ESCANABA - When Christa Viau decided to apply for recognition of her 50-year-long journey through life as a diabetic, she was totally surprised by the award that was forthcoming to her from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Mass. Not only did she receive a certificate praising her for her achievement as an individual living with insulin-dependent diabetes for 50 years, she was also presented with an impressive medal as a tribute to her conscientiousness.
The certificate reads, "We now extend this tribute to you for your conscientious and courageous attention to the many difficult details involved in successfully living with diabetes over these many years."
Born and raised in Germany, Christa came to the United States with her new husband, Donald Viau, in 1960 and the couple have been residents of the Soo Hill area for the past 49 years. She was eventually diagnosed with type-1 diabetes a short time before their arrival.
Dorothy McKnight | Daily Press
Christa Viau of Soo Hill shows off the certificate and medal of achievement for successfully living her life with type 1 diabetes for 50 years. She was presented with the award by the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston,?Mass.
"It really came as a surprise to me when they told me I had diabetes," Christa said. "Nobody in my family had diabetes and I was never sick a day in my life." She learned of her condition after undergoing some routine blood work. "I didn't even know what diabetes was," she continued. "I didn't speak very good English at the time and I didn't know any medical terms."
Christa describes her journey as a diabetic as a "full-time" condition - 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
In addition to monitoring a stringent diet, Christa also had to undergo insulin shots to keep her levels under control.
"I used to take four or five shots a day and I was deathly afraid of shots," she said. "I did shots in my belly, in my thighs and even in my arms."
Obtaining an insulin pump in 2004 proved to be a god-send for Christa.
"Now everything is monitored automatically," she explained. "Now whenever I eat something, I adjust the insulin level and it gives it to me automatically."
Christa has also noted the difference in her food monitoring over the years.
"At first the focus was mainly on sugar," she said. "Now the focus is on carbs because they turn into sugar."
But even with the constant monitoring, Christa said she eats "pretty normally." While she bakes cookies and other treats for her family, she admits she might "sneak" one, but has learned to never overdo anything.
"Where I used to put a whole pile of mashed potatoes on my plate, now I have only half," she said. "When I used to eat lots of desserts, I only have just a little. When I used to eat two pieces of toast for breakfast, now I only have one - and it's rye or wheat toast instead of white."
Donald, Christa's husband, said he was just as stunned as his wife when he learned she was a diabetic.
"It was all new to me," he said. "I never knew anyone who was a diabetic before. Diabetes is like high blood pressure - it's a silent thing until it becomes a problem."
Christa jokes that while she is busy monitoring her every mouthful, Donald can pretty much eat whatever he likes - "and lots of it."
Keeping a positive attitude is to what Christa attributes as her success as a diabetic.
"Sometimes I get discouraged, but it's only once in a while," she said. "I always try to look on the bright side and not be a pessimist. There are far worse things to deal with than being a diabetic. I really have a very normal life."