Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DIABETES: A PERSONAL JOURNEY

I'm putting some skin in this because I've got loved ones with it and personal risk factor

I will ride 100 miles around the Indianapolis Motor
Speedway on June 11 to raise funds for diabetes
research and prevention awareness.
I attended a lunch-hour information meeting about ovarian cancer today.  It’s not like I’m going to get it.  I attended for several reasons.  First, because a coworker invited me to the event—and because cookies were promised (and they were good, Alison; thanks!).  Second, because I have a good friend I care very much for who has ovarian cancer.  Third, because I’m generally interested in early cancer detection, awareness and prevention initiatives because my daughter, father, mother and sister are all cancer survivors.  I attended, fourth, because as one who works in development and nonprofit training, I like to see various ways nonprofit organizations present their causes and engage people in them.

What I learned about ovarian cancer today reminded me of the importance of clinical trials.  Currently, there’s only a 50% survival rate for ovarian cancer, 4 out of 5 women are in advanced stages of it when it is detected, and this particular cancer is very difficult to detect and treat.  But this was the same for testicular cancer just 12 years ago.  Then, the survival rate was less than 10% and early detection protocols were hardly known.  But through clinical trials (that is, persons with cancer being willing to participate in a clinical study, with a 50% chance that they are receiving just a placebo), Dr. Larry Einhorn of Indiana University Hospital developed an effective chemotherapy specifically for testicular cancer.  Lance Armstrong was one of the early recipients of Einhorn’s treatment.  Miraculously, he survived—and thrived.  Today, over 90% of men who are diagnosed with testicular cancer survive.  Perhaps funding for ovarian cancer research and participation in clinical trials will produce a similar result in the near future.

I asked my work associate why she got involved in raising awareness of ovarian cancer.  She said she had an aunt die of the disease just a little over a year ago and she wanted to make a difference for other women and their relatives.  Most of us get involved with passion for a cause when we have a personal stake in its outcome.  Many times, our own stories of pain, loss, victory, and/or survival shape our involvements and futures in profound ways.

About the same time I agreed to attend the lunch-time ovarian cancer info meeting, I also signed up to ride 100 miles around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the “Tour de Cure” to raise funds for research and prevention awareness for the American Diabetes Association.  Of course, I’d really appreciate my friends and associates supporting my effort in some small way: how about donating a penny for every mile I pedal?  That would be $10.  Skip a lunch and a few Starbucks and, there, you have it covered.  I committed to raise $150 (and I will put in most of that), but I’d like to raise up to $500 for this cause.

Why would I ride to cure diabetes?  I mean, other than getting to brag that I will have pedaled 100 miles around the historic Indy 500 track?  Because diabetes strikes close to home.  The disease claimed the life of my beloved Aunt Willie Mae about 15 years ago (has it been that long?!).  I literally watched Aunt Mae slowly die of blood poisoning after her 63-year-old, diabetes-ridden, limb-amputated body was no longer able to sustain one more round of dialysis.  Because my mother and another aunt and uncle currently have type 2 diabetes.  Because, as a pastor, I’ve attended to many parishioners and their family members who have died of diabetes.  And because I am--though I am quite healthy and all my blood “numbers” are excellent at this point in my life--a hereditary risk for the disease.

Will my 100 miles and $500 (with your help!) make a difference?  I believe so.  Research and awareness are two critical factors in tackling and, ultimately, preventing any disease or condition that so ravages the lives of millions of people in the United States.  Right now, it seems that many Americans are engaging in bad eating and sedentary behaviors that fuel the growth of this condition.  Our national quality of life impacts from dealing with more and more people developing diabetes are skyrocketing.  If the ADA can get more Americans to take basic personal steps to prevent and control the disease, my ride will have been worth it.

But as much as the money is useful for the ADA, participating directly is important for me.  Just like after her aunt’s death, my work associate felt a naturally good impulse to help address ovarian cancer, it just seems right for me to put some skin in the game to do what I can to prevent happening to others unnecessarily what happened to my Aunt Willie Mae.  And, maybe, continuing to build routine exercise--like cycling!--and healthy eating habits into my own life will prevent the condition from getting the best of me.

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If you'd like to support my “Tour de Cure” ride, here's how: Go to this page, click on “DONATE” and then put in “John Hay.”  That will take you to my Tour de Cure personal page.  You can donate there.  Thanks for taking the time and making an investment!

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