Sunday, July 26, 2009
Unlike Type 2 Diabetes, Type 1 is an autoimmune disease. Type 1 occurs when a person's immune system mistakenly destroys it's own insulin producing cells in the pancreas. The immune system flags these good cells as bad and kills them off like it would with a flu virus for example. So far, this cannot be prevented or reversed.
Type 1 Diabetes is therefore caused by a faulty immune system. The immune system is not weak, it's just not very good at distinguishing good cells from bad ones. Individuals with one autoimmune disease have a greater risk of developing others. Autoimmune diseases have a genetic factor. Children of parents (both or just one) with an autoimmune disorder have a greater chance of developing one as well.
Before 2002, I didn't really know what autoimmunity was, but I was about to find out. Adele started to get sick in the summer of that year. After many doctor's visits, a specialist in Halifax told us that she had Celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the ingestion of a protein called Gluten causes an autoimmune reaction that causes damage to the lining of the intestine. There is no cure and it cannot be reversed. Treatment is a Gluten-free diet for life. Gluten is a protein present in wheat and it's derivitives (rye, oats and barley...). We had never heard of such a condition and didn't know what Adele could and could not eat when we first started on the diet. The specialist strongly recommended that Michele and I get tested as well (even if we didn't have any typical obvious symptoms). One month after Adele's diagnosis, I also was also diagnosed with Celiac disease. Reading up on the disease and other autoimmune disorders, I easily recognized the symptoms of Adele's developing Type 1 Diabetes one month later. Three blows in three months - ouch ! Two years later, Adele was diagnosed with a 3rd autoimmune disease called hypothyroidism. There is also no cure for this condition. The treatment is synthetic hormone therapy (taking a synthroid pill every day) for life.
Close to 7 years after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease and being on a strict Gluten-free diet, I can truly say that Adele saved my life. The atypical Celiac symptoms that I had have all gone away and my new definition of what being healthy feels like is amazing. It's incredible how avoiding the poison that I was putting in my body has changed my life. Part of this extra energy and clarity gained is spent on JDRF awareness and fundraising. Type 1 Diabetes is the hardest of Adele's autoimmune diseases to live with. It's the least that I can do for Adele in return for what she has brought to my life. So now you know part of what truly motivates me keep fighting for the cure and to finally be able to win the Type 1 game...
Also, I forgot to thank those who leave comments. I appreciate the feedback. Christiane, good to hear that your daughter has started pumping. If you have any questions, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am not a doctor, but I find that I gain more from discussing with Type 1 gamers vs. book smart non-gamers.