Today I’m handing over the reins to Caroline Rudnicka, a diabetes research officer who also lives with type 1. I first connected with Caroline after hearing her speak at a local event hosted by Diabetes Research Western Australia, and today she shares with me a little about her connection to diabetes and an upcoming event to support diabetes research.
I must admit that I don’t think too often about an end game when it comes to diabetes, so I really appreciate hearing from people like Caroline and the team at Diabetes Research WA who share such a passion for research.
Frank: Hi Caroline. Can you tell us a little about your connection to diabetes?
Caroline: Hi Frank and thank you for the invitation to guest blog on Type 1 Writes.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1989 while my parents and I were holidaying in Europe. My diagnosis was a horrible shock for my parents, who had mistakenly attributed my mood swings, weight loss and lethargy down to my young age and traveling. Furthermore, with no family history of T1D, my ‘spontaneous’ diagnosis really astounded my parents, who were previously completely unaware of the condition.
My diagnosis drove me to pursue a T1D-orientated honors project through the University of Western Australia. Currently, I work for Royal Perth Hospital as a research officer, and I have been fortunate to work in a lab group, supervised by Professor Vance Matthews, that is dedicated to type 2 diabetes research (although we are starting to investigate T1D complications too).
I feel lucky to be in the position where my work environment encourages me to constantly reflect on the potential mechanisms which promote diabetes development, and provides me with unlimited access to read high quality diabetes journals.
Frank: We first connected through your work with Diabetes Research WA. Can you tell us a little about that?
Caroline: It was actually through my boss Vance that I was introduced to Sherl Westlund and Nat Caudle from Diabetes Research WA (DRWA) in late 2017. At the time, Sherl and her great team were organising their information night, “Diabetes, where is the cure?” when Sherl contacted me and asked me if I would like to present a talk about my experiences with T1D and diabetes research.
I must admit, I was initially apprehensive as I wasn’t certain that the audience would find me or my experiences very engaging. I was always under the impression that only diabetics cared about diabetes. However, having worked with Vance previously on a DRWA funded project, I felt flattered to do something for DRWA, a local organisation that strongly supports diabetes research. Hence I accepted their invitation.
I was surprised to receive a lot of positive feedback following my talk that night, and I was humbled that the experiences which I discussed managed to move many people in the audience. When I was driving home that night with my husband, he commented that my talk really opened his eyes to what I go through living with T1D, and this is despite the fact that we had been living together for years!
This made me realise the importance of openly discussing T1D and sharing experiences, to link T1D patients with each other and non-diabetics to raise diabetes awareness. As such, I was delighted to act as that link between DRWA and their audience on that particular night, and I hope to do more events with DRWA in future.
Frank: Your husband Joey is going to be participating in a charity fundraiser for Diabetes Research WA later this month. Could you tell us a little about the event, and how we could get involved?
Caroline: My husband Joey is literally putting his body on the line as he participates in the “100 Fights in 100 Minutes Charity Benefit” on April 28th.
This is an event being hosted by the fantastic owners Noah Greenstone and Ron Amram from Leederville’s Combat Arts Institute of Australia (CAIA), a self defence facility where my husband trains. Noah and Ron are the masters of technique, and it is going to be so enjoyable watching all the competitors on the day.
The charity benefit is essentially a test of endurance, as each competitor participates in 100 friendly rounds of sparring (kick boxing or jiu jitsu) at one minute long each. Funds are raised by sponsoring a fighter for each round they are able to fight. The Institute is hoping to reach its $6,000 target through sponsorship of the fighters.
My husband, being previously motivated by my DRWA talk to support diabetes research, liaised with the owners of CAIA, and I am extremely grateful to Noah and Ron for selecting DRWA as the beneficiary for this fundraiser.
Their decision really excites me, because diabetes research relies on community support to continue. Working in a diabetes research lab, I can see that funds are necessary to promote and develop scientific ideas, and donations from the community are the key to unlock the dream of a diabetes cure into a reality.
So please sponsor my husband Joey Balczer as he literally “fights for a diabetes cure” using this link: http://combatartsinstitute.com.au/100fights2018sponsors/view/form
The event is free to watch, and there will be delicious food trucks on site, so I encourage everybody to attend.
100 Fights in 100 Minutes – Charity Benefit for Diabetes Research WA
Hosted by Combat Arts Institute of Australia
Saturday April 28, 2018, 5.30pm
341 Oxford Street
Leederville WA 6007
Frank: Do you see a cure for type 1 diabetes coming from a particular form of diabetes research?
Simply answered, the end goal as a diabetes researcher is to find the cure, and as a diabetes patient it is to be cured.
When I was diagnosed in 1989, the Dr told my family that a cure was only “10-15 years away”. As a T1D patient, such claims anger and frustrate me because almost 30 years later, I still have T1D.
However as a diabetes researcher, I see what goes on behind the scenes- the long hours that are put in, the numerous experiments, the lack of funds, government imposed restrictions, the endless paperwork, lengthy clinical trials, etc. Therefore I can appreciate that finding a diabetes cure is a long, tedious, difficult and frustrating process. It literally takes years and years to turn a “lab bench idea” into a clinical trial, and then there is no guarantee that the initial idea will eventuate into a marketable good or service.
It is also crucial to highlight that in order to cure something, we need to fundamentally understand it better. Through research, our grasp on diabetes is constantly improving (just not always at the pace us diabetes patients would like). Incidentally, as technology advances, this will provide researchers and clinicians better ways to test, analyze and understand diabetes, and to use that diabetes knowledge to formulate potential cures.
Consequently, I dont classify one area of research as being more promising than another. It is important to distinguish that given the complexity of diabetes, including multiple environmental and genetic factors, age of diagnosis, and length of disease duration, a future T1D cure may take on many forms. I personally do not believe it will be a “one solution fits all” scenario, but rather, a cure will need to be somewhat personalised, similarly to how we approach current diabetes management options. What works for one person, may not be suitable for another.
I would like to add that finding a way to prevent T1D from developing is as important as ridding the condition entirely once it has developed and I think that this is also an exciting area of diabetes to explore.
Of course, it is difficult to convey these notions with diabetic patients who do not work in the scientific or medical industry, and are exasperated that “nothing is being done”.
Believe me readers, something is definitely being done. Don’t lose hope.