Oak Bay youngster adjusts to the challenge of Type 1 diabetes

10-year-old Lucas Cunliffe raised $5,000 at a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation fundraiser

Lucas Cunliffe

Most 10-year-olds would balk at the sight of a needle, let along plunge it into their own thigh.

Lucas Cunliffe lives with Type 1 diabetes, and has seen enough jabbing in the past two years that last month he took on the mature task of administering his own insulin.

“I never really liked them [needles], and now they’re my whole life,” says Lucas.

For his parents, “needle school” as dad Michael calls it, started the day after diagnosis.

When the Monterey middle school student was eight, he suffered tummy aches and frequent urination.

“He was skin and bones,” says mom Trisha. Both parents say their usually mellow eight-year-old was irritable.

“I just wasn’t really feeling well,” says Lucas.

Trisha took the now 10-year-old to the doctor, who after hearing the symptoms immediately tested his blood sugars, which were so high the meter couldn’t read them.

They rushed to the hospital and were stunned how quickly things moved after that.

“You’re living life and boom here’s your new life,” Michael says.

For five days Lucas stayed in hospital figuring out his insulin levels. With Type 1 diabetes the pancreas does not produce insulin, a hormone that helps the body control sugar levels in the blood. Without insulin, glucose builds up instead of being used for energy. The body both produces glucose as well as gets it from foods like bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, milk and fruit. The cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown and it is not preventable.

The day after diagnosis, mom and dad started two days of intense schooling that covered pokes for both blood testing and administering insulin. Education covered counting carbs, something Trisha does on a daily basis, marking them down for her oldest son’s school lunches so he can figure out his blood sugars.

“He has to use his math skills,” points out Michael.

“And I’m still not good at math,” Lucas adds with a sly grin.

Multiple times a day the Oak Bay youth pricks a finger, dabs it to a testing strip and reads the blood monitor to determine his blood glucose (sugar) level. He calculates and administers insulin for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He must plan for snacks or exercise.

Insulin can be injected by pen, syringe or pump. Lucas isn’t comfortable with a pump that is attached at all times. He prefers to carry his life-saving kit with a monitor, testing strips, pens and insulin. Of course they come along to school.

“Some teachers educate themselves on it,” Michael says.

Educating is a task that Lucas too takes on. “Last year, he got up in front of the whole class,” Michael says.

“It was kind of scary because I’m not that good at [public] speaking,” says Lucas.

But he tackled his classmates’ questions, which of course included how many needles a day? The answer: six to 10, depending on how much, for example, Halloween candy he wants to eat.

And family, friends and community continue to come together in a wave of support. At this year’s Telus Walk to Cure Diabetes, a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation fundraiser held on the West Shore, Team Lucas raised $5,000 (the goal was $500).

“Eighty people showed up, there was this sea of Team Lucas T-shirts,” says Trisha. “It was overwhelming in a supportive way.”

They scored the top fundraiser award – the Gold Sneaker.

Then there was the “purple bejewelled toilet”.

“We delivered it late at night and the plumbing policy was for $10 we’ll take it away; for $20 we’ll take it and you can nominate someone; for $30 we take it, you nominate and you never see it again,” Michael explains. “Amazingly, people were willing to pay $30.”

The jazzy throne made its way around the region, travelling as far afield as Sooke and raising $2,000.

Raising money for the cause, to find a cure, is important to the Cunliffes.

“The main goal is to have a cure in Lucas’ lifetime,” says Trisha.

With today (Nov. 14) World Diabetes Day the family, including younger siblings Jacob and Joshua, are determined to spread awareness about the disease.

“We didn’t know anything [about diabetes],” says Michael. “We know now how deeply it affects people and their family.”

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation recently raised $210,000 in one night at Victoria’s 10th annual Promise Ball fundraiser, named the Diamond Decade Gala.

“We are the world’s largest non-government funder of Type 1 diabetes research,” said Jason Parkhill, JDRF manager of fundraising and development in Victoria.

November is national diabetes awareness month. Visit jdrf.ca or diabetes.ca to learn more about the disease and associated fundraising.

 

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com

 

 

Just Posted

American boat strikes reef, sinks near Oak Bay

Two people rescued from boat headed for Orca Island

Man accused of Brentwood Bay murder appears in court

Alan Chapman tells judge he wants next court appearance to be “as far away as possible”

Langford has ‘no plans’ to make changes to Western Speedway after noise complaints

Flyer passed out to residents voices concerns over racetrack noise

Victoria police hand out Civic Service Awards

June 24 awards include recognition for help on days-long fire, cannabis robbery, volunteer service

Sooke teen seriously injured after fall on field trip

Boy climbed tree when it broke, tumbling down an embankment

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

POLL: Do you support the government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion?

The federal government announced Tuesday its approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. man faces deportation over father’s honour-killing conviction

Father lied to immigration, was later acquitted of charges in Jassi Sidhu’s murder

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

30 years later: B.C. woman uses sidewalk chalk to reclaim site of her sexual assault

Vancouver woman didn’t think her powerful story, written in chalk, would ignite such support

Slain friend motivates rookie football player to make it with hometown B.C. Lions

Jaylen Sandhu, stabbed to death in 2014, a source of inspiration for promising RB Jamel Lyles

Sooke council urged to move faster on off-leash dog park plan

Resident questions why five of seven restricted parks are in Sooke

Most Read