Imagine a world without diabetes

I made a pretty bold statement last Monday.  I said:

Maybe they’ll develop a diabetes vaccine someday… Any parent with diabetes or parent of a child with diabetes will tell you that they, themselves, would rather have the malfunctioning pancreas than their kids.

If I put words in anyone’s mouth, I apologize. If it appears that I said that I’d rather see a vaccine than a cure, well, then maybe I did. My words were pretty ambiguous on the matter, and today my thoughts on the whole vaccine-or-cure debate still are a little hazy. For the sake of people living with diabetes today, I’d love for them us to be cured. For the sake of annihilating the disease for future generations, I’d love to see a vaccine.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Or, to elaborate on that statement, it’s much more comfortable not to get a disease than it is to get rid of it. Although my car can be repaired, I’d rather it not break down in the first place.

If and when a cure is found (and I don’t mean the cinnamon-açai berry-buckwheat tea “cure”), who knows how it will be administered?  Maybe it will be a pill. Maybe surgical. Maybe it will be a long and uncomfortable process like chemotherapy is to cancer — and even that doesn’t always work.  But even before it is cured, it has to be diagnosed. That could mean overall sickness or DKA, or maybe by the time diabetes is detected, it’s already too late.

I made the claim that a parent would rather have diabetes than their child (or children).  I don’t know if that is true in all cases, but I do know that parents get awfully sensitive about the thought of their kids getting it.  In her opening letter in the December 2012 Diabetes Forecast (not yet available online), Editorial Director Kelly Rawlings wrote about her son’s participation in a clinical trial to assess his susceptibility to the big-D and to  help researchers learn to prevent it.  It’s a short article, but mighty emotional from both mother’s and son’s perspective. (Kelly, if you’re reading this, thanks for writing it and thanks to your son for participating!).

Earlier in the month, Kerri wrote a wonderful response to those who ask if her daughter might end up with diabetes. She knows the statistics but would rather enjoy what “is” than dwell about what “could be.”   Sarah worries about the possibility with her son.

We all do. And I think this is why we all would sleep a bit better at night knowing that our kids were not more “at risk” than their friends of non-D parents.

So, yeah, maybe I’m coming across as a little insensitive to my brothers and sisters with diabetes, and maybe even to the non-D parents of kids living on synthetic insulin. I’m not turning my back on you by any stretch. I would love to eradicate diabetes altogether, and I certainly still want a cure. But if I remove my own emotions and look at it from a broader perspective, I think a protective/preventative approach isn’t a bad one.

Imagine the next generation viewing Type 1 Diabetes in the way we think of smallpox or polio: extinct.

Imagine a world without diabetes.

Posted on November 26, 2012, in Cure, Diabetes, Type 1 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Imagine if the vaccine were available to everyone, everywhere, whenever they need it, without regard to cost. Hey, I can dream, can’t I? Thanks for the insight.


    • Cost is always a complicating factor. But if everybody gets it, automatically, along with the other typical childhood vaccines, hopefully the volume will lower the per-dose costs.


  2. Hi, Scott. I am reading this! Thank you for blogging about it.

    I would personally be OK with a vaccine if that happens before we figure out how to regenerate insulin-making beta cells. Efforts in both directions are requiring enormous amount of research and testing. Of course, I root for both things to happen soon and simultaneously.

    I thank all who are volunteering as subjects, funding grants, preparing the next generation of diabetes scientists and clinicians, applying for grants, doing the research, and bringing it to market.


    • I don’t mean to imply that we should stop cure research in favor of vaccine research. Any advancement is a good one – right now we have theories and attempts which are close, but none have reached their ultimate goals yet. My point is that we shouldn’t be de-valuing one line of research in favor of another.


  3. I would rather a vaccine come out before a cure. Just because all these years they’ve been working on a cure, there have been thousands more diagnosed. If we could have stopped and prevented it, we wouldn’t have these thousands more “brothers and sisters”. They wouldn’t have to know the pain and mental strain we deal with. I’ve lived with diabetes long enough that I could deal and live longer with it if it meant no one else would have to. I would live hundreds more years (if that were possible) if it meant NO ONE else would have to face this diagnosis. People will probably hate my response and think I’m stupid, but that’s how I feel. Besides, don’t we need to know how to STOP the darn thing before we can “CURE” or “reverse” it?


    • I don’t find that stupid, I actually find it quite generous. We’re already dealing with it, and we’re probably, at this time, better prepared and better trained than someone who just was diagnosed last week. We’re working on mastering this thing, let’s let the next generation off the hook.


  4. This came to mind for me the other day. I was waiting for a bus, and a Mom plopped down with her (at most) 2-year-old son. She pulled out a meter, put in a strip, primed the lancet and reached toward her son to get some blood.

    The thought that came to mind is only partially printable, but the gist is: “doggone it, I don’t want anymore children diagnosed with this disease ever!” It just broke my heart, and quite frankly, had me feeling quite mad at God. I’m not a parent, but my feeling would be: “afflict me and spare my child.”

    I, too, hope for a vaccine before a cure just so no more children develop it. EVER. Don’t apologize for feeling that way, Scott, because it comes from your love for your children and how you want to protect them as much as possible. That’s the job of a parent.


    • Yet that is the conflict I have. In “protecting” them, I want to make sure I can be around for them — in that regard, my health (and not theirs) is important. We all wish for healthy children, but we also wish for them to be born into healthy, stable households. I’m doing my best to provide that last part for years to come.


  5. It’s not a conflict. You can hold on to two concepts at once and have them both be equally true. Taking care of yourself IS taking care of your children. Besides, I’ve always felt that the hierarchy of loyalties goes like this: God, Wife & Children. The first will help you with the second, the second will help you with the third. Nothing inspires a child’s confidence like knowing his parents love each other, and by extension, them.


  6. Scott, your point “we shouldn’t be de-valuing one line of research in favor of another” is spot on. It can get frustrating to balance a research portfolio. Where and when will the big pay off come? How much should go to basic science, how much to translation? Research is painstaking and takes years. And often surprises us. Kind of like retirement investing, a balanced portfolio evens out some of the risks. Lots to do, not enough resources. I also think donations to diabetes should support education and advocacy and training of HCPs and fighting for legal fairness. Just thinking about it all makes me tired! Interesting look at my employer’s research program:


  7. Like the question states, what type of diabetes happens during
    pregnancy.. More importantly, why does the head of most babies are usually abnormally large after such a
    pregnancy? I am more looking for an answer on why there heads are usually large after such
    a pregnancy.. . It is a question my teacher has been asking
    and he wants to know why..


  1. Pingback: Around the Diabetes Blogosphere — November 2012 Edition : DiabetesMine: the all things diabetes blog


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