‘Diabetes is not a death sentence’ is how Lisburn Mayor Margaret Tolerton describes a condition that she has had to live with since she was seven years of age.
She spoke candidly about living with Type 1 diabetes a condition she has lived with since 1959.
She received her 50 year medal five years ago from Diabetes UK, and has raised two healthy children.
In Lisburn alone there are 4,148 people suffering from diabetes. Around 80,000 people in Northern Ireland have been diagnosed with the condition, 1,000 of which are children or adolescents.
Mrs Tolerton has close ties with the Diabetes Unit at Lagan Valley Hospital where she regularly attends.
It was the team that encouraged her five years ago to follow the Daphne programme which has helped her immensely.
“I don’t know how I would have got through my year as Mayor without it and I don’t say that flippantly,” she said. “Some weeks I had a 80 hour a week which was gruelling at times but I was able to control my sugars thanks to the programme.”
During her year as mayor, thousands of pounds have been raised for the Diabetes Unit so all the money will help buy essential diagnostic equipment in the hospital.
Money was raised by local groups, schools, individuals, through the Mayors Parade, and half marathon, a collection at McDonald’s and a golf day.
The account will not be closed until October so people are still encouraged to give donations.
“People know that what money they have raised will be given locally,” said Mrs Tolerton.
Mrs Tolerton has formed a close bond with the team that includes specialists nurses Hilda Francey, Valerie Millar, doctors Kieran Walshe, Simon Au and Thomas McCall.
“Diabetes is a growing problem in society and brings huge challenges to sufferers of this condition,” said specialist nurse Hilda Francey.
Mrs Tolerton has lived with diabetes for the past 55 years, and is only too well aware of its challenges and it brings.
“I was the first one in my family and was the only one I knew at school who had the condition,” she said.
“My father was a farmer so he was able to give me my injections just as he used to on the farm,
“I have lived through diabetes - it is not a death sentence. I had two very successful pregnancies and two grown up children who don’t have diabetes.
“I am now a granny and lead a very healthy and normal life.”