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Finish line at the 2013 Ride to Cure in Nashville, TN!

    Dear Friends and Family,

        I find myself writing this letter, as I do year after year, in preparation for JDRF “ride season.”  However, this year, I have approached the table with a renewed sense of motivation and commitment to finding a cure for a chronic and devastating illness – Type 1 Diabetes. 

         This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Students with Diabetes conference in Tampa, FL where I was surrounded by approximately 100 Type 1 Diabetics between the ages of 18 and 30.  We shared the challenges of daily life with this illness with those that understand and empathize with us the most.  We strived to motivate and comfort each other through the physical and emotional tolls that this disease brings into our lives.  There was one moment, in particular, though, that I would like to share with you. For me, it was the turning point of an already inspirational weekend.  It changed the outlook of my own life because in that very moment, I had hope – hope that I will one day see Diabetes management change forever.

         Dr. Ed Damiano is the leading researcher of the Bionic Pancreas Study at Boston University.  He is also part of the diabetes community as his son has Type 1.  Over the course of his presentation, he explained the science and the development of a device that has been coined, “the Bionic Pancreas.”  The machine will resemble the current insulin pump, and based on mathematical algorithms will dose insulin and glucagon in response to blood glucose levels that are recorded by a sensor at 5-minute intervals.  While that is a high level description of the intricate science behind this miraculous device, I can tell you that this device is essentially a fully-functioning pancreas that exists on the external side of the patient’s body.  The patient will simply enter their weight, and the device takes over based upon the well-studied mathematics.  Dr. Damiano and his team aim to have this device approved for commercial release in 2017…just 39 months away.  I had tears in my eyes as I listened to these very words because it was the first time that I had heard this ever-elusive “cure” (or something that is pretty darn close to it) being defined in terms of an actual timeline.

         One of the questions I get asked quite often when I speak of my involvement with JDRF is, “How long do you think until we see this cure?” or “Do you think we’ll see this cure in your lifetime?”  I certainly can’t answer these questions, but I can assure you with every ounce of my being, after bearing witness to this presentation, that we are going to see Diabetes management change forever, within the very near future.  No longer will patients have to think about their blood sugar during every minute of every day.  No longer will parents have to worry about low blood sugars that put a child at risk of not seeing the sun rise that next morning.  No longer will Diabetic athletes have to sit out of training due to out of range blood sugars.  Do you understand what this means for your loved ones, and for people like myself?  This means freedom - freedom from a chronic condition that currently controls our every thought and our every move 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

          One commonality that many of us spoke of at the conference is the relentlessness of Type 1 Diabetes.  One of the more comedic presenters spoke of his use of “Diabetes Depression Days” that enable him to come to terms with this disease.  These are days that he actually schedules on his calendar, and during which he eats Ben & Jerry’s ice cream while watching sappy movies. Sadly, its this kind of humor that makes living with an illness like Type 1 even remotely fathomable.  It keeps your mind off the organ damage, risk of blindness, possible amputations, and emotional toll that come alongside the diagnosis.  Quite admirably, the man has been living with Type 1 Diabetes for 55 years.  At the end of the day, though, he will go to bed and his Diabetes will still be there when awakes in the morning.  In fact, every morning when we wake up, the Diabetes is still there.  There is never a time when the Diabetes isn’t present.  When we graduate from various levels of education, go to class in college, go on vacation, go to the gym, go to a friend’s birthday party, celebrate holidays, celebrate birthdays, go to a job interview, get married, have a child…the Diabetes is still there.  Some children don’t even remember the day when their Diabetes wasn’t there.

         We used to speak in years.  Before that, we couldn’t even plot the progress on a timeline.  With the research that you have directly influenced, we are able to speak in months, and I look forward to when we are speaking in terms of days. 

         I ask for your support as I ride 100 miles in Burlington, Vermont on July 26th.  I vow to keep my legs pedaling in support of a cure until there is a day when every patient can experience life without Type 1 Diabetes - maybe even a birthday party where we don’t have to worry about how many carbohydrates are in our slice of birthday cake.  Won’t you join me in hopeful anticipation of that day?  I ask that you please give to JDRF as generously as possible because with your support, this is a reality!

    No donation is too small!

    Thank you for your continued generous support!

    Sarah Gerhard 

    (If you prefer, you can also mail your donation to my home address: 

    5712 Price Hill Place Dayton, OH 45459).  Please make checks payable to JDRF.

    P.S. Please feel free to pass this message on to your friends and family who might be interested in joining our family as we fight to cure Type 1 Diabetes.

     

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