Breakthrough with Banting, Best and Ritzdorf

new york national historical society frederick banting charles best discovery of insulin breakthoughYou may have heard about the exhibit that was held at the New York Historical Society based on the book Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle.

My friend Kay, who I met on Twitter, mentioned that she was taking a trip to New York and I told her about it. I was disappointed that she and her mom would only be in town during the week because we wouldn’t be able to make the trip to meet them since the kids would be in school.

Then I thought, Why can’t we make the trip? I’ve been to almost all my kids’ school field trips and if there’s a field trip worthy of taking for my family, this one – one that teaches about the discovery of insulin while also meeting a model adult who has grown up with diabetes with her equally impressive mom – is it.

So that’s what we did.  We pulled the kids out of school early one day for a family field trip.

frederick banting charles best discovery of insulin katherine hughs breakthrough
360 vials of insulin for a single patient; approximately 27% if his lifetime supply

The exhibit was moving. We saw pictures of children before the discovery – starved just to stay alive in the hope that some kind of cure would come – and after – chubby cheeks and barely recognizable. There was even a letter from one of the boys to Dr. Banting stating with pride, “I’m a fat boy now.”

Elizabeth herself was kept alive with such meager portions during the years between her diagnosis and her first injection of insulin, that she dwindled to a mere forty-five pounds just before turning fifteen years old.

We saw log books listing people diagnosed with diabetes, their diagnosis date, food regime and date of death, which invariably was only a short time after their diagnosis. To see the handwritten notes defining such gloom was poignant.

There was the newspaper article with pictures of Banting and Best and the declaration that a cure had been discovered. I pictured myself today seeing a headline of a true cure for diabetes and thinking that the elation and relief people must have felt back then was equal to or greater than what I imagined feeling.

If you haven’t already read this book, I sincerely recommend it. I knew all the basics of the story. There was no surprise ending. But learning about that time – directly before and after the discovery of insulin  – through the eyes of the people who were living with diabetes, caring for those with diabetes and working on the discovery – was something truly profound.

frederick banting charles best discovery of insulin kay ritzdorf
Caleb writes about his anticipation for the trip (the exclamation marks go on for two more rows on the back)

So you know Banting and you know Best, but who is Ritzdorf, you may ask. Well it’s actually two people – Kay and her mom. Jody. We could have made the trip to NYC anytime. Sharing the exhibit with the Ritzdorfs is really what made our trip special.

This was my first IRL meetup with any of my online D friends. I wasn’t sure if meeting someone live started things over fresh, or you picked up where you left off online. It was the latter. I was in the hall reading one of the items on the wall, and I recognized Kay as she walked by. I turned and just said, “Hey!”

frederick banting charles best discovery of insulin breakthough
I think Caleb wasn't too far off in his prediction

We made full introductions and continued enjoying the exhibit together. Afterwards we made our way to the gift shop. All the while Kay and Jody chatted it up with my kids. They were genuinely interested in each of them. It was like they were family. If you ever want to win someone over, talk to their kids earnestly. It warmed my heart and made me smile. I knew Kay and her mom were good people and weren’t just being polite when they asked to meet up.

Caleb was matter of fact about it all, but underneath I know he was very excited to be in Kay and Jody’s company – people who really understood what living with diabetes is. Colin and Kay talked about the book. Colin is the reason we purchased it, he was so interested in reading the full story. Lila almost exploded with glee when she caught a glimpse of Kay’s pump – running over to me in her five-year old discrete way of whispering not so quietly in my ear, “she has an insulin pump and it’s PINK!”

diabetes online community
Colin, Lila, Caleb, Jody, Kay, Lorraine, David - Forever Friends

We were able to convince them to have dinner with us. It was so enjoyable to get to know them better and hear about their trip to New York. It was Kay’s first time to the Big Apple. We talked about diabetes and about things not diabetes. If not for the need to get the kids home to bed on a school night, I’m sure we could have spent hours and hours talking.

In fact, I’m hoping on their next trip to NYC we’ll be able to meet up again – if they’re willing to put up with us, that is!

Hands down, this was the best field trip ever!

Shortly after our meeting, a special package came in the mail. Caleb’s new Huskers hat displaced even his NYY one for more than a week straight.

Thank you, Kay and Jody, for making the time in your brief trip to New York to meet with us.  We are so happy to know you and call you friends.

nebraska huskers
New Nebraska Huskers Fans - Thank you Ritzdorfs!

Mr. Incredible | Four Years Later

Dash for Halloween a couple months prior to diagnosis

It’s been a relaxing holiday recess. No running around for the normal activities. Just hanging out, playing, enjoying each other’s company and watching movies.

Among the movies we watched was one of my favorites that we hadn’t watched in a while.

Four years to be precise.

Four years ago Caleb was three and was a huge fan of The Incredibles. More specifically, a huge fan of Dash.

As we watched the movie, I realized Caleb was going through his Dash phase at the time he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It all starting coming back to me.

I remembered being told by the pediatrician that we needed to go home and do nothing other than pack a bag and get to Yale New Haven Hospital as quickly as we could.  I went home, packed the essentials and ran downstairs to my “stash”.  It was after Christmas, but before Caleb’s birthday and I had some things collected for him. I pulled out a few. I remembered presenting him with the storybook featuring The Incredibles in the ER in an attempt to distract him while what seemed like ten people tried to hold him down to place an IV in his arm. I remembered being in his hospital room with him the following day, just the two of us, and giving him The Incredibles LeapPad game in an attempt to cheer him up. It didn’t work all that well.

I remembered how only weeks after being diagnosed Caleb had his fourth birthday party.  The theme was Disney’s Cars, but many of his gifts were Dash related, like…

…the lamp that also holds his medical ID bracelets…

ID Bracelet Holder/Lamp

…and Dash himself.

"I'm the Dash!"




I remembered not caring how many gifts Caleb got that year when normally I try to be careful not to overdo it and spoil the kids. That year he couldn’t be spoiled enough.

I remembered him wearing the jersey that Grandma and Grandpa had given him for Christmas. He wore it during his hospital stay and also at his birthday party.

Breaking into the toy closet at the hospital.
Wearing his favorite jersey at his 4th birthday party.



Then I remembered the doll Caleb made. He was given a plain, muslin doll in the hospital to practice giving injections. He made his doll “Dash”.

I remembered how we used to tell him that Dash was so fast at checking his sugar and giving himself injections that you couldn’t even see him do it.  I also remembered Caleb completely not believing us, but playing along nevertheless.
Dash has diabetes too!
Taking care of Dash






I remembered the picture we took of Caleb days after diagnosis, smiling, getting a shot in his arm, to show his grandparents who had just left for their winter in Florida that he was okay. He was wearing an Incredibles hat.

"I'm okay Grandma and Grandpa."

There are a couple of “classic” pictures of Caleb with signs of Dash in them.  The day he started pumping with his OmniPod

First Pod - April 2007 - Can't tell but those are Dash PJ's

And his wink picture which has been featured in our local JDRF golf fundraiser pamphlet –

Dash PJ's yet again.

It only occurred to me as we were watching The Incredibles the other day, that this movie will forever be associated with Caleb’s diagnosis. There’s no separating the two.

Today is Caleb’s four year diaversary.  During the last couple of weeks he passed the mark in his life where he has now lived with diabetes longer than without it.

We’re not ignoring this day, but we’re not exactly celebrating it either. We talked about it this morning. I asked Caleb if he knew what today is and he replied, “Yeah, it’s the day we go back to school.”  I asked if he knew what else it is. He said, “Oh yeah. It’s the day we went to the hospital – cool.”  I wrote him a special note for his lunch box. He’s bringing his muslin Dash into school to share with his classmates. He gets to pick what we’re eating for dinner. He got some extra hugs and kisses this morning. But for the most part it’s just any other day.

Nothing incredible.

Even though we think Caleb kindof is.

Dash overload - January 2007

Caleb - 4 years later, January 3, 2011


Meeting Cliff Scherb | A Day I Won’t Forget

Cliff at Ironman, Kona 2010 - 1629

To my utter delight, Mr. Cliff Scherb met with me!  For about two and a half hours he talked with me and generously shared his experiences and perspectives on being a triathlete and living with diabetes.

I’ve been struggling to write this post because I’m afraid I won’t be able to properly repay his generosity. I don’t think I have the words or skill to do Cliff justice. Everyone I spoke to before I met him said he was a great guy – a genuinely nice, humble, super fast, superhuman guy.  He completely lived up to all those accolades and here I am, little ol’ me, trying to relay his greatness to you.

I went into this meeting thinking I would do an interview on his recent achievement at the Ironman World Championship. But seriously, who was I kidding? I know virtually nothing about racing in any capacity. I did my best to prepare appropriate questions and we did indeed talk about it, but I will leave Cliff to tell you the details about that event. Cliff describes the race step by step, breaking down each transition including descriptions of the weather, what his bg was and his thoughts throughout the race. Whether you are an Ironman enthusiast or not, I invite you to read it. His positive attitude leaps out at you and, well, he had a phenomenal and inspiring performance.

Congratulations Cliff!

Ironman - Kona 2010

Cliff was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of nine.  He talks of his childhood with diabetes as just another thing to manage along with brushing his teeth and other daily chores. We’ve heard this before, right?

Well when Cliff says it, I actually really believe him.

Not that I don’t believe other people when they say it, but with diabetes there are dichotomies. Yes it can be simple – just check your sugar and push a few buttons or the like and you’re good to go. But it’s also a matter of making yourself bleed throughout the day, stopping to tally up your carbs, hoping that you estimated that 1/2 cup correctly and oh yeah – let me stick another needle in me so I can finally eat.

I don’t think Cliff thinks much about that second part at all. He takes care of himself and does all those things, but he doesn’t overthink them.

He attributes this to the way he was raised, his inherent personality, his competitive nature, his desire for continued self-improvement, and to incorporating three elements into his care routine: food, family and exercise.

I’m used to the reference of balancing food, insulin and exercise.  To hear “family” as an official part of managing diabetes made me think.  Of course I agree that the support of family is imperative, but it’s always been more of an assumed, in the background kind of thing to me.  When it comes to a care “plan”, I think of carbs, bolus’ and activity.  I like this mindset of including family, of including emotion, more directly.

I believe that the support system that made him the person he was when he was diagnosed gave him this balanced perspective from the very beginning. He is confident, without the slightest trace of arrogance, with who he is. Taking care of his diabetes is just something else he has to do. He accepted it and incorporated it into his life. Period.

Isn't this picture amazing? Click on it to enlarge - you won't be sorry - I promise. 🙂

Here’s another thing he said that struck me – he never worries about diabetes on race days.

I repeated that back to him to make sure I heard it right. The thought of Caleb heading out to a baseball game or stepping into the pool still makes me tense up a bit, so how could diabetes not be in the forefront of his mind when it comes to intense races, particularly triathlons, particularly the Ironman World Championship?

He explained and I came to understand.

The Ironman World Championship 2010 - Cliff at the finish line

Cliff has spent a tremendous amount of time and effort refining his approach.  He’s a self described type A personality. He’s raced many races unsuccessfully and has learned from those experiences. He’s charted his insulin needs to the nth degree and has developed a literal database of information that drives his dosing plans.  He has basal programs for various training, race and rest days.  He knows how his body – how athletes’ bodies – respond to the different disciplines of swimming, biking and running and defines a precise plan for each.  He knows exactly how many calories/carbs he needs to take in each hour of each activiy.

He’s done his homework and done it well. So, no – he doesn’t worry about diabetes on race days because he’s working with a proven plan – a plan proven by the many races he has raced successfully.

He credits OmniPod a great deal with his ability to develop this tailored approach. “It’s all about the basal”, he says. When he was on injection therapy, he had less control over the long lasting insulin in his body, and he wouldn’t consider a tubed pump with his level of training and competition. I love the way he talks about insulin therapies in this video – comparing injections to a chainsaw and pump therapy to a laser. He’s using that laser to its fullest potential to develop the greatest level of precision he can.

Cliff is the founder of TriStar Athletes Coaching and has a great deal to offer other athletes and in particular athletes living with diabetes (check out his page dedicated to Diabetes Coaching). He is building a facility adjacent to his home in Connecticut (including a small indoor pool) that he plans to use for training and coaching, but also wants to develop a retreat program like diabetes camp for grownups. Cliff provides consulting services in person and via phone or skype – more details on his coaching page. You can find Cliff on Twitter and Facebook too.

When asked for advice for T1D kids, Cliff mentions the following –

  • Understand the food you eat and how it affects your blood sugar, like the difference between a complex and a simple carbohydrate.
  • Don’t get down on yourself about any particular day. Each day is a fresh start.
  • Be active – it helps with managing insulin.
  • Be a sponge – constantly educate yourself, learn and be open to new things, particularly technology, that have the potential to improve your life.
Colin with his autographed race bib - "To Colin, Run fast and strong - Cliff"

My older son, Colin, currently has aspirations of becoming a triathlete. He wrote Cliff a note expressing his admiration of him. To compound Cliff’s greatness, after asking him to sign Colin’s first 5K race bib, he pulled off his Ironman bracelet that he was still wearing and signed that too!

A few things have happened in recent months that have given me a calmness about diabetes. Meeting Cliff is a significant one of them.

I think often about the time when diabetes will take its toll on Caleb and he finally breaks down. I do the best I can to prepare him to care for his own diabetes. I try to give him age appropriate autonomy without overburdening him. But I still wonder if it will wear him down emotionally some day.

Many people, including those who have grown up with diabetes, have told me it may not happen.  Diabetes may just be a part of his life that he accepts and handles. I’ve heard of examples of this, but I have still wondered if it’s really possible. I’m an auditor. I’m skeptical.

Meeting Cliff live and in person and hearing his story first hand about how he grew up with diabetes without ever letting it get to him, may have been the peak of a turning point for me. I spent more than two hours with him and I became a believer.  I now know it is possible.

Cliff, the impact you have had on me, and therein Caleb, is tremendous. You have been so kind and giving and I am eternally grateful. I will never be able to repay you for showing me what is possible for my son. From the deepest, most sincere part of my heart, I thank you.

Cliff and I - A meeting I will truly never forget

Special thanks to Cliff’s brother, Ryan Scherb of Ryan Scherb photography who took all of the above race photos.

The Magic of Book Buddies

“Book Buddies” is a program in my children’s school where older kids get paired up with younger kids and they spend time each week reading together.  Lila is in kindergarten, Caleb is in 2nd grade and Colin is in 5th.  Lila’s class is paired with a 4th grade class, which to her delight includes a certain love interest of hers, though she is not paired with him as boys are matched with boys and girls with girls.

Caleb knew his class was pairing with a 5th grade class and was disappointed to learn it wouldn’t be with his brother’s. Oh well.

It had been a more challenging than normal D week at school. I stopped by on Friday to pick up something PTO related, and bumped into the school nurse, Mrs. M.  She did as she normally does – talked to me about Caleb’s day, encouraged me, told me how well he handles things – she’s such a blessing. She went on to tell me that something very exciting happened earlier in the day, but she wanted to let Caleb tell me.  She described how absolutely ecstatic he was, describing his smile and elation. Whatever is was, it was big news, because she couldn’t say enough about how thrilled Caleb was. She let me guess and somehow I got close enough to force her to reveal the news.  It brought me to tears.  I’ll let Caleb tell you:

After a fews days of emotional lows, this was a particularly poignant high.  The moments when diabetes actually makes Caleb happy, and to this depth of happiness, are few. I cannot thank Caleb’s and David’s teachers enough for seeing this opportunity, seizing it and making this “Buddy” change.  This will be one of those moments that I know will stick with me, and I’m pretty sure with Caleb as well.

As far as being disappointed about not being paired with his big brother, well that’s completely forgotten.  He can read with Colin any old day.

No D Day | by Caleb

Caleb doing his thing

Hi, my name is Caleb, pernounced: Cay-lub.

I have a sister named Lila, a brother named Colin, a mom named Lorraine and a dad named David.  We are a family of five.  We have two frogs named Greasy Plate and Tushy.

I have brown hair and brown eyes. I am almost 8 and I like the Yankees.  Actually, I love the Yankees. I wear the number 13 when I play baseball because I like A-Rod.

I am tall and kindof smart.  I like school and I like music. Nick Jonas is my favorite rock star.

I like to eat sunflower seeds, beef jerky, pasta and meatballs. I am allergic to peanuts which stinks because I have to sit at the peanut table at school and I want to sit with my friends.

My favorite color is green.

I like to play mancala and chess.

I like reading and my favorite books are 39 Clues and Harry Potter. I’m in 2nd grade and I like it so far. It’s fun and I like my teacher.

The End.


Click on the image for the complete No D Day blogroll

Cliff Scherb | Triathlete and Inspiration

Cliff Scherb - Ironman Arizona - 2008 Photo by Ryan Scherb of Ryan Scherb Photography

This won’t be the first time I say that meeting, talking with and learning the stories of adults living with diabetes provide me great support, hope and inspiration.  The thing – the only thing – that gave me comfort when Caleb was first diagnosed was hearing about anyone leading a normal life with diabetes.  We had just entered a world we knew nothing about and had great uncertainty.  Knowing about anyone managing this disease while achieving their uncompromised goals is what got me through those early days.

Since then I’ve encountered more people than I can count who have continued to inspire me.  Among them are athletes.  Athletes touch me in a special way.  It has everything to do with the difficulty I personally have with keeping Caleb’s blood sugar in range when he swims, plays baseball or just generally runs around outside like the free spirit he is.

The commitment, dedication, planning, determination and tenacity it takes to be an athlete with diabetes is something I cannot completely wrap my brain around.  The enormity of that compared to Caleb going for a swim is too much for me to fully appreciate.

I am in awe of what these athletes accomplish.

I root for my friends Bradford and Gary. I look forward to hearing about their race successes and soak up their blog posts like a sponge. Other heroes: Phil Southerland, Kris Freeman, Jay Cutler, Brandon Morrow and now Cliff Scherb.

Cliff is currently in Hawaii preparing to compete in the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona – the Ironman of Ironmans.  Cliff holds the Ironman title of second fastest type 1 diabetic with his success in Florida, but hopes to beat the world record for a type 1 diabetic in Kona of 9 hours and 50 minutes.

If you don’t know what an Ironman entails, read this excerpt from the Ford Ironman World Champion site:

How long are the distances in the Ford Ironman World Championship and what are the cutoff times?
The swim is 2.4 miles and the cutoff is 2 hrs. and 20 min., the bike is 112 miles and the cutoff time is 10 hrs and 30 min from the beginning of the race and the run is a full marathon which is 26.2 miles and the cutoff time is 17 hours from the beginning of the race.

I find managing type 1 diabetes through 30 minutes of uncompetetive swimming a complete struggle.  Cliff is undertaking more than 9 hours of swimming, running and biking. Saying it’s remarkable doesn’t seem to give it proper justice; it’s so much more than that.

I first heard about Cliff about a year ago when this local news report aired:

Yep, he’s an OmniPodder. Not that he has to be to get my respect, but since Caleb also uses the OmniPod, it makes Cliff just a little more relatable.  I remember being excited for Cliff then and thinking this report was well done.  Both Cliff and Max Gomez did a nice job explaining type 1 diabetes and how difficult managing it and being a triathlete is. Bravo gentlemen!

I’ve read more about Cliff here.  If you read nothing else of this article, scroll down to the final question and his response. Cliff has an amazing attitude.

So on October 9th we’ll be excited and watching to see if Cliff meets his goal.  You can watch the live stream too – right here.

Cliff is yet another inspiration to help make our own personal journey with type 1 diabetes a little easier.

Thank you Cliff and best of luck!

Bayer, Insulet and Caleb

Should you see a Bayer Diabetes Care pamphlet the next time you visit your endo that looks like this:

Nick's Simple Wins

Open it up and you may find another familiar face:

2009 Contest winners with Nick

Insulet held a conference this week that you can listen to here.  Caleb is mentioned at the end as an example how OmniPod helps improve the way you live with diabetes – in Caleb’s case, by swimming freely.

Caleb in his "backyard".

More than a shirt

The weather turned warm and I took out the bin of short-sleeved shirts and shorts.  Caleb’s first choice was emphatically this shirt:

Lauren's Walkers

It’s cute, right?  But it’s more than a cute shirt.  It’s the shirt that Lauren gave him.

Caleb met Lauren this past December. She was one of the other two Simple Wins winners.  Caleb completely loved meeting Nick Jonas, but the impact of meeting Lauren and Bradley was just as significant.  They are also rock stars in Caleb’s eyes.

When Lauren, Bradley and Caleb were waiting to meet Nick, I saw that Lauren was holding three gift bags.  Caleb had his Burning Up book for Nick to sign and a heartfelt note to give him.  I saw three bags and thought three brothers – Nick, Joe and Kevin.

One of those bags was indeed for Nick, but the other two were not for Nick’s brothers, but for two other young men: Caleb and Bradley. In Caleb’s bag was a beautiful, thoughtful note, a DVD featuring former Chicago Cub and fellow T1D, Ron Santo, a package of Starburts (perfect for lows at 4 carbs a piece) and the red shirt.

How amazing is Lauren? It’s no wonder that Caleb could be smitten with her.  She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.  She touched Caleb.

Even though the total amount of time spent with Lauren and Bradley was only a handful of hours, Caleb sees them as his friends.  They are the first people he has met in person and socialized with that live with T1D. He celebrated something great and fun with them. Diabetes brought them together for something GOOD.

I will remember meeting them and their moms as much as I will remember meeting Nick.  I believe Caleb will too.

He picked Lauren’s shirt first and continues to throw it on his back as soon as it is out of the wash.  It’s right up there with his NYY garb.  Doesn’t that say it all?

Caleb with friends Lauren and Bradley

Your biggest supporter. In Caleb’s words.

There were lots of great suggestions to treat lows yesterday. I’m glad to have some new ideas. Thank you everyone!

Day 3 of Diabetes Blog Week.

Your biggest supporter. Today it’s time to gush and brag about your biggest supporter.

Caleb gets lots of support from many.  Nurse Ronnie, his school nurse, is a true contender for being his biggest supporter.  Any of his family members would be viable options.  He thinks differently.

Nick Jonas talks about his fight against juvenile diabetes at the National Press Club in Washington on August 24, 2009.

In terms of diabetes, who is your biggest supporter? Without hesitation, Caleb responds:
Nick Jonas.

I like him because he likes music and I like music.  He has diabetes so I feel like I can perform like him when I grow up because I think I want to be a musician.

Caleb’s brother, Colin, who is wise beyond his ten years, asks:
What about Mom?

Caleb responds:
Oh yeah because she will always drive her car into school and save me when I need it like she’s Super Pod Woman.

I love you mom.

Caleb imitating Mom as "Super Pod Woman" driving to school to "save" him.

Day 1 – A day in the life of…diabetes.

Day 2 – Making the low go.

Tomorrow’s topic – To carb or not to carb.