Posted in Type 1 diabetes

Why I’m an Embarrassing Parent

(Why my imminent book launch is an embarrassment to my daughter – a post originally written for the November issue of the Tetbury Advertiser)

New cover of Coming to Terms
Revealing the new cover of the paperback edition, to be launched on 13 November

Mummy, I never gave you my permission to put my picture on the cover of a book!”

So said my daughter Laura when I showed her the proof copy of my latest book, “Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes”, to be launched in paperback this month to mark World Diabetes Day (14 November).

It’s a lovely photo that captured her unawares, looking characteristically dreamy, described by her doting grandpa as “St Laura”.

Now that Laura’s at secondary school, I’m probably on borrowed time for posting her photos online or for writing about her exploits in public. I’d hate to become an embarrassing parent – to which her retort would probably be “too late!”

Justifying the Means

In this case, however, the serious purpose behind the book justifies the use of her photo, with or without her permission: it’s raising awareness of Type 1 Diabetes and raising funds for the search for a cure.

This serious, incurable disease affects both Laura and my husband Gordon. Laura was diagnosed at the age of just three. Her diagnosis hit me like a bereavement, and I went through the classic stages of grief, from initial shock and denial to acceptance.

Determined not to let our family life be dictated by a medical condition, we have learned to move on in positive spirits and live life to the full. I hope that sharing our experience in this book will offer moral support to those in the same situation. It should also help others understand what it’s like to live with Type 1 diabetes, without having to ask potentially embarrassing questions of those who have it.

Profits from sales of the book will be donated to JDRF, the leading charitable funder of Type 1 diabetes research. The more funds raised, the closer we are to a cure  – which is nowhere near as close as was misreported in the national press last month. Sigh.

Invitation to the Launch

Group photo of JDRF team, Laura and Dr Gillespie
From left: Lee and Danielle of JDRF, Laura and Dr Kathleen Gillespie, snapped when we toured the Southmead diabetes research project in the summer

If you’d like to come to the launch event, join me at Foyles Bookshop, Cabot Circus in Bristol on 13th November from 6-7.30pm for an entertaining evening. Special guests include Paul Coker, who has just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for JDRF to prove that having Type 1 doesn’t stop you doing anything, and research scientist Dr Kathleen Gillespie, who will be telling us why good cooks make good lab researchers, and vice versa. That could add a whole new twist to the Great British Bake Off.

To help me plan seating and catering, if you’d like to attend, please contact me via the contact form.

“Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes” will also be available to order at bookshops worldwide and from online stores for those who can’t make it to their local bookshop. Please support your local bookshop if you can! The ebook, launched last year, will at the same time be updated to include the revised text plus new material.

Posted in Family, Type 1 diabetes

Tour of Hope at Southmead Hospital

Group photo of JDRF team, Laura and Dr Gillespie
From left: Lee and Danielle of JDRF, Laura with her JDRF mascot bears Ruby and Rufus, and Dr Kathleen Gillespie

Just before the summer holidays, my daughter Laura and I were lucky enough to be invited to tour some of the research laboratories of Southmead Hospital. The purpose of the tour was to see at first hand some of the work being co-funded by the JDRF to search for a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Regular readers of this blog will know that Laura was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of three, a few years after Gordon, my husband received his own diagnosis of the same disease.

JDRF logo and URLJDRF funds a lot of research projects all around the world, and by chance some of these happen to be based in the hospital that helps us manage Laura’s diabetes. It’s also the hospital in which she was born. So there were lots of good reasons to go along for a look behind the scenes, even though the tour happened to fall the day before we were about to depart to Greece on holiday. I’m very glad I made the slightly reckless decision to abandon our packing and go for it!

What We Saw on our Tour

Photo of Dr Gillespie syringing liquid
Dr Gillespie demonstrates DNA extraction – from a kiwi fruit!

Accompanied by our regional JDRF team, the lovely Lee Newman and Danielle Angelli, we were shown round the labs by Dr Kathleen Gillespie, a researcher in molecular medicine with special interest in the genetic mechanisms underlying immunity. Apparently 50% of the occurrences of T1D are thought to be genetic-related – although it’s by no means straightforward, as there are incidences of identical twins, one of whom develops the disease and the other doesn’t.

Photo of technician with full tray of samples
“And here are some I prepared earlier”

Dr Gillespie introduced us to her cheerful and welcoming team of staff who have dedicated their careers to amazing projects investigating the prediction and prevention of the development of Type 1 diabetes. We toured a series of small laboratories, each with a special set of expensive machinery – but the machinery would be worthless without the intelligence and imagination of the extraordinary staff who operate it. Their kit included some less costly items that you’d find in any kitchen, such as fridges and microwaves. When Dr Gillespie showed us how to extract DNA, she did so on a kiwi fruit!

“Our work does look a lot like cookery sometimes,” said Dr Gillespie. “People who are good at cooking are usually good at lab work too!”

How the Work is Funded

Every research project that goes into the jigsaw of the search for a cure has to be funded separately, in blocks, with submissions made to fundholders in order for the work to continue. The tour made us all aware of the importance of raising funds for the JDRF long-term, so that their work can continue.

We all came away motivated to work harder to raise funds and awareness for JDRF. We were also inspired by the imagination, creativity, positive attitude and dedication of Dr Gillespie, her team, and their equivalents around the world, for helping bring the cure for diabetes ever closer.

Photo of Laura looking at contents of test-tube in lab
“So that’s what DNA looks like!”

My Book Launch in aid of JDRF

Cover of my new book, "Coming To Terms with Type 1 Diabetes"
Cover design by SilverWood Books

This November, to mark World Diabetes Day, I’ll be launching the paperback edition of my book Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes, to make more widely available the ebook that I published for WDD last year. A new chapter will be included entitled “Diabetes Is Always With Us”. If you’re within reach of Bristol and would like to come to the event launch at Foyles Bookshop, Cabot Circus, on Thursday 13th November, the eve of World Diabetes Day, please send me a message to reserve you a place at the event. I’ll also send you more details of the launch.

For more information about the JDRF, please visit their website: www.jdrf.org.uk.

For more information about Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes, see this page on my website here: Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes