Needles remain top of mind for Lucas Cunliffe, 12. He faces a minimum four finger pricks and four needles a day to keep his blood sugar at healthy levels.
“I want to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) because of the struggles that I have to deal with every day. I talk mostly about the needles because of the physical pain that I get from them several times a day. But there is more to T1D than that,” he said.
Lucas was eight when he was diagnosed after mom Trisha and dad Michael noticed he was irritable, sick and frail.
With T1D the pancreas does not produce insulin, a hormone that helps the body control sugar levels in the blood. Without insulin, glucose builds.
The cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown and it is not preventable.
“The responsibilities that I have had to take on can be overwhelming and draining at times. I always have to make sure that I am carrying around my blood sugar bag no matter where I go,” Lucas said. “In it I have my blood sugar tester, snacks and glucagon.
“I have to keep this with me in case I go low and need to have a snack. None of my friends have to worry about this.”
He can’t always eat birthday cake or drink pop. He has to calculate the amount of carbs in everything he eats.
“I can’t just take off with my friends to the beach and be carefree. I always have to keep in the back of my head the thought of when I need to eat and when I need insulin,” he said. “There are times that I feel that I am excluded from some of the things that my friends are doing … this can make me feel angry and sad.”
In a bid to raise awareness and work toward a cure, Lucas shares his story and daily struggles with large groups.
“He’s done quite a bit. I’m really proud of him,” Trisha said.
“If there’s any upside of it, that’s it. Lucas is very shy,” said Michael. “To take an opportunity to get up and talk to people and put yourself out there is amazing.”
From now through the end of the year, Lucas’ fundraising is worth five times face value, thanks to Ed Life of Tecnet, a computer support company that supplies, sells and maintains equipment.
“Lucas is the best friend of a son of a friend of mine. He’s an enthusiastic kid who is trying to do something about it, rather than waiting around,” said Life, who feels philanthropy, if focused on the right things, can bring solutions.
“(JDRF is) an organization to do with kids, and to do with a disease or condition that can be fixed. There’s a reasonable chance that it can be fixed. There is a solution in sight, which makes it a meaningful endeavour. I also have a son who works in the lab at UBC working with stem cells, not on diabetes specifically, but it is similar to the UBC lab that is funded by JDRF.”
Did you know?
• Monterey Middle School’s Lucas Cunliffe shares the daily struggles of juvenile diabetes with MPs in Ottawa Nov. 21 and 22 for Kids for a Cure Lobby Day. He hopes to demonstrate to decision-makers how research for T1D improves lives and how investing places a cure within reach.
A tale of two vastly different diseases
• Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that strikes both children and adults at any age. The body’s immune system destroys the beta cells in the pancreas. Beta cells produce insulin, an essential hormone needed by the body to obtain energy from food.
• The onset of T1D has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. T1D strikes suddenly, causes lifelong dependence on injected or pumped insulin, and carries the constant threat of devastating complications.
• More than 300,000 Canadians live with T1D.
• Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder where a person’s body still produces insulin but is unable to use it effectively.
• T2D is usually diagnosed in adulthood, but there is a growing number of cases of T2D in children due to an increase in childhood obesity.
• T2D can sometimes be treated with diet and lifestyle interventions, as well as oral medications and does not always require injected or pumped insulin.
• More than 9 million Canadians live with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
• Together, T1D and T2D are the leading causes of kidney failure, new cases of blindness, and non-traumatic lower-limb amputations among adults in Canada and are major causes of heart disease and stroke