When Daniel Luciani gets that crumby feeling telling him his Type 1 diabetes is acting up, he doesn’t want to hear the ‘helpful’ suggestions of people who just don’t get it.
Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, isn’t the same as the more familiar Type 2, he explains.
And unlike the advice for Type 2, diet and exercise won’t make much difference in how he feels.
The 16-year-old Point Edward resident is amazingly patient in describing how he’s coped with the disease from the age of four.
Type 2 primarily impacts adults when they stop responding to insulin or stop producing as much. Exercise and diet can often control it, he explained.
But Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar.
Type 1 is not linked to lifestyle factors and is not preventable. Its cause is unknown, but Daniel’s mom, Carolyn Luciani, says doctors suspect a virus triggered her son’s diabetes.
Daniel speaks matter-of-factly when showing the worn fingertips he pricks multiple times daily to check his blood sugar, but his mom is frustrated by the disease and the many misconceptions around it.
“People think Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the same but they aren’t,” she said. “They’ll say to me, you can cure your son’s diabetes by changing his eating habits and having him exercise more.
“I laugh. I think Daniel might have 10% body fat and he is such a healthy eater.
“His pancreas simply doesn’t work.”
She and a small group of local families with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) children, ages 17 months to 16 years, have mobilized over the past year to fundraise for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
An estimated 33,000 Canadian children have Type 1, which is called juvenile diabetes less and less because adults are getting it too. Statistically, Canadians are above the global average with an incidence rate grows 5.1% per year.
“There are probably hundreds dealing with Type 1 in Sarnia-Lambton,” said Sharon O’Leary, spokesperson for the Foundation in London.
“We learn of 10 to 15 newly-diagnosed cases a year from this area.”
She attended a recent fundraising skate at Point Edward Arena where kids with Type 1 diabetes and their friends and families had fun for an afternoon and raised $1,330.
Several of the local kids are under the age of five, noted Daniel Luciani.
“Younger kids aren’t always able to tell their parents something is wrong and they can’t understand the dangers of what can happen.
“That’s why we need a cure,” he said.
The Foundation is funding as many as 50 clinical trials for potential therapies to restore and maintain normal pancreas function.
“They say we’re within five years of a cure. That’s why we are anxious to raise money,” said Carolyn Luciani.
Strides have also been made to make blood sugar testing less arduous and to improve the pumps that provide life-saving insulin day and night.
The Sarnia-Lambton families with T1D kids are hosting their second annual walk on May 26 in Canatara Park. Last year, they raised $12,000. This year their goal is $15,000.
The entire community is invited to get behind their effort. For more about registering or sponsoring a walker, visit www.jdrfwalk.ca or email Carolyn Luciani at [email protected] or Alison Mahon at [email protected].