Kids battling Type 1 diabetes were given a boost today when 4,250 people showed up in Stanley Park for a walk to raise money for a cure.
"It really does bring up a great sense of emotion for us when we see this many walkers come to support such a worthwhile cause as JDRF and the JDRF-Telus Walk for the Cure," Andrew McKee, president and CEO of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Canadian arm, told the Georgia Straight.
The procession of teams—each raising money on behalf of kids with the disease—snaked their way from Lumberman's Arch through the park.
McKee explained that nearly three million Canadians are affected in some way by Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
Of those, 10 percent are touched by Type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease that kills insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, people with Type 1 diabetes (previously known as juvenile diabetes) must receive insulin injections to absorb blood sugars.
McKee pointed out that Type 1 diabetes costs the health-care system nearly 50 percent of the total amount spent on diabetes management because it's diagnosed earlier in life—which means the complications can come much earlier—and it's more challenging to manage.
JDRF president Andrew McKee says Type 1 diabetes is an extremely serious public-health issue.
High blood-sugar levels over a sustained period of time damage the heart, eyes, kidneys, circulatory system, and nervous system, elevating the risk of stroke, heart attack, blindness, kidney failure, and loss of limbs.
"So with the advent of insulin-pumping and continuous glucose monitoring, people much better control their blood-glucose levels...within their system," McKee said. "And managing those glucose levels helps delay or potentially defray the ultimate onset of complications—which is really the ultimate outcome that we're trying to avoid."
NDP Leader Adrian Dix is one of the best-known British Columbians who's living with Type 1 diabetes. He told the Straight today that he likes attending the annual walk because it enables the community to come together and support one another in dealing with a challenging chronic disease.
"In my case, I feel like I've mastered it a little bit," Dix said. "But every once a month, once every couple of months, it really comes and kicks you in the butt. It's a grind."
Adrian Dix explains why poverty has a devastating impact on people with diabetes.
The NDP leader emphasized that he's better able to cope with the disease because he earns a good salary, which enables him to buy nutritious foods.
"If I was poor, if I was low income, I would be more likely to lose a limb, more likely to lose my vision, more likely to die early, more likely not to live the quality of life I had," Dix stated. "Because when I go to the grocery store...I can buy the good food I need to balance off the insulin I'm taking."
He added that managing diabetes, including the more common Type 2 diabetes, is going to be a greater challenge to the health-care system than dealing with an aging population.
It appears that fighting Type 1 diabetes is an issue that crosses party lines in B.C. At the 2:00 point in the video below, you can see Dix dancing with B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Margaret MacDiarmid prior to the start of the annual walk.
At the 2:00 mark, Adrian Dix dances with B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Margaret MacDiarmid.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.