Making a difference in the lives of Canadians with type 1 diabetes

November 22, 2019

Geoff Beattie has been a devoted JDRF volunteer and active fundraiser since 2004 when his daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Currently serving as cabinet co-chair for the In Our Lifetime Campaign for Central Canada, Geoff shares his story on how the chronic illness inspired his involvement with JDRF and changed his outlook on life.

Our daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) when she was four years old. Like any parent would be, I was devastated and also struck with a sense of injustice: Why did this happen to our daughter? Why does she have to live with type 1?

Her doctor at the time was compassionate and also wise. “Why not her?” he asked us gently. “Whose children do you think get diabetes?”

It was a life-changing moment. Because of course, all our children can. And for us, at that moment and beyond, self-pity would not be part of the equation. Instead, with the expert care and cutting-edge science we were so fortunate to have, we became very pragmatic. She would live with type 1, but it would not define her. And while it would still be cause for some anxious moments (picture sneaking in and taking a blood sample while your seven-year-old daughter is asleep at a slumber party), she was able to flourish while managing a condition that would never hold her back.

I was struck then, and many times since, by how fortunate we are. At another time and place the diagnosis would have meant a very different outcome. It is still the case for too many, in too many places, that T1D is a devastating diagnosis. And it was in part that realization that spurred me to become involved with JDRF. It is obviously very personal to me, but the idea that I could have an impact on something that could be so meaningful – not just to my family, but also to society – gave me a great sense of hope and motivation.

I am a strong believer in supporting those with the knowledge and passion to solve big problems. As a businessman and a long-time trustee of the University Health Network in Toronto, I know just how rich our pool of expertise is, and what opportunity we have in Canada to make cutting-edge advances. Our health care system is constantly evolving and benefitting from new research. To offer financial support is the easiest part of the equation. When you invest your time as well as your money supporting a cause, you start to create a landscape where more options, more ideas and more understanding exists. You keep working away at it, drawing motivation from the progress the organization is making in order to fuel yourself and your continued commitment, and hopefully over a reasonable period of time substantial progress is achieved.

When it comes to diabetes, the search for a cure can feel slow. But I focus on the progress of the last 20 years, and know that as the pace of understanding grows, a cure may well be within sight. Meanwhile new fields of research are converging to create unprecedented potential for breakthroughs. The field of genomics is only just beginning to yield its fruit, which will be an incredible source of information and scientific advancements in the decades ahead. Wrap in new tools around data analysis and research and it is easy to feel optimistic.

For me, philanthropy has to be about engagement. I want to be connected to an issue and to the people I’m supporting, because it acts as a two-way street. Money is important – essential to research – but a system of financial support only grows with awareness. There are, of course, financial arguments for working on a goal like this. A cure for a disease has a multiplier effect on society. It frees up resources and people, allowing their attention to focus on the next problem. And we know that advances in research in one field of study have a cross-over benefit to others. It’s an exciting time for medical research, and especially for this illness. But financial arguments are only one part of the puzzle. Our shared responsibility – to each other and to support advances that benefit all of mankind – can never be forgotten. I believe that none of us can have the life we aspire to unless we share some of that with everyone. When you ask others to support a cause, it has to start from a fundamental place of belief. 

I feel grateful to be able to support JDRF. And I am still humbled by the message from that doctor almost 20 years ago. Why me? Why not me? is the answer.

We are connected by our frailty as much as by our strength. And while disease can be indiscriminate – knowing no boundaries – our personal geography is not. We are lucky to live here, in this place, at this time in history. And if it has created any advantage at all, I truly believe we have a responsibility to honour that luck by sharing our good fortune in whatever small way we can.

Our daughter is a happy, healthy young woman with the world at her feet. She is not defined by any one thing – she is many things. I want that option for every young person diagnosed with T1D. And I want it for every parent of those children, too. I support JDRF to help make that dream a reality.

The Holiday Season and Hypoglycemia

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The holidays are right around the corner, which means family gatherings and parties complete with great food, alcohol, and eating at random times.  It is also a time when we are running around with last minute shopping, long car drives, and sleeping too little.  Needless to say, managing blood glucose levels can be tricky. 

People tend to eat larger servings of sweet or fatty foods, drink more alcohol, as well as engage in more activities.  For these reasons, blood sugar levels can be harder to control. 

Low blood sugar can be caused by the following1:

  • Not following your meal plan like skipping or delaying a meal
  • Too much exercise or exercising for a long time without eating a snack or adjusting insulin before exercise
  • Too much medication or a change in the time taking your medication
  • Stress
  • Alcohol intake, especially without food

It is important always to BE PREPARED!

If you feel any of the warning signs of low blood glucose, test immediately, and in the event that you do not have a blood glucose meter, treat right away.

Eat or drink fast-acting sugar such as1:

  • 15 grams of Dex4 glucose tablets (4), gel, or liquiblast (this is fast-acting and pre-measured)
  • 3 teaspoons or 3 packets of table sugar dissolved in 15 ml water
  • 3/4 cup of juice or regular soft drink (non diet)
  • 1 tablespoon of honey

Afterwards, wait 15 minutes and then check your blood glucose again. If your glucose is still below 4 mmol/L, try one of the above methods again, and do another glucose test. If your next meal is more than one hour away, have a snack with both carbohydrates and protein. If you keep having periods of hypoglycemia, talk to your healthcare professional about ways to keep your blood glucose more in check.

As low blood sugar can happen at anytime, it is important to be prepared.  Dex4 Glucose products help raise glucose levels FAST. 

Dex4 Glucose products are:

  • Fast-acting
  • Pre-measured so you know exactly how much glucose you are consuming
  • Fat-Free
  • Caffeine, gluten, cholesterol free
  • Great tasting and come in a variety of flavours and formats

1 Canadian Diabetes Association Clinical Practice Guidelines Expert Committee. Canadian Diabetes Association 2013 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada. Can J Diabetes 2013;37(suppl 1):S1-S212.

Information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Early results from Sernova indicate insulin production in people with type 1 diabetes

November 25, 2019

The death of beta cells results from an autoimmune attack that is characteristic of type 1 diabetes (T1D). This can lead to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), complications, and even unawareness among people with a severe form of the disease.

Sernova Corp., a regenerative medicine company based in London, ON., has shown in its JDRF-funded clinical trial that its cell replacement therapy, Cell PouchTM, can restore insulin production among people living with T1D.

An alternative to drugs, the Cell PouchTM system involves an implantable medical device that forms a highly vascularized environment in the body for the housing, function, and long-term survival of therapeutic cells, which release proteins or hormones to treat chronic diseases like T1D.

The detection of C-peptide, a biomarker of insulin production, in the bloodstream of the trial’s first patient is another important success in the field of beta cell replacement therapy – a strategy which aims to replace lost or damaged beta cells with insulin-producing beta cells in people with the disease. Supporting this area of research is also one of JDRF’s most critical undertakings, with an investment of more than $140 million to date.

JDRF is funding Sernova Corp.’s phase I/II clinical trial in participants with T1D and hypoglycemia unawareness based in Chicago, IL., USA. For more information on this study, please visit the clinical trials registry. For more details on recruitment and enrollment, please click here.

Beta cell replacement therapies aim to provide insulin on demand from cells implanted in the body and have the potential to eliminate insulin therapy and liberate people from the burdens of managing T1D for months or even years at a time. The shortage of donor beta cells and the need for strong immunosuppressive drugs, however, make beta cell transplantation an impractical solution for most people.

JDRF is heeding the call, advancing beta cell replacement technologies that can restore glucose control and deliver long-term insulin independence, without suppressing the body’s immune system and the ability to fight infections. Sernova Corp. is moving another step forward in the development of its Cell PouchTM and the technology will hopefully be approved in the coming years.

Dear type 1™, It’s been a big adjustment.

November 6, 2019

Type 1 diabetes became a part of Danny Miller’s family’s life just 18 months ago when his son, Cody, was diagnosed.

“My wife is a trained pediatrician, so she saw some signs,” he remembers. “She believed he could have type 1 diabetes, so she took him to the ER and that’s when Cody got diagnosed. There were lots of tears and challenges, but she and I, and Cody especially, reacted really well and rose to those challenges.”

As the Millers began to learn more about type 1 diabetes, they turned to JDRF. “I think we ordered the Bag of Hope the first day after his diagnosis. There was an issue with fulfillment, so a JDRF staff member actually delivered it to our house. Cody was in tears when he saw Rufus, the bear with diabetes. He started giving him his injections right away and today, almost 18 months later, he’s still snuggling with Rufus in bed.”

The Miller family

Type 1 diabetes has been a big adjustment for the Millers, but like all families affected by this disease, they had to quickly adapt, and now, 18 months later, they’re committed to doing everything they can to prevent Cody from experiencing future complications associated with the disease.

“We need to support T1D research in order to find a cure. We’re so close,” says Danny. “There are all sorts of exciting research programs happening, especially here in Canada, from stem cells to the artificial pancreas.”

Thanks to the Miller family’s generous support, all donations to JDRF between November 1st and November 30th will be matched up to $40,000. Donate today and every dollar of your gift will be matched.

Danny truly believes that because of the support of JDRF and the entire T1D community, a future without type 1 diabetes has never been closer. For him, “a cure to me and my family would mean back to normal. It would be incredible.”

Thank you for supporting a future free of type 1 diabetes this National Diabetes Awareness Month!

To learn more about National Diabetes Awareness month, and to hear more Dear Type 1™ stories, go to