Ever since meeting her now-husband at age 21, Elizabeth Caswell has been exposed
to a world with type one diabetes (T1D). Not only has her husband been living with T1D since he was 18 years old, but two of their three boys also have been diagnosed.
Rollie, who is 15 years old, was diagnosed with T1D at 11 years old, while 11-year-old Lance was diagnosed at just three years old. The Caswell’s youngest son, Lucas, remains T1D free, but continues to participate in a TrialNet study designed to detect antibodies that may predict T1D.
When asked about the difficulties of having three family members with T1D, Elizabeth stated, “In some ways it’s easier because they have each other. They have a built in community and a sense of togetherness. The boys have their father and each other to show that diabetes doesn’t get in the way of anything they want to do in their lives.”
Both Rollie and Lance truly don’t let T1D get in the way of their active lifestyles. Rollie is a second-degree black belt and is on his school’s JV Football team, while Lance is pursuing his youth black belt, plays baseball and is on a travel soccer team.
Thinking back on both Rollie and Lance’s diagnosis, Elizabeth explains, “It’s almost like having a newborn. You’re up multiple times overnight checking [their blood sugar] because you’re worried about what could happen.”
Although living with T1D doesn’t necessarily become easier, it does become more manageable as time goes on. Now, Rollie has an insulin pump while Lance has both an insulin pump and a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). The CGM technology that Lance has makes checking blood sugar simpler, while the insulin pumps both Lance and Rollie have makes insulin dosing easier. In addition to this technology, Rollie, Lance and the rest of the Caswell family have better adjusted to living with T1D though their involvement with JDRF.
The Caswell family became involved with JDRF when Lance was first diagnosed, after the Pediatric Endocrinology clinic at Mott’s Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan mentioned JDRF One Walk Ann Arbor. Lance also received JDRF’s Bag of Hope, providing the family with helpful information and support regarding T1D. The Caswells began participating in JDRF One Walk in Ann Arbor in 2008 as “3 Caz 4 a Cure,” and have been the number one family fundraising team every year since then, raising over $300,000 for JDRF research.
In fact, Elizabeth believes that JDRF research has saved her boys’ lives. “There was one night where Lance went to bed and was fine. Then a couple hours later his blood sugar was 50. There’s no question in my mind that his CGM for which JDRF funded part of the research, saved his life. I wouldn’t have known to get up and check him. I thought everything was fine.”
Beyond One Walk, Elizabeth and the Caswell family are further involved with JDRF. Elizabeth just completed her first term on JDRF’s Metro Detroit/Southeast Michigan board of directors, is starting her first year on the executive committee and has been the JDRF One Walk Ann Arbor planning chair for the past three years. This year, she is chairing the marketing committee for JDRF One Walk Ann Arbor, and has also been to several national research updates where she gets to hear JDRF’s research progress firsthand.
When asked about her involvement with JDRF, “I volunteer and raise money for JDRF because I think T1D can be cured,” Elizabeth explained. “What’s amazing about JDRF is it brings scientists together through conference calls and meetings so that they’re communicating about where the research is going and the progress they’re making. We have to collaborate to be successful in finding a cure.”
Like many individuals and families living with T1D, Elizabeth wants the world to be more educated on the disease. “If I can educate one more person each day, then it’s a good day.”
Additionally, last summer, Rollie participated as a Michigan representative on JDRF’s Children’s Congress to speak on behalf of the millions of people living with T1D and the families and friends who love them.
Elizabeth and her family will be participating in the upcoming JDRF One Walk Ann Arbor in September, and will continue to walk with their team “3 Caz 4 a Cure” until Type One becomes Type None.
For more information, or to get involved with JDRF One Walk, please visit http://bit.ly/215TdCB.