980 that we got our first blood glucose meter. That meter took 45 seconds to read, while the meters today produce results in five seconds, with an even smaller blood sample.
Over the years, we have confronted joys and challenges together. Our first child was born in July 1956: a healthy 8-pound, 10-ounce girl. We lost our second child to sudden infant death syndrome. Years later, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 52. The result was a double mastectomy, which also made her blood sugar management more difficult. In 2004, we were able to go on the insulin pump, and it has made controlling blood sugars so much easier. When we think back to the tools that were available then, compared with the technology available now, we wonder how we survived.
To other young people with diabetes who are contemplating marriage: Be sure to treat diabetes as a family problem. At age 78, my wife has had no complications from her diabetes. Her A1C runs between 5.8 and 6.5. She is very active, eats whatever she wants in moderation, and, at 5 foot 4, maintains a weight of about 118 pounds. And as for the pair of us, our love is far stronger today than it was when we got married.
Myron Schultz served four years in the U.S. Air Force and went on to teach high school math for 32 years in Austin, Minn. He’s now 80 years old and lives in Kansas City, Mo., with his wife of 57 years, Betty.