‘A cure would mean everything’: Yellowknife walks for diabetes

The Depew family. From left to right: Chuck, Joseph, Elise and Karen.
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A cure for diabetes ‘would mean everything’ for a Yellowknife family as they get ready to spearhead a weekend fundraiser for diabetes research.

The Depew family will be front and centre during Sunday’s JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) Telus Walk to Cure Diabetes in Yellowknife, which is also designed to raise awareness of the disease.

Eight-year-old Joseph Depew was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes two years ago when his parents say symptoms started appearing out of nowhere.

Ever since, Joseph’s parents – Chuck and Karen – have basically had to act as his pancreas, administering insulin shots to regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in his blood.

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“It’s like an ever-moving target – the perfect blood sugar level – that’s affected by activity, food and insulin,” said Karen Depew.

While Joseph is still able to eat the same foods that he did prior to his diagnosis, him and his parents have to ensure his sugar levels don’t soar too high or dip too low.

Blood sugar levels that fall outside of the range recommended by healthcare providers can result in a series of complications.

That means anyone diagnosed with the disease is subjected to a life of needles and tests to ensure levels remain consistent.

“Ultimately we’d like to find a cure,” said Karen. “It’s a very complex disease that’s really hard to live with.

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“There are also a lot of misconceptions surrounding the disease and unless you’re living with it or caring for someone that has it, you don’t really understand the full extent of [it].

“Some people assume Type 1 diabetes is related to an unhealthy lifestyle which it has nothing to do with. Even babies are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

“Our son has to live with the disease, the constant needles, feeling sick … but he also has to live with the misconception that he’s done something to cause this disease which is absolutely not the case.”

Type 1 diabetes can strike both children and adults suddenly, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association.

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Symptoms of the disease include unusual thirst, frequent urination, extreme fatigue and blurred visions among other signs.

More than three million Canadian children, adolescents and adults have some form of diabetes and 300,000 live with Type 1 diabetes.

By 2020, it’s estimated that the disease will cost the Canadian healthcare system $16.9 billion a year.

“A cure for diabetes would mean a lot to me,” said Joseph, who’s in Grade 2 at J.H. Sissons School.

“When everyone else at school gets to keep doing their work or enjoy free time … I’ll get picked up to do my tests. It’s annoying sometimes.”

Because of his diagnosis, Joseph and his family have to travel south to Edmonton every six months to meet with endocrinology specialists at the Stollery Children’s Hospital – something he’ll have to do until he turns 18.

Joseph will lead the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes along the Frame Lake Trail for a second year in a row on Sunday. Registration for the event starts at noon.

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