At age 64, Becky McGalliard relishes in a vibrant, healthy life. A retired special-education teacher, she still substitutes on a regular basis, and is always busy about town or working in her yard under the watchful eye of her black-and-white Shih Tzu, Bandit.

 


At age 64, Becky McGalliard relishes in a vibrant, healthy life. A retired special-education teacher, she still substitutes on a regular basis, and is always busy about town or working in her yard under the watchful eye of her black-and-white Shih Tzu, Bandit.

 

The only clue that McGalliard’s health is anything other than ordinary is a silver engraved disc she wears at the end of a chain around her neck, and a translucent rectangle device she wears at her waist that, without close inspection, could be mistaken for a pager or iPod. Only this machine is an insulin pump that helps Becky manage the diabetes she has had practically her whole life.

 

The silver chain around Becky’s neck is her “Lilly Diabetes Journey Award: A Celebration of a Life Well Lived.” It marks 50 years of healthy living, and serves as a reminder both to Becky and the public that diabetes isn’t something that has to be hidden, nor does it mean life has to be anything less than extraordinary.

 

More than 60 years ago, having diabetes was something private that wasn’t discussed outside the family or doctor’s office.

 

If her friends knew, “I’d be different,” Becky said. Plus, at the time, diabetes was thought of as a death sentence and treatments weren’t as refined as they now are.

 

“I have had diabetes, as near as we can figure, for about 64 years,” Becky said. “I was diagnosed when I was 2.”

 

Becky said her mother first became concerned when her daughter started to get very tired and lethargic. She was diagnosed as a diabetic and began a regimen that, at the time, involved testing her blood sugar through urine and getting one shot of insulin per day. Back then, the insulin Becky used was porcine insulin from pigs.

 

“My mother had to boil shot needles and give me shots. That was through my teen years,” Becky said. “In childhood, when they sent me to a specialist, they said, ‘You are going to die.’”

 

As a child, Becky attended Camp Sweeney in Gainesville, Texas, where children with diabetes are taught to manage their disease and build self-confidence. Today, Becky is still involved with the camp as a member of the board of directors.

 

“For a couple of years, I hated it. But I met my first boyfriend at camp. He was from Alaska,” Becky said. “I was in fifth grade when they taught me how to give my own shots and test my own blood sugar. Going from a diabetic camp where everyone knew her back home to where I had to keep it a secret was difficult.”

 

A few people knew she was a diabetic, but Becky said she kept it quiet because she wanted to fit in with the rest of her friends.

 

Her mother made sure she took care of her self diet-wise and taking her shots. When she married Nick McGalliard, Becky said he took over the duties of keeping her in good health.

 

“I could have been negligent about my care, but he was a good caretaker,” she said.

 

Once Becky retired and could cover her supplies with Medicare, she switched from taking four insulin shots per day to wearing an insulin pump, with a tube attached to her body through which insulin is distributed when needed. The original pump she wore was bulky and not perfected. The Medtronic MiniMed pump she wears now does the trick.

 

“I load one vial and it lasts three days at a time. Then you reload it,” she said.
“I still have to follow a diet. Everyone does. But if I want to have ice cream — that’s my comfort food — I just plug in a few extra units of insulin and that covers it,” she said. “I can still what I call ‘crater’ from (low) blood sugar. You just have to watch what you eat.”

 

Becky is an inspiration not only to her two daughters — Lisa Aubey, who lives in Madison, Wis., and Mindy McGalliard, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. — but to the school children she works with as a substitute teacher. They even know when her pump beeps that it’s time for her insulin.

 

Something that used to be an embarrassment is now an educational tool for Becky, who said she has had no secondary health problems with her diabetes.

 

“I just want to be able to be an advocate for all kids with diabetes and show them you can live a healthy, full life,” she said.

 

Leah Simmons, 221-6525