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Family memberBorn in Dolton, Devon in 1928.
Overview: June`s husband, Charles, was diagnosed with diabetes at Barnstaple Hospital in 1935, when he was ten. After leaving hospital, he didn`t return for a check-up until 1957. He missed two years of school, as it was too far to walk and he had to look after his own injections, urine tests and diet, because his mother had seven other children. After June married Charles in 1946, his diabetes made little impact on their lives. He disliked blood testing and did urine tests until around 2004, when June did blood tests for him. June developed Type 2 diabetes twelve years ago.
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(1) Tell me about your background
(1) Tell me about your background.
I was born in
Dolton in 1928. I‘m the oldest of six. Went to
the village school, where we left at fourteen.
What did your
a taxi, my Dad drove a taxi; we lived in a pub for... we were in a pub through
the war years. There was a Norwegian
settlement, at the time, of men; we got to know them quite well. After, when I left school at fourteen, I went
to Bideford to my auntie, and worked in a fruit shop, there, until I was seventeen. Then I came into
Torrington and started work in the cottage
hospital as a nurse. You didn‘t do
training, then, as such, as a nurse; you just went in and did your bit. And I met Charles at a dance at High
Bickington in… in February 1945, at a dance at High Bickington, and things just
went on from there. We got married at
in 1946, had our first daughter in 1947, another one in 1950, and then we had a
son in 1956.
And tell me
about your husband‘s background.
He was the third
child of eight. In those days, there
wasn‘t a lot of money about. His Dad
worked on the council as a road man; mothers didn‘t go out to work, in those
days. At five, Charles would have
started school, walking to Roborough, which was a three mile journey each way. He said that as he got older, he used to get
thirsty and scoop up water from beside the hedges to drink, and he would be
getting tired, and one of the big boys - I imagine Charles wasn‘t that big - one
of the big boys used to give him a piggy back home. And probably, just after that, they found
that he‘d got diabetes. He was in bed
ill, and he said he could feel himself just sinking, and felt he was
dying. And then they decided it was diabetes,
and this was in 1935. He went to
Hospital, as he understood, for six
weeks, but measles broke out in the ward, so he got sent home after three
weeks. He was off school, he thinks, for
two years. But when he went back, he was
thrilled, because he had a car to drive him to school, whereas everyone else
had to walk, and, being a boy, he thought that was lovely.
(2) What did he tell you about his three weeks in
He used to help
- he says - look after the other children. And I think he was a bit of a monkey: he used to... he says he used to,
as the meals came around, he would press his plate down on to the one below, and
then he would get banana on that, there was extra for him. Of course, when he
was there, he had to learn how to do his injection, and I think, really, for what
he was allowed to eat, he had to look after himself quite a bit. I mean, when he came out of hospital, he had
to, sort of, sort out his own food a bit, because everything had to be weighed
and measured, in those days. And being
one of eight, I think - and he was home doing nothing - that he was a help to
his mother. When he was a bit older,
naturally, his older brother developed diabetes, but that older brother was
already out at work.
Before we move
on to life at home, any more memories of his time in hospital?
Yes, when he was
there, he says the boy in the next bed, he says he had diabetes. Whether he did, I‘m not sure, but the boy in
the next bed died, so, of course, he thought he was going to die as well. When he was there, his Dad used to cycle ten
miles each way to visit him. They lived
in the country, and there was no buses and not many cars, in those days, and
anyway, they wouldn‘t have afforded a car to travel with.
Well, you said
that he needed a car to be supplied to take him to school, but why was he at
home for two years without going to school?
Well, he had to
do his own injections, do his own tests with a Bunsen burner, in those days,
and, well, perhaps they... I really don‘t know, but I suppose they thought,
perhaps, they weren‘t meant to go to school, and look after themselves. It was a long day for youngsters, walking.
How often did he
have to inject himself?
Twice a day, in
the morning and before his evening meal, and I think it was Protamine Zinc, the
insulin, at that time. In later years,
after he‘d left work, he got put on to one injection a day. And he‘s had varying insulins, and the one he
was taking more recently, that has been stopped, now, at the end of this year.
What did he do
after he left school?
He went to work
on a local farm for I think, possibly, perhaps, two or three years - perhaps
not that long. And then, he knew there
was a job going in
which was quite a few miles to cycle every day, in the milk factory. It was war-time and he got a job in the milk
factory. And the farmer kicked up, because
he said that he should be on the land still, but, being diabetic, the doctor
said "no", it suited him better being in the milk factory, and it was
good for him being there, because if ever he needed something, there was always
a drink of milk.
did you get of his diabetes, when you first knew him?
Well, it didn‘t
concern me at all, and he told me just after I met him - probably because you
would always wonder why they weren‘t gone into the forces. And he‘d had his medical and obviously he
didn‘t pass. That didn‘t mean any
problems for me, and we got married in 1946, when he was twenty one and I was
eighteen. When we got married, he moved
to my village, which was
Dolton. He cycled seven miles, each way, to the milk
factory. He was on shift-work, and, as
far as know by, he never even carried sugar; didn‘t carry anything.
So, tell me what
you remember from the 1940s, before the National Health Service in 1948.
(3) I don‘t really know what happened when he was
a child, but I imagine he got everything of his insulin things free, then. But certainly after he was paying a stamp,
insulin and everything - even if it was for something other than diabetes, if he
had tonsillitis - everything came free from the doctors. When we got married first, we lived with my
parents, because houses were short. After
eighteen months, there was council houses built for the first time in the
village, and we got the first one, and there was quite a large garden, which
pleased him, because he tilled all the vegetables. You couldn‘t have grass, because you couldn‘t
eat grass; that was always what he had to say, and he was quite happy growing
vegetables. He loved going to the river
fishing, and he always liked ballroom dancing, which we did... you didn‘t get
babysitters very often, in these days, but if we could go out once a year, we
were quite content.
So, it sounds
quite a healthy lifestyle.
Well, yes, it
was, and towards eating, I think everybody ate much the same thing, in those
days. We ate differently than people do
now - you didn‘t go to the shop and buy things. He ate... he was sensible with his diet, but he ate the same as the rest
of us. I mean, he wouldn‘t eat sweet
cakes and things like that, but he always ate sensibly. And I always did… made jam and chutney, and
things like that, that we knew exactly what was in it. We had vegetables from the garden. He would go out with a gun and shoot a rabbit
or a pigeon, and that is the sort of things we ate, in those days. And there was rationing, so you didn‘t get
too much of anything. Diabetics, if they
gave up their sugar and jam allowance, they could have extra fats and cheese
and meat, but he never did that, he always kept… and he had his sweet
allowance, the same as everybody else. He
never had a special diet.
(4) And how did his health continue after those
early years of marriage?
Well, I would
think he was always pretty good. In 1957,
we moved into
so as he hadn‘t got that journey to cycle every day. When he was here - we‘d been here a few
years, I can‘t remember exactly - and he went to the doctor, one day, because he‘d
got tonsillitis. And he refused to sign
him off when he was better, because, having left the hospital in 1935, he had
never been back for a check-up. And the
doctor wouldn‘t sign him off until he‘d gone back to
for a check-up, after all those years.
So, he had no hospital
check-up between the age of ten, when he was diagnosed, and his thirties?
right, he went right through. But after
that, he did go regularly. But that
doesn‘t have to happen any more; that was with our local doctor at
did you feel that you had to make to his diabetes, when you got married?
Not a lot, really,
because he ate fairly normally, but it was always necessary to have meals on
time. If he was out and not home, I used
to worry where he was. I would never let
him know that, but I was always thankful to see him come home.
And what effect
did his diabetes have on your children?
Not a lot,
really, but later years, he might be not too well - possibly going into a hypo
- and they would know to give him a sweet drink. Towards him having injections, I think that
did them all good, my children and the grandchildren, because they never minded
going having their injections for anything.
And what about
Well, we always
ate together. That was our meal-times,
and they were always there; we were always as a family.
So, they had to
keep to the strict times as well?
Yes. I mean, obviously, breakfast, he would have
his at… that would be a different time for different… for what time starting
work, but other than that, yes, we always ate together.
(5) What were your meal-times?
Our dinner, which
you now call lunch, was always at 12.15, and our tea was always at 5.00. And that is one thing I did find that, if we
went out for our lunch, which wasn‘t often, but I was always on pins, because they‘re
never in a hurry, in the hotels, to serve you, and I was always on pins until
it was served. And at our diamond
wedding, the meal wasn‘t quite ready, and the daughter went into the kitchen and
got his meal before the rest of us had ours. And they were very good, at the hotel; they understood.
And what about
travel: did diabetes restrict your travelling?
I don‘t know,
really, but in those days, people didn‘t have cars. We never had a car; we couldn‘t drive, either
one of us.
the furthest we ever went on holiday. When the children were small, it wasn‘t far, but we always went to
Westward Ho! and they had a jolly good holiday. We were there and it was self-catering, we went in a caravan, and we
used to be at the sea all the time.
So, you didn‘t
really have to make any adjustments for travel?
On no, someone
always drove us down, and yes, that was all right. We did quite a few holidays through Dairy
Crest, with the works, when they put on a holiday each year. Late years, we went on those, and had quite a...
yes, we went on those holidays, and had quite a good time.
And you just
took all his equipment with him?
Yes, but he
never used to tell them, at those places, he was diabetic. He would just skip by the same as the rest of
us. There was food always around.
Why didn‘t he
tell people he was diabetic?
Well, I don‘t
think... he never thought there was any need to, not… until he read, one day, that
anywhere you went in a hotel, you should tell them, and after that he did. And they used to say "shall we keep your
insulin in the fridge for you?", and he used to say "oh, no thank
(6) During those twenty or more years that he
wasn‘t going to the hospital for his diabetes, did he go to your local doctor
for his diabetes?
Not really. The only time he went to the doctor, every,
perhaps, three or four years he would get tonsillitis, and then he would have
to have the doctor. But apart from that,
I used to go to the doctor for the prescription, and he would go to the chemist‘s
and collect it.
So, nobody was
really monitoring his diabetes?
So, can you tell
me how he monitored his own diabetes?
Well, after the
Bunsen burners went out of fashion, he did urine tests, which he did right up
until late years, even after he should have gone on blood tests, which he
didn‘t like. And he was buying his own
Clinitest tablets, which were costing thirteen pound. But eventually he did go over to blood tests,
which, most of the time, I did for him, because he didn‘t like doing it
himself. He went on blood tests, I think,
only about three years ago, because… well, and then I took over doing it for
him, mainly because he would say "oh, that‘s near enough", so I did
it so as to know that it was accurate.
And tell me about
He… when human
insulin came in, the doctor changed him over, but he didn‘t get on with it, so
he went back onto pork, which he stayed on until he passed away in March. Yes, he did keep on with his Clinitest
tablets long after he needed to, really, but the blood test is much more
accurate. And he did like - I don‘t know
about liked - but he was always ready to go back to the eye specialist, and
things like that, in later years.
(7) So, he had eye tests at the hospital, in
later years. Can you tell me all of your
memories of his hospital visits, after he started going in his thirties?
Yes, years ago
they had to go twice a week - I think it was once every three months. You went on Tuesday to have the blood test,
and Thursday to go for the results, and if the results weren‘t good, you had to
go back again in a couple of weeks. But,
in those days, it meant having time off work, and you lost money.
How far was the
hospital from your home?
Barnstaple - ten miles, and… well,
you got there as best way you could, in those days. Later years, it came into eye tests once a
year, and only about four or five years ago, Mr Gibson, his consultant, said
that, testing his eyes, if he didn‘t know that he was diabetic, he wouldn‘t
have... if he hadn‘t been told, he wouldn‘t have known, from testing his eyes.
And how were his
he didn‘t go there until he really had to, and the doctor told him he must go
to the chiropodist. And she always said
his feet were like silk, and they were the best ones in the town. But he always had, for some reason, a dread
of an amputation, but, thank goodness, he never had any trouble at all. He had this dread of an amputation, I think,
mainly because, at one stage, there was three
men all in at the same time who had amputations, and
Torrington isn‘t a very big town. At that time, everybody knew everyone else.
chiropodist at the hospital or in
The chiropodist comes
hospital not as often as we would like. Well, I mean, they do come, but you don‘t get an appointment as often as
you would like.
(8) So, am I right in thinking that he had no
major complications as a result of diabetes?
No, and up to a
few years ago, when he developed Paget‘s disease of the skull, if a youngster
developed diabetes, I used to look at them and say "look at my husband,
he‘s lived a near normal life", and I think, in a lot of cases, it
helped. I used to say to them
"well, look, he‘s doing this and he‘s doing that, quite normally". I never did tell them, though, that he would
loved to have gone in the Navy, which he couldn‘t do.
What do you mean
by a normal life?
looking at him wouldn‘t know there was anything wrong. And he used to love ballroom dancing,
fishing, liked to do a small bet on horses, used to eat some things he didn‘t
ought to eat. He used to love Jaffa Cakes,
which I‘m afraid one of our nurses was horrified at. But he used to get three... he always had a
couple before he went to bed, and that was his supper. He liked an occasional drink. Later years, he did sort of stick to gin,
rather than beer, but he used to have beers, years ago. But I could never make him... he would never
understand that, if he was drinking beer, that he should be having something to
eat, which, in the end, he did realise that. But he used to think as long as… if he was drinking beer, he was getting
sugar, but that was all wrong. But then
he used to carry glucose tablets, and he would have some. Years ago, I did think he should wear
something, and I don‘t think you got identity bracelets, in those days. So, I went to
and bought a St Christopher, and had "diabetic" printed on the back
of it, which he never wore unless he was going away somewhere where people
wouldn‘t know him, but thankfully he never had any use of it.
Did he ever have
any major hypos?
Not that I know
by, when he was away from home, but he used to get some home here, sometimes,
especially at gardening time. He would
come in, in the evening, and he would sit, and I mean, I have sent for help,
when I‘ve been frightened, once or twice.
What made you
Well, because he
was quite strong - he never attempted to touch me or anything like that, I
don‘t mean that - but to get something into him, and I was afraid of how bad he
was going to get. He did get out of the
bath, one night, and collapsed on the floor, and I came right down the stairs
and phoned the doctor. But, by that time,
he was getting better, by the time the doctor got here. And I know the doctor said to me - if he
listens to this - he‘ll say to me "God was with you tonight". Occasionally, not very often, he would get a
sweat at night, and I would have to wake him, and… well, sometimes it wasn‘t
possible. I just had to get some - I
always kept glucose beside the bed - and I used to get a little bit of glucose
into him. And once he realised, he was
very good, and he would sort of say "more, more", and then,
eventually, he would say "that‘s enough", and I always trusted that
(9) And what kind of care do you feel you‘ve had
from your local GPs?
He had to go to
Barnstaple for the tests - the quarterly tests - for quite some time, but now
it‘s been moved to our local surgery in
where he had to go every six months. But
everyone there, they‘re tip-top; they‘re excellent and helpful in any way.
Do they have a
special diabetes clinic?
No, they send an
appointment once every six months, where they… he has a blood test, and then he
has to go back after about ten days for the results. And they just tell how you are, and your
blood pressure and everything. But once
every twelve months, they do your eyes and your feet as well. And I am now Type 2 diabetic, and they always
fitted us in together, so that we could go - because I‘d always gone with him
anyway - so they‘ve always been very good and fitted us all in together, even
during our ‘flu injections, when we went for our diabetic check-up, so as he
hadn‘t got to come on those special ‘flu days.
So, tell me
about your own Type 2 diabetes.
just taken it in my stride, because I‘ve had it about, I suppose, twelve years,
but I knew from what Charles ate that I could do much the same. I am on tablets. But I‘ve always liked chocolate. He always had chocolate on the side that, if
he wanted... if he needed sugar, he would always have chocolate. Never sugar-free sweets; that didn‘t appeal
to him. But, being on insulin, if he
needed something, he would have... and I mean, he would get boxes of chocolates
given to him for Christmas, which would keep him going. In my opinion, I keep well on my diabetes, but
I mustn‘t keep bars of chocolate or chocolate biscuits in the house, because it‘s
too much of a temptation for me.
(10) Tell me more about your visits to the GP.
Well, once, when
we were there, the nurse said: did Charles get aggressive when he was needing
sugar? But he never did, he was a very
gentle person. But we did take... after
he‘d got his seventy year medal, he took that down, very proudly, and showed
them. And the doctor‘s secretary, he was
telling her that each diabetic is an individual, and they‘ve got to live life
as they think, and eat, within reason, what they want. And he was speaking quite loudly, because he
was excited, and she told him to "sh, don‘t tell everybody".
didn‘t want everybody to know that you should eat what you like?
Well, yes. Presumably she didn‘t think everybody should
eat exactly as they wanted! He did eat a
certain amount of sweet things, but he kept off of fatty things. He very rarely touched clotted cream,
although he worked in it, and I think, in late years, that‘s proving... I find,
now, they make more of not eating fat than they do sugar, for diabetics. He never had an update on his diet sheets,
but, reading Balance magazine, in recent years, I think they take more notice,
these days, of fat rather than sugar. And
it‘s surprising how many recipes there is in there that you can put sugar in, because,
when he was diabetic first, sugar, you shouldn‘t have at all.
And what are
your impressions of the National Health Service, over the years?
Well, the diabetic
team, they‘ve been marvellous. At
Torrington, our local nurses, and at
the specialist nurses, who only come if you‘ve got a query, or perhaps if his
insulin needs to be changed, they advise what to have. They‘ve all been marvellous, they couldn‘t
have been better.
And can you talk
about your husband‘s health over the years?
Well, I think we
just accepted it; he accepted it and so did I. You just lived... you just accepted it and lived as it was. Later years, because of his Paget‘s disease,
he didn‘t always like going out. And if
there was something special - like my Dad‘s birthday, for instance - I had a
very good sister-in-law who would always come and sit with Charles. And he was always happy to have her, because
it was his brother - her husband - he‘d been diabetic as well. Oh, and I should have mentioned, she came all
day when I went to the grandson‘s wedding, and he was quite happy. And I was quite happy to go out and leave him
with her - she knew exactly how to deal with him.
Did you feel
that your life was restricted by his diabetes at all?
Not really. I mean, we stuck to our meal-times, but then,
that is me anyway - I‘m a fuss-pot, right.
(June Moore adds that if Charles had high blood
sugars, he would just eat ‘a couple of eggs’ instead of a full meal.)