With all the many postings on my blog that involve butter, sugar and more butter and sugar, it might surprise you to know that healthy eating is a huge part of our family's everyday life. In fact, I work hard to make sure that the food I serve everybody in our home (guests included) has a balance of indulgence and good health. Organic and local when possible, yes. Fresh and full of color and vitamins, yes. Occasionally ridiculously full of calories and fat, yes again. For me, planning a meal is all about balance.
When my baby daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 2, my world, and hers, were changed forever. Type 1, or Juvenile Diabetes, is an auto-immune disease that struck my daughter while she was still nursing and in diapers. Now, as a healthy, athletic, smart and beautiful young woman - I admire her courage and tolerance of the daily battle that she wages with insulin and sugar, exercise and rest, health and indulgence. For her, life is all about balance.
For reasons that are not fully understood, Type 1 diabetes causes your immune system to attack the insulin producing cells in your pancreas. Your body loses the ability to produce insulin which is the key that unlocks the glucose in foods and makes it usable by every cell in your body. Caring for diabetes requires constant vigilance - there are no vacations from the disease offered! Insulin must be given by a needle or by an insulin pump and, at this date, there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes.
There are irritating bits of disinformation that every parent with a child with diabetes knows - Is it in your family? (Yes and no - genetics do play a role but I know many kids who have identical twins sans diabetes.) Did she eat too much sugar? (Sugar, and all carbohydrates - which break down into glucose - are a concern for people with diabetes but our daughter eats a normal diet - complete with sugar!) Will she grow out of it? (Type diabetes is a life long illness - sadly, she will not grow out of it.) Yes, she can - ski, play basketball, run track, travel with friends...just ask Olympic skier Kris Freemanor Olympic medalist Gary Hall- both of whom compete at the highest level while dealing with Type 1 diabetes. (We were especially proud of Kris as he recently competed in the Vancouver Olympics.)
Recently, I traveled, along with our daughter, to Washington, D.C. to attend a conference hosted by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and to ask my members of Congress to support legislation that would continue dedicated funding for Type 1 diabetes research to the National Institute of Health. It is always wonderful to be in a room full of passionate parents who totally understand what life is like with this insidious disease. On top of this, we are privileged to hear about the miraculous research strides that are being made in the search for a cure for diabetes and those scientific advances that bring greater control and comfort to our daughter's daily life.
I don't have millions of dollars to fund research, but I do try and give as much time and energy as possible to help the brilliant scientists who work towards solutions - long and short term - that continue to improve my daughter's life. To find out how you can get involved, visit www.jdrf.org
And...like many people who have family members who suffer from chronic illness...on quiet days like today, I'm taking a break from butter and sugar baking, and dreaming of a cure...