About three weeks ago I came across a post by DOC founder Allison Blass. I was very interested to read it for a couple of reasons. One, it talked about losing faith in a cure for Type 1 diabetes. And, two, it was written by Allison. I don’t really know Allison, but I kind of do in a round about sort of weird internet way. Allison’s blog is one of the first blogs I started reading when our world came crashing down about 5 and ½ years ago. She also interviewed me one time for a magazine article that she wrote. And, we even got a Christmas card from her once. So, I was interested to see what she had to say on the subject. I think she did a great job writing the post. She was able to state why she felt how she did without begrudging others for feeling differently.
Prior to reading her post, I had read a little chatter on the internet about JDRF saying they were not as focused on a cure, or something to that affect; or more like they were focusing on a cure still, but also focusing on better treatments of Type 1 diabetes. I never gave it a second thought, really. It wasn’t news to me. It didn’t anger me. It didn’t shock me.
You see, when Riley was diagnosed in October of 2005, the minute we got home from the hospital I began to scour the internet for any information I could find. Inevitably I searched about a cure. Of course, JDRF was one of the first web pages to pop up. After all, JDRF is an acronym for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I read about them. I read their mission statement. I did my research on them.
I also found some articles written about research being done at Massachusetts General Hospital by Dr. Denise Faustman. I read about her research. I read about what she had done with mice. It all made sense to me. Something just clicked inside of me and said, “This woman is dedicated to finding a cure”. And, I was hooked. She hadn't even begun human clinical trials yet. The phase I of her trials began in January of 2008. She is now raising money to fund Phase II of the project.
The next year, one day after Riley’s one year anniversary, I held the 1st annual Walk of Hope. Every cent raised went to Dr. Faustman’s research. I’ve held several other walks since then. All of the money went to Dr. Faustman’s research. Every walk, every fundraiser, every penny saved in Riley’s “hope jar” (featured in my blog profile pic), goes to her research. And, it always will, until the research ends.
Have I supported JDRF? I guess I have a little. I have donated to others who have walked to raise money for JDRF. Some people I know and some I don’t. Riley had a T-shirt sent to him several years ago by a little boy who he will probably never meet. I “met” his dad through his blog and donated to his walk. In turn, he sent a T-shirt to Riley. JDRF is prominently displayed on the shirt. Riley wears it with pride.
I don’t have anything against JDRF. But, and it’s just my personal opinion, they are not really focused on a cure. There, I said it. I know that infuriates some people, but that’s how I feel and I have felt that way for over 5 years now. I do believe they are very committed to finding better ways to manage diabetes. When Riley was diagnosed, continuous glucose monitors were talked about, but not on the market. I remember that even back then JDRF was throwing around an idea about a closed loop system, AKA: an artificial pancreas.
I feel the same way about it now as I did then. It’s quite simple really. That’s not a cure. I want a cure. Period. I want my little man to live his life without depending on a drug to live. And, I’m not being dramatic here. Without insulin, Riley would die. I want him to know what it’s like to eat a snack without having to jab himself with a needle first. I want him to know what it’s like to not be attached to a machine 24/7. I want him to play sports without worrying if he will go low. I want him to have a functioning pancreas again. To me, anything short of that is just a band aid. Band-aids come off. They have to be reapplied. They cover up wounds. I don’t want him to be “wounded” anymore.
I know that JDRF also funds research projects searching for a cure. (As a side note, they haven’t given one cent to Dr. Faustman.) But they put the majority of their money into projects such as the artificial pancreas. And, that right there is why I have never had a fundraiser for them. I want ALL of my money to go towards a cure.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for organizations like JDRF that are trying to find better ways to manage diabetes. Like I said, when Riley was diagnosed you couldn’t even get a continuous glucose monitor. Now, many people have them. And, in the years since they came onto the market I’ve been told their accuracy has improved quite a bit. Not only that, I now bolus Riley with his pump from across the room via his blood sugar machine. It is quite wonderful.
And, all of this technology is great because it helps improve the lives of those touched by this disease. It helps control sugars, which in turn decreases complications and increases my little boy’s now shorter than average lifespan.
But, in the end, he’s still attached to his pump 24/7. He still could go into DKA from the flu. He could go into a coma from a low. And, my biggest fear, he could go to sleep tonight and not wake up in the morning. All because of Type 1 diabetes.
As parents we all want the very best for our children. We want to see them succeed. We want to see them live their dreams. Some think that better technology is the answer.
Me? I know Riley can live his dreams with or without Type 1 diabetes. But, I would rather see him do it without an insulin pump tethered to his side, without the worry, the emotions, the complications that come along with this disease.
So, I will continue to hope. I will continue to pray. And, I will continue to use that improved technology until the day that Riley does not need it anymore. And, I firmly believe, with all my heart, that Dr. Faustman’s research will lead us there.
**(I have recently began a letter writing campaign to raise money for Dr. Faustman’s research. If you would like do donate, please click here. All donations are tax deductible.)