We R the Cure

Seeking Cures and Cheating Destiny


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My Aunt Mary Jane: After 70 years of struggle, she’s still “kicking” back at Type 1 diabetes & cheating destiny

Every picture tells a story.  Yet it doesn’t tell the full story — especially when a chronic disease like Type 1 diabetes is lurking below the scene.  Over the next few months, I’d like to tell some summer mini-stories dedicated to my Aunt Mary Jane, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday with a party in Nellysford, VA.

If anyone lives to the age of 80, they’ve overcome a lot of odds. If you add a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis at age 7,  a complete lack of any blood glucose testing systems, and throw in four children to raise,  and you’ve got a lifetime challenge. Mary Jane tells me diabetes took over her life one day when her sister, my mother – Cecilia, and her younger brother– John, came home from preschool with the mumps.

Aunt MJ2_Birthday

My Aunt Mary Jane Dull Hoffman, center, is celebrating her 80th Birthday in April at her homeplace in Nellysford, VA with two of her “favorite” nephews, Phil and me ( Front Right). We are joined by my wife, Lisa, my children Cecilia and Nathaniel, and Phil’s daughter Sammie.

“I’d rather they brought me the mumps, instead,”  said Mary Jane. “They got over the mumps in a few weeks. That virus is what cause me to have diabetes for a lifetime. That’s my biggest gripe with diabetes:  it’s too much to do. Do this, do that…Every day it’s something else to do. I’ve done a lot of it by the seat of my pants.”

And then Mary Jane smiles:  “Since I don’t have my feet anymore, it’s a good thing I’m flying by the seat of my pants most of the time.” After you stop laughing at the irony of a T1D who is a Joslin Medalist honored for “surviving ” diabetes, you see clearly what diabetic complications really mean. Feet are gone. And she’s the lucky one.  And then you realize: Diabetes continues to suck and if I don’t manage my Type 1 like a mad man — I could lose my feet and a lot more.

Here’s my goal in highlighting Mary Jane’s story:  To show that surviving Type 1 diabetes requires effort, luck and stubborn commitment to each day being better than the day before. In order to beat diabetes — which we have not done yet — a person also needs a healthy dose of  kiss-my-butt craziness.  When you’re sick on the inside but you look perfectly “healthy” on the outside, it’s not easy to generate a sense of urgency for more research, more awareness, and more money.

My other goal here:  To announce that I’m riding again in the JDRF RIDE FOR A CURE at Amelia Island, FLA on Oct. 30, 2016 and that all the money I raise — thanks to all my compassionate supporters — will go to JDRF and its support of Dr. Boris Kovatchev and the researchers at the Center for Diabetes Technology at the University of Virginia. The CDT team in Charlottesville is part of a five member university consortium still trying to bring an Artificial Pancreas System to reality. Funds raised support worldwide human clinical trials required to convince the FDA that it’s time to approve an AP or a bionic pancreas which will deliver better glucose control and fewer serious medical complications to persons living with T1D.

(I will add a blog update on my current participation in the ” Project Nightlight” Home AP trial — 3 weeks are done and the closed loop is working exactly as advertised — nighttime under control.)

I’m not a young man any more — so it comes down to this:  My marathon journey for a cure has become a sprint to the finish line. It’s like the riding the final stage.  Aunt Mary Jane was promised a cure when she was first diagnosed in the 1940s.  Seventy years later, the promises are still being made and we’re still pedaling up hill with our real and artificial feet!

Aunt Mary Jane and I may not cross the ultimate finish line — A cure to Type 1 diabetes without tech solutions, but we want to be counted as two people who tried to make it happen. Together, We R the Cure.


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Chance Chat At Work Leads to Blog Revival: Quantum Cascade Laser Tests Blood Sugar Without Finger Pricks

Happy New Year to all my Type 1 diabetes friends and #DOC community. After a long, long blogging vacation … I’m back to writing again thanks to a chance chat with a colleague at work today.

Princeton Researchers Use Lasers to Measure Blood Sugars

Members of the research team test the new laser system. Images courtesy of Frank Wojciechowski/Princeton University.

It was a completely unscripted meeting. As I was in the men’s restroom testing my blood sugar at work, Jonathan walks in, sees me and my bright red blood spot on my test strip. Then he asks: how many times a day did I ” prick my finger” for a blood drop to test my glucose. My normal answer: 8 to 10 times a day. Then I stop myself wondering if we’ve got a connection?

After a few soundbites about testing, insulin pumps, CGMs and all the standard stuff from me — Jonathan pauses and says: “Before I came here I was working in a research group at Princeton that is working to use lasers to accurately measure blood sugar without needing a finger prick,” he said.

Dramatic pause. The sound you heard is my jaw dropping and hitting the bathroom counter. First time I’d ever heard this possibility. The possibility of fewer finger pricks for blood testing is a dream for all of us T1Ds. Wave a magic wand or light beam over your finger and the BG results sync up with my soon-to-be-real Artificial Pancreas closed-loop technology!  Wow, my mind is now racing and I’m back in the blogging game. Here’s the link to the full story. Read it and let me know if you’ve heard of this research?  Together, We R the Cure for Type 1 diabetes and its serious medical complications!!

A team from Princeton University has developed the new technique, which measures blood sugar by directing an IR quantum cascade laser at a person’s palm. The laser light is partially absorbed by sugar molecules in the patient’s body; the amount of absorption is used to measure the level of blood sugar.

According to the researchers, the results indicated that the laser measurement readings produced average errors that were somewhat larger than standard blood sugar monitors, but remained within the clinical requirement for accuracy. In measuring blood glucose levels, readings must be within 20 percent of the patient’s actual blood sugar level. The new system has demonstrated 84 percent accuracy.

“We are working hard to turn engineering solutions into useful tools for people to use in their daily lives,” said Claire Gmachl, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering and the project’s senior researcher. “With this work we hope to improve the lives of many diabetes sufferers who depend on frequent blood glucose monitoring.”


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Turning Type 1 Diabetes Into Type None: Mad Men, Women and Youth Cycle Hundreds of Miles For Each Other

CVA Ride to Cure Team Lines Up for Tune Up

The Central Virginia JDRF Ride to Cure team lines up for the tune-up ride before the Ride Day. We’re sporting our Pink and Green designer Hincappie jerseys. Real Bikers wear Pink! What a great team!

BURLINGTON, VT — This is a story about a boy, his bicycle, and his deadly disease. The story opens with this boy standing somewhere at the top of a rolling Vermont hillside on a beautiful, chamber-of- commerce-picture-postcard day near Lake Champlain in upstate VT.

Mike Anderson Ride to Cure Type 1 Diabetes Photo

First  JDRF Ride. On the training ride 1 day day before the big day, I’m letting my donors know that they are Number 1 with me. Thanks. We did this.

The view, the 70 degree temps with a slight breeze, and the sense of success  are amazing. And so is the damn flat back tire — My third in 17 miles! But that’s another story for another post.

Key words in this compelling narrative: the boy is standing at the “TOP” of the “hillside” with a “Disease.” This story, however, is not about a disease and getting sick. It is about beating that disease. Stomping on it. Tearing out its heart. Reaching inside and pounding that disease up and down into the pavement of Burlington. Boy, does it feel good to have done that! 🙂

The story is my story.  This is also  the story of our Central Virginia JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes team from Richmond. Eleven strong riders and 1 amazing team supporter — Ellen.

Most importantly, the story is about almost 300 mad men, mad women, youth, friends, family and new friends who came together on July 24-27 in Vermont to prove to each other and to themselves — that there’s NO Quit in Type 1 people.

Type 1 people are compassionate and unwavering in their quest to turn Type 1 Diabetes into Type None for the 3 million Americans living 24/7/365 with this unfortunate chronic killer.

In one weekend, this amazing group of human beings rode hundreds and hundreds of miles and raised more than $850,000 — THANKS to our AMAZING SUPPORTERS — to fund the clinical trials and research being done now by scientists who are peddling the pathways to a cure and new tech solutions.  Our Type 1 group doesn’t ride any “Yellow Brick” Road.  This is not a fairy tale. We know the road to a cure is a long, winding, steep, unfair, depressing, fearless, and physically demanding climb. Yet, we all keep coming back for one more climb each day.

I had one of the best times in my life. Met a new, formidable challenge and loved almost every minute as I delivered a whipping to Type 1.  Actually, that’s what Type 1s do every day.

Here is my Top 10 things learned about Riding to Cure Type 1 Diabetes that I posted on my Twitter page @werthecure  in the days leading up to July 26. A few more stories and key T1D takeaways — i.e. why does my Liver make its own sugar and dump it into my blood stream when I don’t want it to do that? — will be posted in future blog posts here.  Thanks for reading and engaging.

And the Burlington VT Vimeo is worth a thousand words, too.

Top 10 things I’ve learned training 4 @JDRF_RIDE

Num1A: Cycling is tough enough. Try wearing a corset. T1D, Insulin Pump, CGM
Num1: My CVA teammates R amazingly super. $50K for #T1D #burlington
Num2: U can ride, eat shotbloks, check BG and chew gum at the same time. #notafraidtofall
Num3: Must have good bike. It’s even better if #TeamMajikes has 2 U can borrow! #thankful
Num4: Cycle 2+ hours. Manage BG Carbs in route. Post-ride BG stays below 70. WTF #T1D crazy
Num5: Cycle 2+ hours. Manage BG in route. BG may soar 300 post. Liver needs more carbs?
Num6: Pick a scenic training route. Luv #Goochland , Miller Lane & touching 9-11 Memorial
Num7: Don’t leave home without your #Dexcom4 It is a must have tool. @JDRFCVC
Num8: Quality bike shorts and ButtR cream. Nuff said.@JDRFCVC
Num9: A good coach is critical.@JDRFCVC has 2 great ones Matthew and Lisa. See Number 1.
Num10: Wearing biker shorts in front of others. A Profile in Courage


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Mathematics, Mary Tyler Moore and Standard Deviation, Part 2: Looking for the Type 1 Auto Pilot Easy Button

One of the all-time great movie quotes, from Airplane circa 1980s, actually fits perfect for persons living with Type 1 diabetes who keep looking for a qualified pilot or Auto Pilot “Easy Button” to help them fly safe and keep their complex human body on course:

Photo of Auto Pilot Easy Button to push for diabetets control

Managing Type 1 diabetes is like flying a complex jet airplane. What we need is an Auto Pilot Easy Button to keep us flying level and safe.

“All right, Striker, you listen, and listen close. Flying a plane is no different from riding a bicycle; it’s just a lot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes.”

The more you know about your own diabetes, the less you understand. The more time you spend managing your diabetes, using the latest technology tools, aiming for a lower A1c and a lower Standard Deviation, logging in and learning from the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) — the less you actually comprehend about a chronic disease that is, actually, almost impossible to control. There is no Auto Pilot button in the T1D cockpit.

In the first four months of 2014, I’ve been hyper-focused or rededicated to my diabetes management. Thanks to my new tech partner, the Dexcom “Studio” reporting app, I’ve been monitoring my hourly, daily and weekly trends, adjusting basel and bolus rates based on pattern or trend lines,  and charting my own “success report” or flight plan.  Of course, a true “success report” for Type 1Ds would show a TAB that says: “CURED.” Sorry, but I have not found this category yet on the Dexcom app.

If you’re looking for good news, here it is: My quarterly check up in April produced my best A1c number in almost 2 years — a 7.5 A1c! This is down from my 7.8 A1c in January, and my better-than-average result also produced a Standard Deviation number of 51 for April — way, way down from my Feb/March SDs in the high 60s.  I am thrilled with the current trend line and I better understand how hard work, diet and exercise, paying attention to the mathematics of diabetes and some luck produces better blood glucose control and fewer serious medical complications. This cause-and-effect was established in  the landmark DCCT study done more than two decades ago. The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) showed that keeping blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible slows the onset and progression of the eye, kidney, and nerve damage caused by diabetes. In fact, it demonstrated that any sustained lowering of blood glucose, also called blood sugar, helps, even if the person has a history of poor control.

However, here’s where the mathematics, Mary Tyler Moore and standard deviation come back into the story:

How can anyone spend 24/7, 365 days a year — every year for the rest of my life — working this hard at a full-time job that brings with it no pay, no days off, no miracle cures,  and the uncertainty that better blucose control– the goal is under 7.0  A1c — actually reduces medical complications?  As the Mary Tyler Moore TV theme song might actually ask: “You might just make it after all?”

Despite my recent well-earned success, my monthly and quarterly results still show that I’m still spending about 30% of my days ” out of my target” blood glucose zone ( 80 to 170) and, therefore, I still have not achieved true “control”  and may face potential health risks as I age.

Graph showing my Diabetes Glucose Control

My Dexcom Success Report shows better “In Target” results but shows I’ve still got a long way to go to achieve auto glucose control over my Type 1 Diabetes.

Here’s what my flight crew told me this month about my Type 1 Diabetes and how I’m doing on my journey toward better, healthier outcomes.

My Endocrinologist: “I don’t look for a certain standard deviation number, whether that’s 50 or lower. The key is to get the number as low as possible.  Your A1c is moving in the right direction but it needs to be lower.”

My Dietitian — first time I’ve met with one in 10 years. “People with Type 1 have all these numbers running around in their heads. They are constantly thinking about glucose numbers, A1Cs,  carbohydrates and is their trend line going up and down. I think it gets to be a little overwhelming at times. You should give yourself some credit because you are managing things that a person with a normal, functioning pancreas never thinks twice about. My glucose numbers may be the same as yours in a given day, but I don’t spend a minute thinking about it because my pancreas is doing it for me.”

My Dexcom Rep who is also a Type 1 diabetic — “The most important goal is more stable blood sugars. Our goal should be below 50. Even below 40. Our bodies like stability. There is a lot more to diabetes than just controlling one measurement or number. There are so many factors and stress is one of the biggest. If you have a good day and your numbers are improving, that’s a good thing. But some of this is really out of our hands.  We are humans after all.”

I turn to technology to help best manage my diabetes because my pancreas stopped making insulin almost two decades ago, and these advances in treatment have improved my quality of life immeasurably in some ways (emotional health) and very measurably in others (better blood sugar control). The technology we need now is the Auto Pilot Easy Button — or the Artificial Pancreas closed loop system. Push it and it’ll be almost like your pancreas is flying the plane again.


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Ending the A1C Blame Game: Reposting a “Must Read” From MD on Insulin Nation

Research Corner: Ending the A1C Blame Game (via http://www.insulinnation.com)

When glucose sensors first became available in clinical trials some 2 decades ago, I decided to wear a sensor to compare my glucose levels as a non-diabetic individual with glucose levels of my patients. I was excited to have this new tool, which measured…

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Diabetes Technology: What Patients Really Want — The Video


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Clinical Trial At UVA Marches On: Giving My Blood, Time And Type 1 Diabetes For Artificial Pancreas Research

Writing a blog about living with Type 1 diabetes and promoting the need for clinical trials — is not exactly front-page cybernews. It’s OK to admit that I’m blogging for a very limited audience: Me, myself and I. We R the Cure is dedicated to finding solutions, sharing current research news, and spotlighting the need for more persons with Type 1 diabetes to participate in clinical trials.

I’m not seeking publicity or the spotlight. Participating in these studies does, however, sometimes make me feel like Steve Martin’s character in the 1984 movie, ” The Lonely Guy.” Am I the only guy doing this?

Last Thursday at dawn, I traveled to Charlottesville for my in-patient “Metabolic Challenge” hospital admission on Day 17 of the ” Behavioral Mechanisms of Glucose Variability” clinical trial at the Center for Diabetes Technology at UVA. The good news: I completed the study parameters by providing my blood to the researchers as they raised my glucose level above 250 mg/dl and then lowered it below 60 mg/dl to see how the human body responds to glucose swings. “Greater understanding of insulin sensitivity, particularly how the body counters a low blood sugar,” will help researchers and technology experts determine how to refine the math calculations or ” brain power ” needed for the Artificial Pancreas system, according to the UVa team.

So, let me give you the Top 5 newsworthy or ” BIG PICTURE” results from my in-patient day.

Number 5: I did not wear the new DexCom 5 CGM prototype for the admission as originally planned. The manufacturer was not ready to release it for human trial just yet. The next generation DexCom 5 sensor will transmit its glucose readings directly to the AP’s SmartPhone and not to CGM transmitter. This is a key step in closing the loop on the closed-loop AP.

Number 4: The DexCom 5 should be available for testing in upcoming AP clinical trials, hopefully as soon as Feb. 2014. If the DexCom 5 is tested in trials then it sets up the important next step: Setting up “AP home trials” for out patient clinical trials in 2014-2015. A final step on the pathway to FDA approval.

Number 3: To be a clinical trial participant, it helps if you don’t mind having up to 2 IV catheters plugged into your arms. And, you need to ” enjoy ” having blood drawn every 5 minutes during the critical ” high” and ” low ” period of the variability study.

Number 2: It was rewarding to spend a beautiful fall day “inside” at the old UVA Hospital — with the awesome team of researchers, doctors, nurses and clinical trial coordinators. These folks are first-class and extremely talented. A sincere “Thank you” to Dr. Anderson, all of the nurses and staff at the Clinical Research Unit, and the CDT team (Laura, Mary and Molly).  And they served me a fabulous Salmon lunch when I was done!

Number 1: My blood data, CGM readings and insulin pump trend lines will be reviewed and the numbers will be crunched by the CDT team at UVA. I am contributing to a larger, multi-layered, worldwide consortium effort designed to bring the first-ever Artificial Pancreas to the commercial market — and thereby providing better health outcomes and an improved quality of life for the 3 million Americans living with Type 1 diabetes. Laura Kollar, clinical research coordinator and RN with CDT team, added this wrap up to my visit: “Just wanted to thank you (and your amazing blood) for the admission yesterday. You done good!”

It may not be newsworthy, but it’s a worthwhile contribution. Call it a legacy. Together, We R the Cure.

Here are some ” BIG PICTURES” of my day in my hometown, Charlottesville.

Mike Anderson at UVA Rotunda

The Clinical Trial is done at about 4 pm and I can enjoy a beautiful fall afternoon and a Starbucks coffee in Charlottesville, my hometown.

Keeping Record of Highs and Lows.

Keeping track of the blood glucose ” highs and lows” during my Clinical Trial at UVA.

Glucose Variability

My blood samples are lined up at UVA Hospital during Clinical Trial on November 7. It looks like a lot but the total volume taken is about the same or less than a normal blood donation.

Artificial Pancreas Clinical Trial

Automated blood machines are used to analyze and report on my blood glucose levels and other key metabolic factors during my in-patient admission.