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 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)