Watch out Washington…here she comes!

More than two years ago, our lives changed forever when Isabella was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just weeks shy of her second birthday. We were literally crushed with the weight of her diagnosis. We sat in that hospital room, just as far too many before us have, with tears in our eyes, sadness in our hearts, confusion and worry in our minds…and then something amazing happened.

We wiped away our tears and started thinking about how to turn this terrible, life-changing disease and experience into something positive. We decided right then and there, while sitting on that uncomfortable couch in that hospital room, that we would fight for Isabella and many others by raising awareness and raising money to support research towards a cure.

Our hope is that by sharing Isabella’s story we can inspire others and ultimately help change the world! We are proud of what we have accomplished over the past two years, but we still have a lot of work to do…

That’s why we are so excited to announce that Isabella was selected to be a Delegate for JDRF 2015 Children’s Congress! She was one of about 150 delegates selected out of more than 1,500 applicants! Isabella can’t wait to share her story in Washington!

Our little girl is just getting started on her path to change the world!

-Greg

Childrens Congress

Shaping Friendships

Just before Thanksgiving the stars aligned and just like eHarmony for the T1D world (dHarmony?) we met a sassy blogger online named Libby. A twenty-something who also happens to be pancreatically-challenged, Libby asked us if she could interview us for her blog and we were pumped (pun totally intended).

I told Isabella that a new friend with T1D wanted to interview her…which set off a string of questions about who this mystery girl was, what kind of ice cream she likes and whether or not she’d seen Frozen. She was excited and I was, too.

After our interview with Libby (which was chocked full of so much awesome that I’ll let you read it yourself) we decided we wanted to send her a thank you card and one of our fab Inspired by Isabella t-shirts. Of course, being 4 years old and looking for any excuse to get marker on my nice, Amish-made table channel her inner Warhol, Isabella said SHE wanted to make the card. The “card” turned into half a dozen drawings and notes, dictated letter by letter by me, to our new friend Libby.

“Does ‘Libby’ begin with an ‘L’, mom?”

“Are there one or two ‘o’s in ‘love’?”

“How do you spell ‘best friend’?”

And that right there made my eyes start to leak.

Isabella brought me her stack of notes and drawings and as I thumbed through them I stopped at one. It was a drawing she had made of her and her new BFF, surrounded by flowers and a rainbow, their names scribbled to indicate who was who.

libby

It was hard not to notice the numerous shapes Isabella had drawn up and down the two figures, seemingly random.

“I love this drawing, Isa. Can you tell me what these shapes are on you two?”

“Those are our sites…for our pumps and cgms.”

And I could feel my heart sink.

But then I noticed something else. Smiles. Both the stick figure image of Isabella on the paper and the pigtailed toddler standing in front of me had smiles spread across their faces.

And I knew. I knew that Isabella had found someone else she could draw who also had shapes running up and down them like a highway of reminders of this disease. She was smiling because she had found someone to look up to and to show her that she shouldn’t be ashamed of these shapes. And while her shapes will never define her, they are a part of her story.

Thank you, Libby, for helping Isabella embrace her shapes…and for sharing her journey.

Cheers to Changing the World~
Kristina

Here we go again…

I have always loved Halloween. I love dressing up and I love the excitement leading up to it. It’s probably no secret to those that know me well that I start planning costumes months in advance…and we don’t disappoint!For most kids, though, Halloween is about much more than choosing costumes.

It’s about the candy. C-A-N-D-Y.

Most people would expect that, as parents of a kid with type 1 diabetes, Halloween would be the holiday we dread the most.

And they would be right…but not for the reasons you would assume.

THIS is why I dread Halloween:

Halloween Diabetes
And this:
halloween diabetes 2
A year ago before Halloween I wrote a post in response to someone else’s blog entitled 10 Halloween Candy Alternatives That Won’t Give Your Kids Diabeetus. I realized then that there will always be people who choose to perpetuate stereotypes about this disease, simply because they don’t KNOW what it is. I also realized that there are people who back up jokes like these with the claim of “I was actually referring to TYPE 2 diabetes!”…as if that makes it ok. How about making a joke about cancer and saying “Oh! I didn’t mean breast cancer, I meant prostate cancer, silly!” Nope. Not ok. Another person’s illness or disease is not a joke…no matter what it’s called.This year I’ve decided that instead of being mad about these things, I’m going to channel my inner spirit fingers and let them help recharge my motivation (“Gimme a C-U-R-E!”). I know that our efforts to raise awareness and educate people about type 1 diabetes are helping someone…or many someones. I just know it.

I also know (ok, I just looked it up) that the word “ignorance” comes from the Latin ignorantia meaning “want of knowledge”. So you know what? We’re going to help the folks who continue to perpetuate the stereotypes about “diabeetus” (which, by the way, was only funny when it was said by Wilford Brimley) and keep supplying them with LOTS of knowledge.

You want it? You got it.
bees

Happy Halloween!

Bring it On…and Let’s Change the World~
Kristina

 

Defining a ‘Cure’

Isabella and Brynlee, T1D BFFs

Isabella and Brynlee – T1D BFFs

 

According to Webster’s, there are three definitions of the word “cure”:

1) Something (such as a drug or medical treatment) that stops a disease and makes someone healthy again

2) Something that ends a problem or improves a bad situation

3) The act of making someone healthy again after an illness

The definition that isn’t provided by Webster’s is the one you tell your four-year-old who is battling said disease/bad situation/illness.

But today I tried to define it.

Isabella has been overwhelmed with all of the hoopla over the past two months as we held fundraisers, ordered t-shirts with her likeness, and held special events in her honor. And it was great. No…it was amazing. To the tune of almost $15k in funds raised amazing.

For a cure.

A cure she didn’t know could exist.

Until today.

While brushing her hair this morning Isabella asked me the question I had been subconsciously dreading for the past two years: “What’s does ‘cure’ mean, mom?”

Bravery x 2

Bravery x 2 – Isabella and Addison

Isabella can read a facial expression like no other toddler I’ve met. I was grateful that she’d asked for double side ponies this morning instead of her usual side-swept style. I was behind her and she couldn’t see my face. She couldn’t see the wrinkle appear between my eyebrows, as is common when I’m caught off guard with a question I don’t know how to answer.

But she could tell by the delay in my response.

“Is a ‘cure’ for me, mom?”

I put the brush down and I moved in front of her so she could see me…so she could know that what I was going to say was the truth.

“Yes, it’s for you. A ‘cure’ would mean you wouldn’t have diabetes anymore.”

After a second or two she looked at me with the face of someone who’s just come to an amazing realization about something.

“And Addison and Brynlee? And Maeve and Lucas? Oh, and Miss Knox? And…”

As I listened to Isabella continue to name off, one-by-one, all of these young people living with type 1 whom she’s met since she began this journey just over two years ago, I realized that Webster’s got it wrong with their second definition of ‘cure’:

2) Something that ends a problem or improves a bad situation

 

Yes, a cure would end our journey with type 1 diabetes. And, yes, that is what we hope and pray for every day.

Isabella and Miss Knox!

Isabella and Miss Knox!

Where Webster’s gets it wrong is this: our lives have been made BETTER because of type 1 diabetes. Yes, BETTER. All of those people Isabella rattled off? They have made our lives BETTER. All of the challenges we’ve had making sure Isabella is safe at home and school each day has made us BETTER parents.

Does this mean we don’t need a cure for this disease? Of course not. What it does mean is that I wouldn’t change the path we have been on because, as a result, we have had the chance to make a difference. To educate people about this disease and the signs and symptoms to look out for as the numbers of kids diagnosed grows each year. To spread awareness about differences and help people understand that kids with challenges are regular kids.

As I slid the last Hello Kitty rubber band into Isabella’s hair I turned to look her in the eyes.

“Yes, Isa…the ‘cure’ will be for all of you. And the ‘cure’ will be BECAUSE of all of you.”

And it will.

Cheers to Changing the World~

Kristina

 

Inspired to Be A Super Hero 1M Walk or 5K Race

SuperIsaJoin us for a Super Hero Inspired Walk/Run sponsored by our amazing friends at Studio Wish Salon!

This fun event will benefit JDRF of Northeast Ohio in honor of Team Inspired by Isabella and prizes will be awarded for the best-dressed Super Hero’s!

To register for this event, please click here.

We hope you’ll join us for this fun event!

The #TBT No One Wants To See

hospital2 Nearly two years.

Now, more than half her life.

Every day. Forever.

Sitting in the standard metal hospital chair, I looked over at Isabella.

Everything seemed the same…just the crib swapped out for a rolling bed.

Hadn’t we just been here?

Didn’t we just experienced the exact same blood-drawing, IV-inserting, stabilizing-levels process?

Hadn’t we just watched helplessly as tears streamed down her face…her little tourniquet-wrapped arm outstretched and reaching for us as blood trickled into multiple vials for testing?

Weren’t we just told that our daughter was very sick…and how lucky she was that we’d brought her to the ER in time?

So many times since Isabella’s diagnosis we’ve heard stories from friends and strangers about the many complications that can come along with type 1 diabetes. And so many times we’ve talked about how lucky we must be that Isa is almost two years post-diagnosis without complications. Didn’t we deserve some “Understudy Pancreas of the Year” award? We were like the Mr. Miyagi of diabetes management…mastering it left and right. I mean, if we did everything right it just makes sense that we’d have smooth sailing…what could possibly go wrong that we couldn’t predict?

Actually, everything.

That’s the thing about this disease: it’s unpredictable. No matter how many devices we use to manage/track/dose…there will always be that unknown.  hospital1

Isabella was admitted to the hospital yesterday with Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) after blood tests in the ER revealed she had large amounts of ketones in her blood stream. If left untreated, the amount of toxins in the blood can result in a coma and can be fatal.  The cause of DKA varies and, as was the case with Isa, it can develop rapidly.

We are now home after 2 days in the hospital and Isabella is back to her old self.

But we aren’t.

Because now we know. We know T1D doesn’t play favorites. There are no “lucky ones”. This is a disease that leads the body to attack itself. ITSELF. It is unpredictable and it is dangerous.

And for Isabella, it’s her life.

For now.

“First learn stand, then learn fly”…wise man, that Mr. Miyagi.

Cheers to Changing the World,

Kristina

PS- THIS is why we are working so hard to raise funds and awareness for a cure.  If you would like to support us in our efforts, please visit: www2.jdrf.org/goto/inspiredbyisabella.  Thank you for joining us on our journey to a cure for type 1 diabetes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, we wait.

trioChecking…

Checking…

We stared intently at the meter, seemingly taking forever to provide a blood sugar reading.

Checking…

Checking…

84.

And with that we released a sigh of relief. Today would not be the day we had another child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Nope, not today.

This wouldn’t be the first time we’d checked one of the other kid’s blood sugar…and it probably won’t be the last.

Since Isabella’s diagnosis almost two years ago it’s become commonplace for people we meet to express their surprise that just one of our trio has T1D.

“She’s the only one? Hmmm, that’s so interesting.”

“Are you worried about the other two ‘getting it’?”

“Well, you know the warning signs so you’ll be prepared if it does happen.”

“At least you know how to manage it already.”

Truth…but a painful one to think about.

During the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life Conference in 2013 we learned about TrialNet – a two-part clinical study being conducted by “an international network of researchers who are exploring ways to prevent, delay and reverse the progression of type 1 diabetes.” We stopped by the TrialNet table during the conference and spoke with someone about our family participating in the screening that checks for autoantibodies that are predictors of type 1 diabetes development.

We left the table with a stack of forms to complete so that Isabella’s brother and sister, as well as Greg and I, could be tested during the conference. As we packed our bags four days later I remember tossing the papers into the hotel room trash can. We couldn’t do it.

There are many schools of thought on whether it’s better to know that something bad is inevitable, or to live life as it is and just take what is handed to you as it comes. Would we do anything differently if we knew, with a good amount of certainty, that one or both of Isabella’s siblings would also develop type 1? Would it change the way we are living our life today? Would we just be in a static state of paranoia – checking their blood sugar regularly to see if ‘today is the day’?

The answer is: I don’t know.

You never know how you’ll react to news you don’t want to hear. You never know if you’ll be able to hold it together so that your kids don’t see the breaking of the Hoover Dam that is bound to happen behind your eyes. You never know if you’ll wait…and wait…and wait…for nothing to ever happen.

And you never know how strong you are until that’s the only option you have.

Two weeks ago during this year’s Friends for Life Conference our TrialNet paperwork made its way to the scientists. We all held out our arms for the blood draw that will ultimately let us know if anyone else in our house has the autoantibodies that predict type 1 diabetes. Two weeks ago we made a decision that we wanted to help advance the research into this disease and that, by participating in this study, we would be helping scientists understand more about T1D and move towards finding a cure.

Sitting at the hotel pool later that day I met a woman who told me her non-type 1 child had participated in TrialNet the year before. She told me, with tears forming behind her sunglasses, that the day they got the phone call with the results was harder than the day her type 1 child was diagnosed. The test had come back positive for the autoantibodies. Now, she told me, they just live in a state of limbo since, technically, her other child hasn’t been diagnosed. A state of limbo waiting for the excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss…waiting for the day they “officially” become a family with two kids with type 1 diabetes.

So now we wait. But we wait knowing that, regardless of the call we might receive in a few months when our results are ready, we are part of a bigger picture. A picture of hope that one day two mothers can sit on the poolside watching their children play – no medical devices attached to their bodies keeping them alive – like kids should do…without a care in the world.

Now, we wait.

Cheers to Changing the World~
Kristina

Grandma Gets It: Diabetes and Disney

*Our family had the opportunity to attend this year’s Children With Diabetes ‘Friends for Life’ Conference held each summer in Orlando.  This was our second year attending the conference and we decided to invite one of Isabella’s grandmothers, Darlene, to join us. While we will be sharing our own thoughts on the conference (look for 2 additional posts from us with our mom & dad reflections), we also asked “Grandma Dar Dar” to write a guest blog about her experience.  We hope it will encourage other grandparents, aunts, uncles, and extended family to consider learning more about caring for a child with type 1 diabetes…the more people a family has on their diabetes care team, the better!

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10462813_10204275358389968_7432120789970787352_n

A great night at the Friends for Life banquet!

I spent an incredible week with my son Greg, daughter-in-law Kristina and triplet grandchildren, Isabella, Mia and Max in Orlando for the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference. When they invited me to go with them, I had no idea what all was involved.

The conference didn’t start until Wednesday so we spent the first 2 1/2 days at the Disney parks and it was such fun. I think we stood in line to see every Disney princess possible…as well as Mickey and Minnie. The kids were so excited.

We went on rides, too, and while waiting in line for one ride, Isabella pointed to a little girl in front of us and said that she had a green bracelet on. Her dad asked her what it meant and she said that the girl had diabetes. We hadn’t signed in for the conference yet but, when you sign in, you get a green paper bracelet if you have T1D and an orange bracelet for those who do not have T1D. Isa remembered this from the previous year and it amazed me that she remembered this. Then Isa showed the little girl her OmniPod insulin pod.

When you go somewhere with children you have to take extra clothes, snacks, diapers or Pull-Ups, if needed. When your child has T1D you also need to bring glucose tablets, juice boxes, insulin, a glucometer and glucagon (an injection in case the blood sugar drops too low). Greg and Kristina checked Isabella’s glucose level frequently throughout the day. While we were waiting for the shuttle to take us back to the hotel, the kids were running around and all of a sudden, Isa was just standing there and said she was tired. Greg immediately checked her glucose level and it was in the low 50s so they gave her a juice box to bring it back up. This made me realize that she needs to be checked frequently…and it is a big responsibility.

At the conference I attended a number of sessions for grandparents and learned a lot. Even though I am a retired nurse, I didn’t know a lot about T1D and how to handle the highs and lows since so much has changed with the use of pumps and continuous glucose monitors(CGM). You really need to be on top of things and recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar.

I have also been very concerned about the complications of diabetes and worried for my beautiful granddaughter but ,after attending one session, I was relieved to learn that long-term complications usually only occur if the blood sugar has been high(250-300 or more) for an extended period of time. In fact, one presenter has had diabetes for 55 years and is doing fine.

An interesting statistic is that 15,000 children per year are diagnosed with T1D. A doctor at the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) in Miami, Dr. Chris Fraker, has found a correlation between certain viruses and T1D and hopes that one day if they can find a way to stop the viruses from destroying the islet cells in the pancreas which produce insulin, then diabetes will be cured.

Many who attended the conference have been coming for years and have developed friendships. It was so great to see the older kids interact with Isa and when Isa saw someone with a green bracelet, she wanted to meet them and show them her insulin pump or the Dexcom CGM she just stared using. 

We heard from athletes with T 1D who have done amazing things like competed in NASCAR and Indy car races (Ryan Reed and Charlie Kimball), doing triathlons (Jay Hewitt), and one young man who is running four marathons per week for nine months across Canada (Sebastian Sasseville) and they are an inspiration to the young people with T1D and show them that they can do anything they set their sights on.

It was a wonderful week and one that I will always remember. 

-Darlene

A Glimpse Into the Future of T1D

pancreas pillow

Isabella and her “I Heart Guts” Pancreas Pillow

On Tuesday, Kristina and I had the opportunity to attend a JDRF research update featuring Tom Brobson, National Director of Research Investment Opportunities. We were excited to hear about the research going on at JDRF and, selfishly, what it means for our daughter now and in the future.

On the way to the event, Kristina mentioned that while she was changing Isabella’s insulin pod in the morning before school, Isabella looked at her and said, “Mommy, I don’t want to wear a pod anymore.”

My heart literally sunk and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Isabella has never said that. She’s been on her pump for about 8 months or so and for the most part, she understands why she wears it and understands that she doesn’t really have a choice. But, she doesn’t fully understand that it will never be a choice…she may eventually choose a different pump, or may even choose to go back to injections…but the harsh reality is that she literally needs her insulin pump to survive every day of her life. That is, until a cure, or at least something that “feels” like a cure, is found. I began thinking, hoping and praying that we would hear promising news from Tom Brobson at the event.

Tom started his talk by saying, “I don’t have any extra letters after my name like PhD or MD…but I do have T1D.” Tom was diagnosed with type one diabetes about 10 years ago, at the age of 44. He joined JDRF about a year later, hoping to do his part to find a cure for himself and many others. As he spoke passionately about several key research initiatives, it became very clear that Tom was not only passionate about JDRF and the great work the organization is doing, but he was also passionate about making the lives of those living with type one better, including his own, on the path to a cure. He became somewhat emotional a couple of times as he spoke; this isn’t just his job, but his life!

Tom spoke about three main research initiatives, Smart Insulin, the Artificial Pancreas project and Encapsulation. Each of these initiatives have gone through various stages, navigating through the lengthy and quite costly FDA approval process. I expected to hear about how these three initiatives were showing very promising results in mice, cats or better yet, monkeys. The great news is that all three of these programs are currently in the human trials stage or entering human trials soon!  This means that we are that much closer to a dramatic change in Isabella’s life!

Smart Insulin has been in the news recently as Merck, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, announced earlier this week their plans to begin clinical trials. Smart Insulin, which was originally backed and supported by JDRF, is a form of insulin that is injected perhaps once daily and essentially turns “on” and “off” according to glucose levels. No more glucose checking. No more carb counting. No more dangerous lows. Isabella’s body could get the insulin that her pancreas can’t produce, without any additional effort or monitoring. This would be huge! As Tom put it, this could be “a game changer.” Not only for those living with type one, but also for those living with type 2 who aren’t often prescribed insulin. That’s all great news!…but unfortunately, Smart Insulin is still many years from becoming a reality.

tom brobson

Tom Brobson, JDRF National Director of Research Opportunities, showing us the artificial pancreas technology.

Tom also spoke at length about the Artificial Pancreas project. The Artificial Pancreas is not what it may sound like (no, it’s not a lab-produced pancreas that’s implanted into your body to replace the “bad part”). It’s essentially a computer program that can run on a smartphone…and essentially functions as a pancreas to ensure insulin is adjusted up or down when needed.

Tom has personally participated in several trials. He talked about one trial in which he was hooked up to the system and then was told to go eat a Five Guys burger and fries, which he gladly did, although he was quite skeptical at the time that the system would actually be able to keep his glucose under control (certainly not as good as he could on his own!). To his surprise, after eating a giant burger and fries, the system was able to keep his blood sugar under 200 and then bring him back within his normal range in a relatively short amount of time. There’s a word to describe this: amazing!

The system has performed extremely well in clinical trials. Tom mentioned that he is generally very tightly controlled and tends to be “out of range” only 4-5 hours per day. When he was on the system, his “out of range” time dropped to about 40 minutes per day. A new trial is starting soon and people will basically be handed an iPhone with the system and told to go live their lives for 6 months. After the trial, the hope is that the data and results will be sufficient to obtain FDA approval for the Artificial Pancreas. This could be 2-3 years out…while not a “cure,” it would certainly change Isabella’s life and enable her, and us, to live our days and nights without constantly thinking about her type one diabetes.

I asked Tom what he felt was the most exciting and most promising initiative underway at JDRF, fully expecting him to say the Artificial Pancreas. But, instead he talked about “Encapsulation.” To describe it, used the analogy of a shark cage. If you want to observe sharks, you could get into a cage where you would be fully protected and unharmed from sharks that want to eat you. The concept behind encapsulation is very similar…JDRF is working with partners to be able to insert beta cells into a small medical device that would be implanted into the body and protect the cells from other dangerous cells that want to destroy them. The beta cells would produce all the insulin you would need for up to 24 months. This also wouldn’t be a cure…but two years without worrying about diabetes is pretty damn close! This is still a long way off before it could be used as a treatment, but very exciting nonetheless.

So, the bottom line is that we heard a lot of very exciting stuff that inspires us and gives us hope! In speaking about his view of a cure, Tom said, “someday someone will write a book about the cure for type one diabetes and I wish I knew what chapter we were on now.” Don’t we all.

I had an additional opportunity to meet with Tom again Wednesday morning in a smaller group session at our Northeast Ohio JDRF Chapter Board meeting. He talked about the research initiatives and the fact that they are getting closer and closer to reality, which also means they become much more expensive. In talking about JDRF’s efforts to date and current efforts to push into the future, he said, “we’re the type that will take this on and change the world…but we need your help.”

Please help and join us on our journey to a cure for type one diabetes. Together, we can change the world!

-Greg

 

Captured by Kelly Photography – Mini Sessions to Benefit JDRF!

Very excited to announce that the super-talented Captured by Kelly Photography will be hosting special mini sessions for TWO days, April 5th & 6th, and donating a portion of each session to JDRF in Isabella’s name! We have had Kelly take our family photos multiple times and they are always amazing.

If you are in NE Ohio & would like pics for Easter, or just new family photos, this is a wonderful opportunity AND you’ll be supporting a great cause. Please see the flyer below for more info about how to schedule your time slot. Thank you for supporting our journey to a cure for type 1 diabetes!Captured by Kelly