Wil Dubois

Happy Saturday! Welcome to Ask D'Mine, our weekly advice column hosted by veteran type 1 and diabetes author Wil Dubois in New Mexico, who also has experience as a clinical diabetes specialist. This week, Wil ponders the mystery of "disappearing diabetes" -- or when it seems like blood sugar control has magically gone on auto-pilot(?) Here's Wil's take on that.

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Elizabeth, grandma of a type 1 from Idaho, writes: I’m worried about my little grandson. When he was diagnosed two or three years ago he was given a Rufus Teddy Bear that, like him, had diabetes. The bear has been a constant companion until just recently. When I asked him where Rufus was, he told me that Rufus was cured and didn’t have diabetes anymore. I’m worried that because he’s decided his bear is “cured” that he might decide to stop taking his insulin shots, which he learned to do at a very early age. What do you think? Am I worried for nothing, or is there a risk here?

 

[email protected] D’Mine answers: I love Rufus! For any of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him, Rufus is a Teddy Bear who has diabetes. He comes complete with a medic alert bracelet and with little patches showing where he needs his shots and where he needs his paw pricked for his blood sugar tests. His mission (and the mission of his various sponsors through the JDRF over the years) is to make the childhood diagnosis experience less lonely. JDRF tells me that 163,000 Rufus bears have been given to newly diagnosed children as part of their Bags of Hope kits since Carol Cramer sewed the first one for her own child with diabetes in 1996 (and then went on to create the next 1,300 bears at her own expense, borrowing against her life insurance policy to fund the project).

Thanks, Carol, for all you did for those children, and the incredible legacy you created!

While it’s been wonderful for those scores of children, I have to confess that I’m still a little bitter that those of us diagnosed with diabetes as adults aren’t given Rufus bears! Hell, I had to go and buy mine on eBay.

Anyway, thanks for writing in, Elizabeth. Is there risk your grandson will stop taking his life-saving meds, requiring adult intervention? Well, no matter what we look at in the Universe, there is always some risk. But this doesn’t feel too risky to me from your description.

My first thought was that your little grandson might be engaged in some sort of instinctive primitive magic, the way our ancient ancestors tired to change the universe by proxy. He could be trying to do the same, trying to change his own personal universe. He might assume that if the bear can be cured, so too can he.

I’ve seen this kind of thing in kids with diabetes before. Not quite the same, but equally creative, is one of my favorite stories of kiddos with diabetes trying to change their universe: the case of a nine-year-old girl with diabetes who wanted ice cream. She figured if her blood sugar was low she’d have a better case for the treat, so she tried to game her Dexcom CGM by giving it a series of low-ball calibration sticks to drag it down into the hypo range. I guess it was more a case of leveraging the universe with technology rather than magic, but it has the same flavor for me.

Her mother was torn between being furious and admiring the attempt. I was heavily in the admiring camp.

Anyway, might your grandson stop or cut back on his meds to follow his beloved Rufus into the land of the sugar-normals? I seriously doubt it, but one never knows. So just to cover your bases, here’s what I would do (“bearing” in mind that I’m no child psychologist): First, say, 'Well that’s pretty amazing. I know that they’ve been trying to cure diabetes in bears for many decades. How’d they manage to finally pull it off?'

Then I might say something like, 'Well, now that they’ve licked diabetes in bears, surely the next step will be to cure it in children.' It might not hurt to add something here about too bad bears are so different from humans that the same cure won’t work on both.

Then I’d follow up with an encouragement for your grandson to keep up with his meds so he’ll be healthy when the cure finally comes. 

The important thing with this kind of conversation is balance. Don’t forget that generations of type 1s have been told the cure is right around the corner. And maybe it is, but we’ve been around quite a few corners and we are still cureless.

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, nor do I want to foster false hope. It’s hard to foster healthy expectations, given our track record on this disease, but at the same time I understand that having no hope at all isn’t healthy—especially for a young person.

And, of course, both you and I may have totally overthought this, as adults often do.

It could just be that he’s simply outgrown his bear. I carried mine with me everywhere I went from when I got him at age 40 to about age 50, then started leaving him home on longer trips. Then on shorter trips. Now I’m not even sure where the heck he is. So, like me, maybe your grandson just doesn’t need Rufus as much as he used to. But rather than lose track of him like I did, your grandson decided to pay back Rufus for all his help—by curing him.

Sounds like a great kid. Maybe he’ll grow up to cure diabetes in children, as well as in bears.

 

This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

Disclaimer

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.