The Stir, or Lack Thereof, Over A Cure

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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  • Florian

    I guess if I was a laboratory mouse with a mammary tumor I would be doing back flips in my cage BUT I’m not. So what else is new?

  • Fritz Daviscourt

    I agree with you, especially your statement that the drug companies are making to much money on of us. Another thing that is disgusting are the daily tv ads and and advertisments on diabetes.

  • Vicki Blakeman

    I can understand your lack of excitement. I have been a type I diabetic for 26 years. At the onset of my disease, ny doctor told me I must take good care of myself and get no complications, since diabetes was going to be cured within 5-7 years. Since then, all the touted “almost cures” and “major breakthroughs” have all come to nothing. It is a rather disheartening and leads one to be skeptical about each new promise of an imminent cure.

  • Peter Mead

    Medical reseach is, among other things, a business, and that’s been one of the drivers of progress for a long time. There have obviously been abuses, but the model is more successful than say, State Medicine in which doctors make the same as teachers and a government pays for everything. When you think of Big Drug suppression, ask yourself, ok, what is the better model? There could well be one but don’t base it on sheer altuism, the real world runs on energy and money is energy.

    On hesitancy to hope that this cure is THE cure, it is understandable. Part of how we survive as diabetics is rooted in our acceptance of our role to manage it for the rest of our lives. From that we build attitudes, practices, routines. It works for us. To seriously think that “maybe by next year…” shifts the significance of our routines and tends to make them unendurable, like holding your breath under water. Or, to switch metaphors, we stop being marathoners and become sprinters running a marathon. Eventually, we collapse in disillusionment. The trick is to keep on keeping on and still keep the faith that a cure is coming. Just don’t wait out at the bus stop for it.


  • Peter Mead

    One more thing: great time to be a mouse!

  • Michael.Massing

    I suppose as a type 2 diabetic (who once put myself into remission and then squandered my gains) I respond in similar ways. My touchstone for interest, I think, is now whether there’s anything I can do that might make a difference in improving my condition, and as you point out, this kind of drug-oriented flackery doesn’t offer any opportunities for that.

    Oddly enough, similarly astonishing results have been reported recently with capsaicin injections: [www_google_com]
    I’ve been rather more excited about that. It gives me trials to watch out for soon, and meanwhile, although I’m not going to be trying to inject capsaicin into my pancreas at home, I can enjoy the “couldn’t hurt” effect of injecting a bit more into my diet.

  • CalgaryDiabetic

    Dear Readers.

    Yes it is true that Canadian researchers have reversed diabetes in mice by blocking the nerve transmissions from the pancreas. It would be remarquable if the body’s immune system destroys the pancreas because of a false alarm and that cuting the signal wire would stop or reverse the disease.

    I am not covinced that big business is the best for medical progress. As we have clearly seen on Wall Street big Capitalism leads to big evil that sunsequently needs socialist action (i.e. tax payer dollars) to fix. If it can be fixed.

    In Canada as in the USA. Medical Doctors are treated as Emperors or at least Royalty and are payed the top of any professional scale. The schools only choose the type A super egoed personalities, in some provinces they have to be olympic class atheletes as well. These people as clinicians show very little compassion to their patients and are precisely the type of people that you do not want in research.

    The Biochemists that produce most of the progress are often not paid that much more than teachers. They have less flamboyent personalities.

  • Marilyn Johnston

    I totally appreciate your scepticism about ‘another amazing cure’ for Type 1.
    I still remember the docter who diagnosed me with Type 1 diabetes—-after telling me ‘you’re not going to die, he mentioned there should be a cure within 10 years’.
    I have now lived for 43 years with Type 1, and time after time, I hear of the latest, newest in exciting ‘cure’….but where is it??
    Unfortunately, many Type 1’s believed that they would soon be cured, so they never took it serious, neglected good care, and adopted the motto ‘I’m here for a good time, not a long time’…Many of those people are either dead or barely coping with serious complications…

    Well, I was very lucky: my first doctor admitted that he was not an expert in diabetes, that ‘Education is the key to longevity’; instructed me to keep learning all about diabetes,to always strive to maintain close-to-normal blood sugars, and set my goal to stay healthy until a real cure is discovered. In other words, he empowered me to take responsibility for every day of my life—to maintain my health, to not depend on any doctor’s approval to make simple daily adapations. I owe him my long , healthy life….and I have honestly written hime a letter to thank him for that.

    I have heard it said that almost one-third of a pharmacy’s profit is from the diabetic population…so,think about it—why would the drug companies want to find a cure for diabetes? I am tired of hearing about a faster monitor, or a sharper needle…the technology I use is just fine (although a blood-testing device that could read through your skin without the ‘prick’ would be awesome, especially for young children!!)
    I suspect the cure will only be found by people who really are affected by the disease, or if government-funded,because they finally realize the huge savings they would have if diabetes was gone.
    My overall advice — don’t fall for all the fake ‘cures’ , take good care everyday, and send your financial support only to the research that will truly find a cure!