My JDRF pitch

The leaves are turning. The wind is shifting. The universe holds its breath: it knows. It is fundraising season.

Every October my family and I raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a nonprofit whose funds go directly to research that affects the lives of people living with type 1 diabetes. If you've ever read this blog, or perchance glanced at the machine on my hip, you know why we do this. That song never changes. This year, instead of appealing to your pocketbook for my own benefit, I want you to shift your focus.

This year I want to raise money for JDRF to support the parents and caregivers of people with type 1. For decades type 1 diabetes was known as "juvenile diabetes" because it is typically is diagnosed in children and adolescents. Type 1 is autoimmune, which means that the body develops uber-powerful antibodies that destroy the islets of Langerhans -- those oh-so-special cells that create insulin. Insulin is the hormone that makes it possible for us to metabolize all the sugar we eat. It is what lets us use what we put in our bodies for energy. It is also easily destroyed by digestive enzymes, which means that for those of us who no longer make it, the best way for us to get the hormones we need is to inject them through the skin. The go-to method for treating type 1 is multiple injection therapy; depending on your age, size, metabolism, and the kind of insulin you take, you could be taking anywhere from one to five shots a day. An increasing number of diabetics take insulin through an insulin pump, an amazing little machine that requires daily upkeep. Not to mention testing your blood sugar, which must be done with minute lancets that pierce through the fleshy skin of your fingers.

This is a lot for a little kid to think about. I can only imagine what it must feel like for their parents, siblings, and caregivers.

I think about all the things my parents have done for me -- regular parent stuff, like making me dinner every night as a child, or teaching me how to assemble a tent, or shlepping across the state with my rowing team in high school -- and somehow it is all raised to the power of three when insulin gets involved. How they must have worried when I left the country - alone - not once or twice, but three times. What must have been going through their mind when I'd call them from somewhere far away because I'd lost my blood sugar monitor or gotten low at work or been denied coverage or gotten food poisoning and threw up my dosage. I remember the way my parents handled health insurance companies, and the graceful way they taught me to be unashamed for this thing that sidled its way into our lives.

I think about the kids I met at camp, many of them still too young or unprepared to give themselves their own injections. Somehow it was one thousand times harder for me to give them their shots than to take my own. I remember their parents at the end of the week: the ones that called to hash out dosages with camp nurses, the ones who took advantage of five days without carbohydrate counting to go on a little vacation of their own. What must that be like?

I think about my older brother, Josh, who years later is a fabulously popular high school teacher, and how he'd sit with me until I felt better, this big wonderful sensitive goofy person who innately knows to make the big things small again.

I think of my best friends growing up, who sat through my gigglefests whenever I got low, and quickly perfected the subtlest way of asking, "...Are you sure you don't need some juice?" And the reasonable, honorable way they taught me to see type 1 for what it is -- a thing as outside me as it is inside.

I think of my cousins and aunts and uncles and neighbors and grandparents, the ones who donate every year, who attend JDRF research meetings in other cities, who don't mind when I pass up the Christmas pie, but are ready with a slice in case I change my mind.

I think of my boyfriend, whose patience is a thing of wonder. A few weeks ago I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at my abdomen, which was decorated with a pump infusion set on one side and a continuous blood glucose monitor glowing on the opposite hip. Sometimes it just looks ugly to me. I asked him what he thought and he said, I can't even really see them anymore. They are a part of you, so I like them.

These are the people I want you to donate for. Or if you are these people - do it for yourself. There are millions of worthy causes worth your time and money, but few whose impact spreads quite as quickly as this one.

My family is raising money for the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes on October 7. To donate for our cause, visit our team page.

Thank you.

Team Malibu Pumpers Wants YOU

School is starting, the wind is picking up, and there is a heightened electricity in the air: that's right, it's the season for fundraising. This is the ninth year that my family and I are gearing up to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), a nonprofit organization founded by the parents of children with type 1 diabetes in 1970. In the past 40 years, JDRF has raised $1.4 billion, and nearly every penny of that is devoted to research.

Why should people care? Here's why:

-More than 23 million Americans live with diabetes, and of that number, about 5-10% live with type 1, insulin-dependent diabetes. This less common form of diabetes was formerly known as juvenile diabetes, because the majority of people who live with it are diagnosed as young children or adolescents. This means that type 1 kids and teens are badasses because they have to learn how to test their blood sugar and give themselves injections while learning how to tie their shoes, ride bikes, compete at sports, apply for college, etc.

-Diabetes is considered a pre-existing condition, which, as we all know, makes applying for health insurance especially frustrating.

-Because Halle Berry, Nick Jonas, Mary Tyler Moore, and certain twentysomething bloggers take insulin every day, and still make time to make movies, sing songs, write books, and in my case, go to grad school and work two jobs.

This year, while my uber-supportive Team Malibu Pumpers represents at the 5K walk at the State Capitol on Sunday, October 3, I will be running my first-ever half marathon. This is something I've wanted to do for three years, ever since I got my worst blood test results as a diabetic and felt the need to prove I was still healthy. I've been training over the past few months and am excited to finally put myself to the test. And while other people might run this race for time or place, I'll be running it to prove I can do it and not get low.

So, what can you do? You can make a tax-deductible donation for our team here. You can visit JDRF online and sign up for a corresponding walk in another city. Or, if you don't have the money this time but really want to show support, you can learn the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes and explain it to the next person who asks. Believe you me, it'll be a relief for the rest of us who grow tired when unsuspecting strangers relate long stories about their grandparents with gangrene feet.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support.

Who doesn't want more machines?

This is called a continuous blood glucose monitor.

Actually, this is called a comic, one that happens to involve a woman who happens to wear both an insulin pump and a continuous blood glucose monitor (CGMS). These two little machines, when they work in tandem, effectively tell her what her blood sugar is doing at five-minute intervals throughout the day, and then help her make decisions on how much insulin to take.

Sometimes being a savvy type 1 diabetic means remembering words from high school chemistry. I knew "interstitial" would come in handy someday. Gotta love those "hypers" and "hypos," and "glucose"--my life would be so much more boring without that C6H12O6. But the opportunity to live with not one but two
little machines plugged directly into me all day long--this was something I could not turn down. How often do you get to tap into the superhighway of your own bloodstream every day, all day long, and have it help your health? Not only that, but it graphs out glucose patterns and beeps before you get high or low, just to check in. It's like living with a doctor slash mother attached to your hip, with some of the implied advantages and disadvantages.

I'm not squeamish about needles and finger pricks, and have worn an insulin pump for more than 8 years, so I learned long that the diabetic aesthetic doesn't -- and won't ever -- cramp my style. One of my favorite Eddie Izzard sketches is his identification as an "executive transvestite" -- I like to think of myself as an "executive diabetic."

Pretty soon everyone will want one.