Petronella “Nel” Peach

Name: Petronella “Nel” Peach

Hometown: Salmon Arm, BC

“Lucky number 13: Team Diabetes Alumni calls it a career”

By: Michael Jacoby

Nel Peach is not your typical 75 year old woman. She might eat oatmeal every morning and follow a series of daily rituals, including walking her dog, Angel, but that’s where the similarities end. A “Hall of Fame” member of Team Diabetes, Nel is no longer able to compete, but her encouragement and positive energy continue to inspire those on the team.

A “war baby”, Nel was born in Haarlem, Netherlands in 1940. She followed in the footsteps of her brother, Henry, and immigrated to Canada in 1963. Living first in Toronto, she moved throughout Western Canada, working in the food services industry before becoming Director of Food Services at the New Westminster Hospital in 1971. She has called B.C. home ever since.

In 1983, she was diagnosed with diabetes after experiencing fatigue, dehydration and weight loss. Like many of her age, she was misdiagnosed with type 2, but it turned out that she had type 1 – a diagnosis more commonly associated with patients much younger. “I never say type 1 or type 2,” says Nel. “I just live with diabetes”.

When she was first diagnosed, Nel would inject long-acting insulin once a day to manage her blood glucose levels. Several years later she transitioned to an insulin pump. It was at an insulin pump meeting coordinated by a nurse at the Vernon hospital in 2003 when Nel learned about Team Diabetes. One of the members was fundraising to participate in a marathon in Amsterdam—capital of Nel’s birth country. Right then and there she decided that joining Team Diabetes was something she’d like to do.

For her inaugural Team Diabetes race in Honolulu in 2004, Nel’s husband (and biggest supporter), Gordon, joined her. That meant fundraising double the amount, which she was keen to do. For the 2006 race in Rome, her brother Henry joined. Participating in Team Diabetes events has also helped her forge many new friendships along the way.

In total, Nel participated in 13 Team Diabetes events both at home and abroad, culminating with her farewell event in 2013 in Amsterdam. “All the events are special,” she says. “I have memories of them all.” 

Exercise strengthens her bones and gives her an opportunity to feel in-tune with her body. She credits Team Diabetes for giving her the motivation to lace up. And even when the roads are slick and the temperature drops, Nel can be seen completing 200M intervals at the local hockey rink.

Wherever she goes or whomever she meets she is proud to share the Team Diabetes story and she continues to participate and support others. Nel is an active member of Diabetes Canada and Team Diabetes Facebook pages and continues to help with fundraising initiavites.

Her giving spirit has led to a multitude of awards, including Regional and National Volunteer of the Year, Regional Inspiration, Exemplary Volunteer Services Clinical Practice Guidelines, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal and a nomination for the British Columbia Medal of Good Citizenship, which will be given out for the first time later this year.

Through her participation in Team Diabetes and in her community, Nel has touched many people’s lives. She is an inspiration.

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