The Agony of Type 1 Hope
As an editor here at Diabetes Health, I'm in charge of several tasks, including monitoring the comments people write in response to stories we post on this website. I eliminate spam and kick out the abusive or obscene comments that some poor souls try to post.
But I also notice the tone of the legitimate comments that people write, and sometimes they disturb me.
Perhaps the most disturbing are the comments by type 1s, usually when we publish an article about the latest advance or study on this or that front in treating their condition. Basically, those comments are cries, or pleas, or protests about the agonizing slowness of finding a cure for diabetes, and the frustration at seeing yet another article discussing this or that high-tech approach to managing it.
Some people suspect a conspiracy by Big Pharma to continue profiting from diabetes as it dangles the prospect of a high-tech wonder treatment-or even a cure-in front of long-suffering type 1s. Others lament what they see as the excessive focus on the problems of people with type 2 diabetes, who constitute about 90 percent of people with diabetes.
There's no good answer to these complaints, at least in the sense of something that can wash away the sadness and frustration they express. Type 1s didn't ask for their condition. Luck of the genetic draw determined that at some point their immune systems would wrongfully go after their own beta cells and destroy them. With us type 2s, though, there is some culpability that involves choices we made that hastened our eventual slide into diabetes.
So, what to say to type 1s that can give them a bit of solace without sounding insincere or seeming to be going through the motions?
One thought is the always surprising genius of the human mind. An economist named George Gilder recently wrote that one thing we forget about what makes modern life so dynamic is the unexpected appearance of a person who has a great insight, or the arrival of a "Say, what?" idea from out of left field. For every diabetes-oriented company or research group that's seemingly stuck on tweaking old approaches and technologies, there is some inspired researcher out there who's working a new way to beat type 1.
Compared to 10 years ago, the strides people like that are making in figuring out a genetic approach to treatment, and even a cure, have been tremendous. We are much closer to understanding what leads to type 1-therefore, much closer to understanding how to knock down its underpinnings.
I'm in my 60s now, so am pretty much in the dessert stage of my turn at the table. My consolations lie in hopes for other people's futures. I genuinely believe that children and teens who now endure type 1 will see a cure in their lifetimes. I genuinely believe that we will be able to detect genetic markers for type 1 and treat children in the womb to avert the disease's post-birth onset.
The treatments will combine genetic manipulations and possibly nanotechnology-the insertion of microscopic robots tasked to do specific things in the body, such as deliver instructions to T cells to leave pancreatic beta cells the hell alone.
On the more personal level, groups like DiabetesSisters (www.diabetessisters.com) have made a determined and successful outreach to type 1 and type 2 women, gently insisting that what both types have in common far exceeds their differences.
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For those of you who live in or near Northern California, DiabetesSisters is planning to hold its sixth annual Weekend for Women conference at the Embassy Suites San Francisco Airport in Burlingame. It's a wonderful event, with a combination of information and practical advice, poignant story sharing, and sheer fun (see article 7948 on this website).