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The Stir, or Lack Thereof, Over A Cure

Eric Lagergren

November 20, 2008

Here’s how I find out there’s a new potential cure for Type 1 diabetes (emphasis here at the outset of this blog post on the word potential). Tuesday morning, my wife is on the couch reading the news feed on her iPhone and comes across Kerri Morrone Sparling’s latest entry in her "Six Until Me" blog (it’s a blog most of you probably know, and if not, check it out!).

Kathryn asks me if I’ve heard of this new potential cure for Type 1 diabetes. I tell her no, and so she gives me the gist of Kerri’s blog entry. On Monday evening, NBC’s Brian Williams introduced a news segment about medical research that’s creating “quite a bit of excitement,” research that could “hold the key to putting [Type 1] diabetes patients into permanent remission.”

Here’s the segment:

My reaction to the blog summary? Not much. I treated this news with the same sort of emotional response that I’d give news of a cure to a disease that I do not have, or to some other revolutionary medical breakthrough that would have very little effect on my life: “That’s nice.”

Over the past few days, I’ve been wondering Why? Why did I react this way? Why do I react this way when there’s good news about a potential breakthrough in Type 1 diabetes treatment?

I’ve been living with Type 1 for a little less than two years now, and in that short amount of time I’ve been forwarded news stories and come across headlines and magazine articles about breakthroughs, potential cures, and on and on. Every time I meet information about the potential for a cure, that info passes by, and I pay it about as much attention as I would a bus with a colorful advertisement plastered on its side: Once it’s out of my view, I don’t think about it.

There are quick, easy ways to explain my nonchalance when I’m confronted with news of a potential cure for Type 1 diabetes: I don’t want to get my hopes up; even if this cure is possible, whatever would happen would happen years and years from now; I’m dubious, in the minor conspiracy theorist sort of way, that drug companies are making way too much money off of people with diabetes, and what would a cure do to that, huh? (On that last one: I’m really not a conspiracy theorist, but any time cures for cancer, HIV/AIDS, or any other disease that makes Big Pharma billions of dollars is talked about, there’s always someone who brings up that potentiality.)

There’s also an answer that I’m sure I could write a chapter or two about. Umm, how to condense this into a short paragraph? Okay, here it is: I’ve had Type 1 diabetes for less than two years. People out there—some of you, actually—have been living with this condition for decades, for most of your lives. My excitement over news such as this latest “cure” breakthrough might probably seem naïve. “Been there, done that,” y’all might say. I mean, my newbie status (relatively speaking) in the exclusive club that is Type 1 probably plays a part in my hoping too much for that cure. It could happen. It might. But it might not happen.

Do I salivate over every latest research report and spend my days excited over every story about the next thing that’ll cure Type 1? Shall I live my life as an overbearing hyperoptimist who thinks “this is it; this time it’s for real”?

It’s not in my schema to do so.

This news about imatinib (brand name Gleevec) and sunitinib (Sutent) arresting Type 1 diabetes in mice, though, has given me something to think about on my drive into work and other times I’m being mildly introspective — if not about the potential cure itself, then about why it is I react the way I do to these stories.

Until there’s a cure, there isn’t a cure.



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