Sunday 27 March 2011

Why I Became Involved with JDRF

This post is taken from a speech that I gave at JDRF's Research Symposium in Vancouver, BC, in 2009. Some data, such as Dylan's age and time wearing a pump, has been updated to reflect current information.

"Hi! I’m Jennifer Aragon and I have been volunteering with JDRF for a few years now. I became involved with JDRF after my son Dylan was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes on November 21st, 2005, just 3 days before his 5th birthday. He is now 10 and has been wearing an insulin pump for the past 3 ½ years. It has changed our life in so many ways, and I don’t know what we’d do without it! Dylan is a great kid; he loves to read and play video games, loves school, plays hockey and does karate. But I think it has been his positive attitude that has kept me so involved with JDRF. He no longer “hopes” for a cure; he knows there will be one in his lifetime and he understands what it will take to find it.

When Dylan was diagnosed, I was told by the hospital staff that my reaction was not the typical one. I never shed a tear, never felt like I, or Dylan, had lost anything. And I never thought, even for a second, that his life would be limited by this disease. Not me - I wanted to fight back, to learn everything I could about type-1 diabetes and be a part of the cure. I needed to be involved, every step of the way. This very quickly led to my getting involved with JDRF, the world’s largest funder of diabetes research. I know there will be a cure and I believe JDRF will be the organization to fund the research that discovers it. They hold themselves accountable for the money spent on research because they are committed to finding a cure. After all, it is an organization founded by parents of type-1 diabetic children and who better to lead the way to a cure than those most connected to the disease and those most passionate about a cure.

JDRF asked me to talk to you tonight about why I walk for diabetes every year, and why you should too. Here are just a few reasons:

i) To raise funds and awareness for JDRF – research is expensive, so if we want a cure we need to help JDRF continue to fund top-notch research.

ii) The walk is fun – there are great informational booths and fun activities for everyone, such as mini golf, massages, face painting, mascots, and tons of free stuff!

iii) Be a part of your community and feel a sense of involvement and self-worth knowing that you’re making a difference!

iv) Experience the event with your family & friends. This is my favorite part of the walk. Over the years “Team Dylan” has grown and grown and we walked with 67 members last year. The pride in Dylan’s face at the start of the walk is an image I will never forget.

v) But the most reason important and memorable reason to walk, especially if you haven’t before, is to meet others and know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. When you experience your first walk you will be absolutely amazed by the number of people there and will realize the collective power that we have to change the face of this disease forever.

Those are the reasons I tell people they should walk every year. Now let me tell you why I walk. When I ask myself that question, I am always presented with the same image – the day Dylan was born. I think of that moment when the nurse put him in my arms and I held him for the very first time. I remember our first eye contact. That moment, be it very brief, felt like an eternity, and I could have lived in that moment forever. It was the moment that every mother is blessed with, when you realize that you love your child beyond all possibility, beyond all measure. And in that moment, your life is changed forever because everything you thought you knew about life, love, and what is important, is called into question and everything you thought you knew about yourself requires self-examination. In that moment the only thing in the world that matters in your child.

As parents we know that in loving our children we must also try to keep them safe. And when I think back to that first moment with Dylan, I know that I certainly never thought that keeping him safe would include safety from the immediate and long-term side effects of type-1 diabetes. But as long as it does, I will continue to walk – year after year after year – and I will never give up until there is a cure. I owe him that.

So I challenge everyone to join us on as we lace up our sneakers and walk to cure type-1 diabetes. Together we CAN find a cure."

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