JDRF keeps me Hopeful

For ballet and diabetes in perfect harmony (just kidding) check out my full blog at A Diabetic Ballerina

This week has been crazy! I've been taking two summer classes, teaching anatomy, rehearsing and most importantly working with JDRF's Junior Board here in Birmingham.

We had one meeting for just us junior board members which involved electing officials and I got a nomination to be the chair of community involvement! I'm crossing my fingers and thinking of every possible connection I've built in Birmingham and how we can link it to JDRF. I'll find out soon if I am elected and I'll let you know.

While that was exciting the next night was a special annual meeting for the senior board. Members of the junior board are welcome to come, so I packed the prettiest pants and shirt that would fit in my book bag and ran over after teaching my class. Only a few junior board members were with me. I was nervous to run with the big dogs with their gold name tags while I was stuck with my "hi, my name is" sticker. Luckily my own endocrinologist was there too.

Dr. Anath Shalev

We discussed the success of the year as well as new research that’s currently going on. Anath Shalev, MD, a brilliant researcher from Switzerland came to talk to us about her findings. She is investigating how a specific protein, turned off by the presence of a calcium channel blocker, can help preserve existing beta cells in people with diabetes.

She showed us graph after graph, table after table and micro pictographs (photos taken with a microscope) of the beta cell masses of mice with diabetes. She found that with the use of a calcium channel blocker, found in the common blood pressure medicine Varapmil, preserved and reversed the damage of the beta cells. I was glad that my science courses gave me some literacy for all of her research.

I sat there stunned. There it was. The proof that someone was working her tail off and getting incredible results. Due to the fact that Varapmill is a generic drug that has side affects (like dropping your blood pressure!) big pharma has no interest in producing it. Dr. Shalev is working tirelessly to isolate the compound responsible for preserving beta cells and hopefully, in time, there may be a cure in our lifetime.

Like any diabetic, I have heard every trick in the book; that cures are just “10 years away” or that research is bringing advances every day. We get excited, we wait and then give up and get on with our lives. Somehow meeting a researcher and seeing her work has demystified my dreams of a cure. I think it’s great for us to remain hopeful but also take good care of ourselves so when the cure comes we’ll be healthy enough to receive it.

-Exit Stage Left

It is an interesting balance we have to consider. Staying healthy is important, but so is continuing to search for and hope for a cure...I think you can't have one without the other if we want to beat this disease.