A man from West Yorkshire who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 60 years has been honoured for his lifelong battle with the disease.
Kenneth Whittaker received the Robert Lawrence Medal, which marks 60 years of coping with diabetes mellitus, on behalf of charity group Diabetes UK just before Christmas 2012.
Mr Whittaker was 18 years old when he was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease whilst on national service. His diagnosis was only made following a near-death experience.
“I went from 10 stone to five stone before they found out what was wrong,” the 79-year-old explained. “I lost my sight and went into a coma – and they sent a telegram home saying they were not expecting me to live.”
After three months of hospital care, which involved two insulin injections per hour, Mr Whittaker was allowed to return to his home in the town of Horsforth but he was told that he had just three years to live.
“I was given a very short time to live after I came out of the army. I was only expected to live for about three years and I could never get insurance,” he said.
After quickly learning how to control his type 1 condition, he defied those odds and went on to marry and become a father.
In 2002, he received the Robert Lawrence Medal from Diabetes UK to mark 50 years of living with diabetes, and he now hopes to make it to 70 years and achieve the third and final award – the John Macleod Medal.
“Diabetes is not a sentence – you have got to learn to live with it,” he added. “The only thing you can do is watch what you eat and learn to balance it.

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