Steve can vividly recall being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at the age of 11. Repeated requests to make roadside stops and having an insatiable thirst during a long summer drive with his family were clear signs that something wasn’t quite right. His parents took him to the hospital where he would learn his life would never be the same.
Being diagnosed with T1D in the early 1960’s was much different. There wasn’t an understanding of the relationship between carbohydrates and whether controlling blood sugars made any difference. Testing was nearly useless. There were no finger pricks at the time; only drawing from a vein. Steve remembers a moment during his week-long hospital stay when a nurse advised him to eat a graham cracker and drink milk if he started “feeling funny.” “All I kept thinking was, ‘What does that mean?’”.
Steve has seen tremendous progress in the advancements of treating T1D since that diagnosis 59 years ago. New discoveries and technology to help manage living with the disease have had a tremendous positive impact on his life. It’s hard to imagine today, but Steve was told he would have 20 years of a ‘normal’ life followed by a progressive decline in his health. Steve shared, “I hoped that I would live to 2000 when I would be 51”.
When Cherryl met Steve, she didn’t immediately know of his type 1 diabetes. It was after several months of dating that she discovered a syringe in his bathroom. “I was surprised to discover it and wondered what exactly it was for, but we had established an honest and open relationship, so I just asked.” She was unfazed by Steve’s T1D, although she remembers telling her father and his warning to be careful. Her own father had been borderline type 2 diabetes and experienced the burden it had been to manage it. Those words of caution didn’t deter Cherryl as she and Steve were married not long after. They established a home in Texas and had two children. Steve built a prominent career practicing law.
In 1987, despite his professional success, Steve recognized his work was impacting his ability to manage his T1D. “There was a lot of stress, long hours, and a lot of travel, all making it difficult to manage my T1D. I had also been diagnosed two years earlier with Diabetic Retinopathy. I knew that I needed to make a change.” Steve talked with Cherryl expressing his concerns and the desire to take better care of himself, especially if a cure for T1D was discovered. “I wanted to be in the best physical condition once it became available.”
Fortunately, Steve found an opportunity to change his lifestyle for the better. He and Cherryl moved their family from Texas to Sacramento in 1987 to take over the family business and have been in the area ever since. Moving to a new community and establishing connections wasn’t always easy, but it was through Junior Diabetes Foundation (now JDRF) that they found a place where they belonged. Steve and a group of parents with children diagnosed with T1D, founded the local Chapter. “You realize a lot of people are involved. It was inspiring how focused, tireless everyone was to make a better life for those living with T1D.”
To this day, their commitment to JDRF is strong. “We know that JDRF is going to get us to the finish line. The last 10 years has progressed so much. And, it’s one of the most efficient organizations in putting money to use as well as ensuring less is directed to administrative costs.” Steve shares that at his age, finding a cure means very little. Reversing the impact of nearly 60 years of living with the disease is almost incomprehensible. But, “a cure would be great for young people. That’s why we give.”
As we celebrate the holiday season, we want to express our gratitude to the many JDRF supporters, like Steve and Cherryl, helping us to get even closer to the finish line. You can join Steve and Cherryl this holiday season, by making your own contribution. Visit the JDRF, Northern California Inland Chapter website at www.jdrf.org/norcal or contact our office directly at (916) 920-0790.