Wear Blue for World Diabetes Day, November 14th #wdd11

This is the notice for our World Diabetes Day event for Caleb’s school:

World Diabetes Day – Awareness

Original creation made by Caleb and Lorraine

Last year I created a video to show the students in Colin’s, Caleb’s and Lila’s schools in an effort to spread awareness and increase understanding of type 1 diabetes. We showed it during lunch, it looped over and over, and staff walked around and asked the children questions about what they saw to reinforce the key points.

Did all 800 plus kids walk away knowing everything there is to know about diabetes? No. But it was an easy, fun and non-instrusive way to get the word out and I believe more than several walked away with a better understanding. At a very minimum they learned that there were three students on their campus living with diabetes and doing everything all the other kids do. Selfishly, that’s my primary goal: to have others see Caleb as Caleb first and not as the kid who has this mysterious disease.

There was an unexpected benefit. I now have a video that can be used by anyone who wants to do the same thing. Several people have contacted me asking if they can use it in their own advocacy efforts. If you have the opportunity to increase awareness but aren’t sure what to do, check out the video and see if you can incorporate it into your plans.

Credit for use of video or image given to This is Caleb... is appreciated.

School Blue-nity – Plans for Year Three

On Monday, November 14th, we will be holding our third School Blue-nity event at Caleb’s school.

The first year we raised some dough for JDRF.

Last year we did some myth busting.

This year our focus will be Team Type 1’s mission to make lives better for diabetic children in Rwanda.

When Caleb and Phil crashed in Central Park and Phil’s very expensive bike was pronounced dead, I offered several times to compensate Phil in some way for his loss. He adamantly refused over and over again. As we were saying our good-byes, I gave it one final shot and he conceded to suggesting a donation to help buy children much needed test strips. Of course I jumped at the opportunity and was slightly embarrassed at not thinking of it myself.

To hear that children in Rwanda test their blood sugar once a week or more likely once a month is saddening.

To hear that a family is relieved at the death of their diabetic child because now they can use the little money they have to buy food instead of insulin is, at best, heart-breaking.

To hear that children are abandoned by their families upon being diagnosed with diabetes is unthinkable.

But these are real stories.

Living with type 1 diabetes under the best of circumstances is a challenge. Caleb has the most advanced tools available to him, yet we worry all the time, we miss the mark often resulting in out of range blood sugars that make him feel unwell or disrupt his day. I worry that despite our best efforts, he will grow up and develop complications as a result of living with this disease for the majority of his life.

But I do not have to worry that he will inevitably and quickly become blind, develop nerve damage or kidney failure and have a significantly shortened life expectancy.

From Team Type 1's website - click to link

This is the reality for diabetic children in places like Rwanda.

Part of Caleb’s thank you note to Phil was “How can I help the children of Rwanda?”

Our family has made a monetary donation to Team Type 1 to help buy life-saving medical supplies. Our School Blue-nity event will ask our community to support Phil’s efforts too. In addition to asking classmates and staff to wear blue on November 14th, the administration has agreed to make it a “dollar day”, asking anyone willing and able to bring in a dollar to support this worthy cause.

Thank you yet again, Phil, for all that you do. Caleb is so proud to be able to possibly influence some aide for these children to which he so greatly relates. Thank you for giving that to him.

Wear BLUE! #wdd11

November is diabetes awareness month and November 14th is World Diabetes Day. Caleb and I are busy working with his school administrators to plan another day of awareness on his campus which will include wearing blue on Monday, November 14th, the birthday of the man who discovered insulin, Dr. Banting.

Additionally, we will be wearing blue on all the Fridays in November as part of Cherise’s awareness idea. To find out why this is important to Caleb and others from the diabetes community, watch this video and hear directly from them.

I hope to see you donning azul along with us! Thanks, Cherise, for including Caleb in your project!!

“It felt like you were my brother”

Caleb and Phil; photo credit: John Martin of Team Type 1

An event in Central Park to raise awareness for diabetes? Sure, let me check my schedule. It includes a bike ride with Phil Southerland and Team Type 1?! Clear the calendar; we’re there!

That’s exactly how it went. I gave no thought to logistics nor did I consider what the ride would entail. I just knew I wanted my family to be there for this unique opportunity.

I have two sons: an eleven year old aspiring triathlete, and an eight year old who loves to ride his bike and is living with diabetes. I also have a six year old daughter, who is very supportive of her older brothers and their ambitions.

Had I given it any thought, I might have considered that Central Park is not exactly flat and although Caleb has ridden his bike in the road for hours at a time, he’s never done anything remotely close to a four-mile, non-stop trek.

But I didn’t give it any thought. At least nothing beyond that Caleb might get to meet Phil again and if any of us couldn’t cut it, then we would stop. No big deal.

That’s not at all how the ride went.

Colin and Caleb had personal Team Type 1 escorts around the entire course. Thankfully no one buddied up with me. I thought my years of biking in my younger life would mean I would be the front runner of my family. I was left in the dust. Way back in the dust. I was grateful that my kids had responsible adults with them since I was not. I was even more grateful that no one was matched up with me because that would have been embarrassing.

Colin; photo credit: John Martin of Team Type 1

John Martin was the gracious team member who took the initiative to stay with Colin. Caleb had the honor of taking the ride with none other than Phil himself.

It was a gorgeous day. Perfect for a bike ride. There were lots of riders and pedestrians in Central Park.

At every turn in the road, I looked for something recognizable to let me know we were back to where we started. Turn after turn and hill after hill, there was no end in sight. Then finally, I saw the blue balloon attached to Caleb’s bike. It was pulled over to the side. I saw Colin and John. I thought, “Yippee, we’re done!”

But then I realized something was wrong. Phil was huddled with his arm around Caleb. I realized Caleb was crying and his leg was bleeding. Then I saw his hands were bleeding. He was scratched up, but okay. Phil was with him.

The first thing I remember Caleb saying was to Phil, “I’m sorry I broke your bike.” I realized John was right next to me holding half of Phil’s bike up with a bit of a shrug.

I mentioned that Colin is an aspiring triathlete. He had the honor of partaking in a triathlete camp this summer with Ironman, Cliff Scherb. He has a dream of getting a bike like Cliff’s. Right now that’s all it is: a dream. Those things are expensive. I knew Phil’s bike was of that caliber.

Phil’s concerns, however, were only for Caleb. Apparently some pedestrians cut in front of them. They both swerved to avoid them, but there weren’t enough places to go. Caleb turned into Phil’s back wheel and they crashed.

We were almost at the end. Caleb and I walked the rest of the way. We had all taken a wrong turn, so it ended up being closer to six miles than the planned four.

Lila had a respectable showing even if she didn't finish.

Despite the crash, it was a great day. We thought we would take a ride with others in the spirit of awareness, but it ended up being so much more. It’s a day none of us will forget.

Phil, thank you for sharing yourself and your story with us.  Thank you for showing my children they can do anything they set their minds to. Thank you for being kind and gracious; for setting such a gentlemanly example for my boys to follow. Thank you, Phil, for staying with Caleb and for pushing him up those hills. There is no way he could have done it without you. He is so proud to have completed the ride and for having you at his side.

John, thank you as well for staying with Colin and encouraging him. It would have been a bit of a bummer if he had to stay back with me. I’m so grateful you were there to allow him to go at his own speedy pace. You too were so gracious and kind to all of us. I can never thank you enough for the pictures. They are priceless.

We have had the privilege of meeting several Team Type 1 team members. They are all, without exception, inspirational athletes.  But perhaps more impressive to me is the exceptional caliber of people they are. They are top-notch, genuinely sincere, kind people.

Caleb wrote a thank you note to Phil. In it he says, “When you were with me it felt like you were my brother.”

That just sums it all up.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read Phil’s book, Not Dead Yet. His perseverance, courage and positive attitude are infused into to as you read it.

I also encourage you to read this recent interview with him mom, Joanna. There’s no question her strength and never-give-up attitude were a great influence to Phil.

Credit: New York Daily News

Lastly, here’s an article in the New York Daily News which is primarily an interview with Phil about the bike ride in Central Park but also includes a few words from yours truly.

Keep riding, or walking or whatever you do.  As Phil says, we’re all busy and it’s hard to make time for it, but when you consider that excercise adds years to your life, we really have nothing but time for it.

Blue Circle Pendant by @C_Caria

Sterling Silver Blue Crystal Circle Pendant - World Diabetes Day Awareness - Support JDRF

There are currently four of them. They are owned by:

Cari – the creator,

Cherise – the inspiration,

Rachel – the hunter,

and me.

Among other things, Cari is a jewelry crafter and her son, Nate, has type 1 diabetes. Cherise was looking for something last November to commemorate World Diabetes Day. The two brainstormed and voilà! The necklace was born.

I remember Rachel being on the hunt for something like this long ago. She caught wind of it and got her hands on one.

I must have seen a tweet of Cari’s and ordered my own.

I love it. It is both beautiful and meaningful. The World Diabetes Day Blue Circle has always been the diabetes awareness symbol to which I most relate. You can read about its meaning here.

I cannot wear this necklace without someone asking me about it. Often it is someone who already knows Caleb, but I’ve also struck up conversations with strangers at the bank and grocery store (that’s the exciting life I lead). They first notice its beauty and then get an appreciation for its symbolism. It has the power to spread awareness.

Cari is donating all the proceeds from the sales of this necklace and her other diabetes awareness jewelry to JDRF. You can read the full description on Cari’s Etsy page, but here is an excerpt:

My son was diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes in 2008 at age 8. We have no history of Diabetes in our family at all. It’s been a struggle and a learning experience, but it has made us all stronger. A cure for Diabetes can be within our reach, and I tell my son all the time, he may see a cure in his lifetime. I am doing my part to promote awareness. All proceeds from my Diabetes Awareness Jewelry will be donated to JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Help us find a cure and wear your jewelry proudly!!

I caution you, you might not be able to stop at just the one piece. She has an Etsy shop full of beautiful non-awareness jewelry too. I have purchased several items and wear them proudly. I also crossed many teacher gifts off my list at the end of the school year thanks to Cari’s creations. The pieces are well made and her service is impeccable.

Cari did not ask me to post about this. I am getting nothing in return other than the chance to share my joy in finding such a great piece of jewelry that allows me to show my pride in my son and the diabetes community. Given the fact that the four of us are so happy with our necklaces, I thought there might be others out there who would be interested in having one of their own!

UPDATE TO POST: Due to demand, you may see the item listed as “SOLD” when you click on the link. Do not fret! You can either check back to see if it is relisted, or contact Cari directly cjnack@yahoo.com to find out timing of availability. Thanks for your interest folks! I would definitely love to hear from everyone who gets one. Perhaps we can start a photo collage!

Coco the Monkey – Sticking to a Smart Plan | #ffl11

Coco - take a close look at her left wrist

During the 2011 Friends for Life conference, Lilly Diabetes and Disney announced a new partnership. At the center is a new Disney character: a young monkey named Coco who is living with diabetes and will be featured in a children’s book series.

The first book is about Coco attending Goofy’s birthday party. At first, Goofy thinks that Coco can’t come because of her diabetes. But Coco and her mom explain that she can do everything the other guests can as long as she plans for it. Coco is a happy, active and well-adjusted young monkey who is excited to attend the party and eager to talk about her diabetes.

I’ve said many times that when it comes to food, healthy choices and moderation are good for anyone, not just those living with diabetes. I am thrilled to see this exact message delivered in this story.

Coco shows Goofy that she can go to the party, play games, win contests, and eat cake and ice ream.  This is an important message that we’ve seen delivered in other stories. Lilly Diabetes and Disney take the story a progressive step further.

Coco and other guests partake in but don’t overdo it when it comes to treats. Goofy however, because it’s his birthday, chooses to eat anything and everything he can. As a result of these choices, Coco and others are still going strong and playing and having fun at the end of the party. Goofy, on the other hand, doesn’t feel well and his friends have to take him home in the wagon he brought for Coco because he was worried she would need it because of her diabetes.

I think that is a fantastic message for kids today – all kids, diabetes or not. Make a plan that allows you to have fun while not going overboard, and stick to it.

This and other books planned in the series will be available through doctors’ offices.

Caleb read and enjoyed this book, but Caleb is 8 and has been living with diabetes for more than 4 years. Although I am pleased to have these messages reinforced with Caleb, his current struggles are a little different.

It seemed like Lilly and Disney were 10 steps ahead of me.  As I was flipping through the book thinking it would be so wonderful if they could do something in a novel form for kids a little bit older, they said exactly that – a series of novels for tweens is in the works and the first couple will be focused on sports.  This happens to be an area of great interest for Caleb right now.

Based upon the caliber of the production of Coco and Goofy’s Goofy Day, I am very excited about the novel series. As Tom Karlya, aka Diabetes Dad, put it, the impact of seeing a Disney character living with diabetes next to Mickey and Goofy, some of the most widely recognized cartoon characters in the world, is certain to be powerful.

In speaking with people from both Lilly Diabetes and Disney Publishing Worldwide, it was clear that they really want to get this right. So far, I think they are doing just that.

In addition to the books, Disney Interactive Media Group has also launched a section on family.com specific to diabetes. You can take a closer look at www.family.com/type1.

Lastly, they distributed a nifty Birnbaum pocket guide for Walt Disney World. It’s a great little summary of what you need to know for a visit to any of the WDW parks. At the end there are four tear-out pages, one for each park, with Type 1 Diabetes tips. I’m definitely keeping this handy for our next trip.

Disclosure: During the 2011 Friends for Life Conference, I attended an informative event about and received an educational takeaway from the Lilly/Disney collaboration. I was not compensated in any way nor was I asked to write about this event. The above opinions are expressly my own. 

“I like World Diabetes Day” | Slideshow #wdd

His classmates showed support
His classmates showed support

Caleb woke up on Monday, sat up in bed with a smile and a sigh and said, “Today is going to be a regular lunch.”

“What do you mean, Caleb?”

“No special shows to watch today while we eat.”

“Oh! Nope. Not today.”

“I like World Diabetes Day. It was exciting.”

We had two World Diabetes Days.  Our 2nd Annual School Blue-nity event was on Friday. There was an even bigger swarm of blue this year since not only was Caleb’s school involved, but also the “big school” next door. There are three children among the two schools of approximately 800 students living with type 1 diabetes.  It was great to broaden the scope and include all three of them this year.

I made ribbons: special ones with a red sequin for the three children of honor, ones with a small red bead for those people (family, school nurses, teachers) that support them most, and plain ones for all their classmates and extras for whomever wanted one.  The red sequins and beads represent the drop of blood needed to check their blood sugar. I was able to meet one of the other two diabetic children for the first time on our school spirit day. I told him I liked his pin. I was happy to hear him proudly reply, “Thanks. Mine is special.” I told him I knew – I had made it especially for him.

Our awareness video was shown during each of the eight lunch sessions.  I went back and forth between schools to watch the kids’ reactions.  The younger kids were all “oohs and ahhs” at the beautiful blue monuments.  The older kids ate quietly and watched.  The principal did a great job of asking questions of the kids to reinforce the things they learned from the video.  I was happy to hear them answer the questions correctly.

Colin, Lila and I each wore an OmniPod (from our failed stash accumulated over time) in support of Caleb (I still have mine on and I am amazed at how I’ve completely forgotten about it).  Caleb even added an extra one on his arm so that people could see it.  Colin and I both got a lot of questions about it and we were able to explain what it was and get conversation going. Colin said that one of his classmates began explaining to others what it was once he learned.  I thought that was just great!

I don’t expect that anyone walked away with a comprehensive knowledge of what diabetes is, but I do believe that an overall message was sent, even to the younger kids – people who live with diabetes are just like everyone else and should be treated as such.  For Caleb, at his age, that’s what I want his peers to know.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was what Caleb’s teacher did for him. Not only did she allow me to gather the kids to take a great picture of unity of their outstretched hands with arms sleeved in blue, she helped put all those little pins on each student. Best of all, she sent Caleb out of class under false pretenses so she could do something extra special for him. She had each student write a note on green paper (his favorite color) telling him what they like about him.  They surprised him with them when he returned. There was one from each student, his teacher and his school nurse. The kids had such lovely words of support for Caleb. I think his favorite comment – which was on almost every note – was that “he is funny”.

On November 14th, we made a cake for Dr. Banting’s birthday and I let Caleb dictate the rest of the day.  He took many, many pictures. He showed us videos he accumulated on his camera including footage from last year’s walk and last year’s World Diabetes Day. He set up Olympics (it was more like just playing outside, but we went with it).

He even made every diabetes management decision himself.  He decided when to check his sugar, what action to take for each reading, he made his lunch and bolused for it, etc.  I just sat in the background and said “Mmm-hmm. Okay. What do you think you should do?”  I think it was harder for me to restrain myself than for him to actually take all the actions.

And we did the Big Blue Test – all of us. Lila’s reading was originally “HI”. Ahem. Okay. Please wash your hands and we’ll try again. She came back with a 113. My original reading after activity was 57. Alrighty. Checked again and I was 115. Gotta love the meter accuracy.

We ended the day with lots of blue glow in honor of the many monuments lit up around the world.  It was a lot of fun creating the swirl pictures in our attempt to make blue rings.  Overall, I think we had a great acknowledgement of the day, and of Caleb.  He was happy through it all, and that’s what I’ll remember.

Now on to planning for November 14, 2011…

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World Diabetes Day Awareness Video | #dblogday

This is the 6th annual D-Blog Day as inspired by Gina Capone. This year’s topic: 6 things you want people to know about diabetes.

I think this video has at least 6 things that I want people who surround Caleb to know about diabetes, type 1 in particular.

I made this for the purpose of creating awareness at Caleb’s school.  It will be shown this Friday to more than 800 students as part of our World Diabetes Spirit Day. It’s already been distributed to the school’s staff to start the awareness momentum going.

By getting these simple facts out to the people that Caleb spends his days with, and doing so with the benefit of the beautiful, eye-catching WDD images, my hope it to further foster an environment of support for him while he is at school.

Here’s the flyer distributed to announce our 2nd Annual School Blue-Nity Day:

Thanks to the International Diabetes Federation for the use of their photos in the above video.

Thanks also to Karen for her blue rings!

Setting the Record Straight | Type 1 Diabetes in School

I found this video very powerful.

Thank you Adjoa for sharing it.  Not only does it articulate the facts about type 1 diabetes clearly and succinctly, it addresses a very important issue to children with diabetes – bullying.  Personally, we have yet to experience anything remotely like this, but perhaps that’s because Caleb is younger. I’m doing what I can to educate the people around Caleb in hopes to pre-empt it.  Time will tell if I’m successful.