Posted in Family, Type 1 diabetes

For World Diabetes Day: So here’s to you, Dr Banting (with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel)

World Diabetes Day logoThis World Diabetes Day, let’s not dwell on the trauma and heartache of the millions of people surviving around the world with Type 1 diabetes.

There’s no point blaming them or anyone else, because it’s a disorder that occurs through no fault of their own. They can’t help the fact that diabetes changes their lives forever – and not in a good way. They’d rather not have to submit to the multiple daily blood tests and insulin injections or infusions. It’s not such a big thing to make a fuss about – all they’re trying to do is  stay alive. Oh, and to ward off the complications that can occur from badly controlled diabetes. It’s a long list, it’s dull and it’s not pretty: blindness, amputation, premature heart disease. Oh, and I almost forgot the biggest one: death. Almost immediate death is inevitable for those not lucky enough to have access to modern diabetes management therapy. Better not to talk about it.

Laura with JDRF mascot Rufus bear
My daughter Laura with her JDRF mascot, Rufus Bear, given to her when she was 3 because the coloured felt patches on his body showed her where her multiple daily insulin injections had to go.

And anyway, it’s not as if Type 1 diabetes is a new or original story:  it’s been around for centuries. It’s just that before Dr Frederick Banting identified and isolated insulin in 1928, death would have been imminent for anyone unfortunate enough to develop Type 1 diabetes, so there wouldn’t have been so many of them around as there are today. Well, not for long, anyway.

Nor is it something that matters only today, on World Diabetes Day, because for those who have Type 1 Diabetes, every day is a Diabetes Day. There’s no day off. They’ll have it for the rest of their lives, so why all the fuss today?

photo of insulin discoverer, Dr Frederick Banting
Diabetes research pioneer Dr Frederick Banting: great mind, big heart (photo: Wikipedia)

So let’s make light of it instead. How about a song? Here’s one to sing in celebration of the extraordinary pioneering work of Dr Frederick Banting for his Nobel-prize-winning research that made that magical substance, insulin, available for therapy today. It’s not a cure, but it least it lets diabetics live in hope till a cure is found. Today is Dr Banting’s birthday. Happy birthday, Dr Banting! Let’s hope that some day soon, scientists will take your revolutionary, life-saving work to the next level, and make diabetes history. I’m sure we’ve all got better ways to spend November 14th.

Frederick Banting was not a materialistic man, selling the patent for insulin for just one Canadian dollar, so that everyone could benefit. Modern drugs companies, please take note.

So not surprisingly, Dr Banting says he doesn’t want any birthday presents – just send money to the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). Because he couldn’t wish for a better present than a cure.

Song for World Diabetes Day

(to the tune of Mrs Robinson,

with apologies to Simon & Garfunkel)

And here’s to you, Frederick Banting,
Diabetics love you more than you can know (Wo, wo, wo)
God bless you please, Dr Banting
At least since your research we’ve had a way
Alive to stay…hey, hey, hey

We’d like to celebrate the many lives that you have saved
We’d like to thank you for your research
Look around you, all you see are grateful patients’ eyes
That Nobel prize was the very least that you deserved

And here’s to you, Dr Banting
Diabetics love you even when hypo (Wo, wo, wo)
God bless you please, Dr Banting
Your insulin injections help us stay 
Alive today… hey hey hey

(Hide your syringe in a  place where no one ever goes
Put it in your pantry with your dextrose
It’s a little secret, just our T1D affair
Most of all, hide complications from the kids)

Coo, coo, ca-choo, Dr Banting
Diabetics love you more than you can know (Wo, wo, wo)
God bless you please, Frederick Banting
We wish that we could meet you just to say
Thanks to you, we’re alive today

(Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
Counting out the carbs before our dinner
Cry about it, shout about it
We don’t get to choose
Ev’ry way we look at it, we lose)

Though now it’s gone, our old carefree life, 
Still we turn our grateful eyes to you (Woo, woo, woo)
For thanks to you,  Frederick Banting 
Though normal life has left and gone away
Thanks to you, we’re here to stay

For more information about the pioneering work of Dr Frederick Banting and his Nobel prize, please click here.

If you can bear to read them, here are some other posts I’ve written about our experience of Type 1 Diabetes. I promise they don’t contain any more songs.

Not All Dreams Are Impossible

Diabetes – Another Fine Mess for Laurel and Laura

On The Fourth Anniversary of My Daughter’s Diabetes

Posted in Type 1 diabetes

Not All Dreams Are Impossible (For Diabetes Awareness Week)

Laura, on her 9th birthday, who has had diabetes since 10 day before her 4th birthdayre herSometimes, when you have what seems like an impossible dream, you just have to do what you can to try to make it come true – and then hope for the best.  My dream  is that a cure will be found for  Type 1 diabetes. But it’s not really impossible. Clearly I’m not able to make this happen myself: I’m no Marie Curie. But there are incredibly talented, inspired and dedicated scientists in this world who, with enough money to fund their research, will  find a cure one day. Of this I’m sure. And in the meantime, maybe I can help bring that day closer by raising awareness (and funds)  through occasional blog posts here. You don’t have to read them. But I defy you to look my lovely daughter Laura in the eye here and say you don’t care. Because this is her story. 

This picture was taken on Laura’s ninth birthday, at her party. That’s five years and ten days after she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes is a devastating disease. If you are unfortunate enough to get it, it is likely to strike you in childhood – and if you get it, you’ve got it for life.There’s no known cause or cure. It’s a life sentence.

Diagnosed at the age of 3, Laura cannot remember life without illness.

No, she will not grow out of it. (Exhibit A: my husband – he still has his Type 1 diabetes at the age of 58.)

Immediately on diagnosis, the daily routine must begin of frequent blood testing, which means pricking your fingers to draw fresh blood lots of times every day. You must give yourself an injection of insulin several times a day, or wear an electronic pump 24/7 that will deliver the insulin into your flesh via a cannula. Refusal is not an option: without this treatment, the patient will quickly die. Many do, all over the world, in countries too poor to provide healthcare.

My daughter is lucky – we get the treatment she needs.

She’s lucky – she has the sterile needles required to safely prick her fingers six times a day for her blood tests. (But just because they’re sterile, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.)

She’s lucky – from day one, she had the NHS to supply the clean needles and insulin needed to provide her four injections every day, and she had loving parents who were prepared to give the injections until she’s old enough to do it herself.

She’s lucky – she’s now got an infusion pump with a tube sunk into her flesh 24/7, to deliver her life-saving insulin subcutaneously. The insertion needle for this tube is long and thick and it hurts when we have to change it twice a week.

Laura and friend at JDRF Youth Ambassador Event

We’re lucky – she’s brave and uncomplaining by nature, but even so we have to bite our tongues when someone complains about having a one-off inocculation or flu jab. She’s a seasoned veteran of the hypodermic needle. Her fingertips are pitted with black dots from her multiple daily bloods tests. And yes, no matter how often you stick needles into yourself, they still hurt. I will forever mourn the loss of my daughter’s perfect health.

But I’m not after pity for my family’s plight. What I really want is a cure – not just for my darling daughter or  husband, but for the generations of children yet to come, all over the world, who will continue to suffer from this wretched disease, until we find a cure. Please help me to help them.

For every penny that you donate to the JDRF, that cure comes a little closer.

(By the way, Laura sends hugs.)

Posted in Type 1 diabetes

What Would It Take To Make You Run 10km?

"Elk Bath" – A wildfire on the East ...
Run, Forrest, Run (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of us will go through life never having run further than a few laps of the school field (usually under protest). But what would it take to make you run 10km?

  • advance warning that you’re standing next to a ticking time bomb whose debris will fall within a 9.9999km radius?
  • a race to pick up a jackpot winning lottery ticket that you know is lying under a stone 10km away?
  • a fast-moving forest fire that is chasing you towards a river 10km distant?

This may strike you as a hypothetical question – a bit like the old playground favourite, “would you rather run a mile, jump a stile or eat a country pancake?” I remember, in my unathletic childhood, aged about 8, falling for that one and choosing the country pancake – to the mirth of my interrogator, who revealed that “country pancake” is rural slang for cow-pat. (I must say that since I’ve been living in the country, never once have I heard it referred to as such. Though I still might not risk opting for the pancake option on a country pub dessert menu, just in case.)

But I daresay there is a cause somewhere close enough to your heart that might persuade you.

Laura with JDRF mascot Rufus
Laura with JDRF's mascot Rufus Bear - he has coloured felt patches on his body to remind children of the targets for their daily insulin injections.

I know I’ve found mine. In six weeks time, I’ll be running 10km, but not for any of those reasons (well, they’re not part of my plan, anyway). My reason is to raise money and fly the flag for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). My daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 3, and that day our lives changed for ever. Gone were the blissful   days of being able to eat what she liked, when she liked. Gone were the low-maintenance days of being able to travel everywhere with a small handbag uncluttered with hypodermics and hypo remedies. (I’d only just got rid of the nappy bag, too.) Gone were the carefree days of visiting hospital only  for the usual childhood A&E trips. Getting a doll’s shoe stuck up your nose is a walk in the park compared to the unmissable daily routine of blood tests and injections. Such ailments don’t put you at risk of serious long term complications, either, other than perhaps a fear of tiny footwear and long-handled tweezers.

For now, there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes. We’re stuck with the daily inconvenience, pain and stress of treating the symptoms, and the long-term angst about the eventual effects on her health. It has got easier with time: at least she no longer hides under the kitchen table and sits on her hands when we’re trying to prick her fingers for the  blood tests.

But there could be a cure, if enough more money were thrown at the problem. There are many extraordinarily gifted and imaginative scientists who are poised to take their research on to the next step, if only funds permit. That their research is funded and cure found is important not only for my small family, but for the millions of children (and the adults that they become) who are suffering the potentially devastating long-term effects of living with diabetes. And for the many children who die before adulthood because they live in countries where the treatment they require is simply not available or affordable.

If I could cure this terrible disease just by running (and what a strange world that would be), then I’d run and run and never stop till I reached the cure. But at least running the Bristol 10k – and the sponsorship I might raise and the publicity I can attract – will take us a babystep along the road to a permanent solution.

And it beats eating a country pancake any day.

Please click here to sponsor me.

A cowpat - cow dung
Country pancake...
or pancake - you decide! (Both photos courtesy of Wikipedia)

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like The Best Reason to Run.

Or indeed if you need an excuse to eat pancakes, you might like Something to Celebrate!

Posted in Family, Type 1 diabetes

Diabetes – Another Nice Mess for Laurel and Laura

On the eve of World Diabetes Day, as Laura and I watch one of our box set of Laurel and Hardy DVDs, I discover that the great Stan Laurel was diabetic.

I’ve learned this fact in my newly acquired pocket guide to their films. Laura is delighted to hear it: their shared illness provides a new bond with her comedy hero.  (Watching the credits earlier, she wished aloud that his surname was spelt with a second ‘a’ instead of an ‘e’ so that it was just Laura with an ‘l’ at the end.)

It’s always good to discover new diabetic role models.  It’s not that we’re rejoicing in their misfortune, but I’ve told Laura since her diagnosis at the age of 3 that diabetes won’t stop her doing anything she wants to in this life and it’s good to have proof. I may have over-played this point: she once showed me in a guide to adult education classes a picture of a lady doing an extraordinary gymnastic feat, saying “I think she must be diabetic, because you said diabetics can do anything”.

Laura loves old comedy films.  Having watched Laurel and Hardy’s complete output, she’s now working her way through the Marx Brothers.  Doting mother that I am, I wonder sometimes, whether, with her precocious sense of humour and her clever way with words, she will be a comedy writer or performer herself one day.

If that’s what she wants to be, diabetes won’t stop her.  But had Laura been born into the era of silent movies, she wouldn’t have had the chance to even try.  If diagnosed before 1928, she’d have been dead within weeks. The early silent films we have been watching predate the discovery of insulin and the development of insulin therapy.  (Stan Laurel became diabetic in the 1940s.)

But even now, insulin doesn’t cure diabetes – it simply holds it at bay.  Laura would die without multiple daily injections or infusions of insulin (and by infusions, I don’t mean a tea-type drink – I mean insulin injected into her flesh through a canula embedded in her stomach).  She also needs many blood tests every day to help us decide how much insulin to give her.  What we still need, so badly, is a cure.

Laura Young at Puxton Park
Laura, Type 1 diabetic since age 3

And maybe, just maybe, one day, if Laura’s name is up in lights as the 21st century’s answer to Laurel and Hardy, her biographer, unlike Stan Laurel’s, won’t need to mention her diabetes – because if enough people support the research into a cure, by then it will have been vanquished, edited out and left on the cutting room floor.  Well, a mother can dream.

To help fund vital diabetes research on World Diabetes Day, please click here.

(Click here for more about Laura’s passion for Stan Laurel)

Posted in Family, Type 1 diabetes

Something to Celebrate

Image via Wikipedia

With our daughter and me both safely out of the house, my husband Gordon fearlessly pursues his mission to plaster the kitchen ceiling.  He’s under strict instructions to remove everything portable before the plaster dust begins to fly, so he takes down the kitchen noticeboard which hasn’t been moved this century.

Leaning the functional side of the noticeboard against the wall in the lounge, he discovers something hidden on the flipside: an invitation to my tenth wedding anniversary party.  I say “my” because it is in fact a relic of my previous marriage. Neatly pinned below it is a yellowing newspaper cutting, headlined “Will you make it to 10 years?”  In 1999, the average length of a marriage was slightly under a decade.  I’d put this proudly on display with the invitation to demonstrate that we’d beaten the odds.

The discovery draws us both up short – Gordon because it’s a reminder that he still has a year to go before he can claim the title of my longest-serving husband, me because it reminds me of the premonition I had that the 10th would be the last anniversary that John and I would share. Although we never discussed it, I think John knew it too.

A month or two before the actual event, we  decided to celebrate in style with a party in the garden with all our favourite people.  Everyone entered into the spirit of things. Our frail nonegarian neighbours, James and Hester, presented us with a framed  poem they’d written specially for the occasion:

“Debbie and John, Debbie and John,

Ten years of your marriage have come and gone.

May the years that lie ahead

Be as good as when you wed.”

We’d recently helped them mark their own silver wedding (their elopement in old age is a story I shall tell another time). It seemed they were passing on to us the baton of romance, assuming we’d outlive them.

But just three months after the party, John was in hospital, newly diagnosed with leukaemia and five months later he died, a week before my 40th birthday. Hester died four days later, at which  James declared “I’ll decide this week whether I’m going to carry on living or not,” and hung on just until the spring.

I went through many sadder anniversaries after that  – not just his birthday and our wedding, but the date of his diagnosis, the date of his death, the date of the funeral, and so on.  Each was a wrenchingly painful milestone.

But don’t feel too sorry for me.  On our eleventh anniversary, my racking sobs resounded around a rented room on a Greek island, where my new boyfriend, Gordon, explained away to the concerned landlady that “she is sad because her baby died a year ago today”.  We’d already had to tell her we were married to be allowed to rent the room, so he could hardly tell her the truth.  I was overawed by his quick thinking – and by his compassion.  Maybe that moment sealed our future as a couple.

There have been other difficult anniversaries since: as any parent of a child with a serious lifelong  illness will understand, there is “D-Day” – the date of diagnosis.  We spent 10th May 2007 in hospital when my daughter Laura, now 8, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  It was 10 days before her 4th birthday.

But rediscovering that old anniversary party invitation has given me a change of direction.  In future I’ll be disregarding these dates.  What are anniversaries anyway but occasions artificially contrived using a bizarre number base of 365?  Next year it’ll be 366 – even dafter. Why wait for another 365 day cycle to be completed before we can celebrate our marriage – or the birth of our daughter 13 months later?  If I want to buy Laura a present, I will – I won’t need it to be her birthday to give me permission.  After all, I long ago realised that every day can be pancake day if you take the trouble to mix up the pancake batter.

So happy unanniversary, darling.  It’s been a great 9 years, 7 months and 4 days.