Living with diabetes

Araica McPhee’s consultation with the diabetes specialist in Vancouver was a memorable one. “I felt like I was dying.

Araica McPhee’s consultation with the diabetes specialist in Vancouver was a memorable one.

“I felt like I was dying. He told me that I would have probably been dead tomorrow, which is enough to scare anyone senseless,” the 32-year-old Whitehorse woman recalls of the day she walked into his office nine years ago, weak, emaciated, nauseous and wracked with muscle cramps.

“That was it: the start of a new life the very next morning.”

She had been experiencing minor symptoms for nine months.

The mortgage broker suddenly needed glasses.

Her legs began cramping, a result of a starving body that, without insulin, cannot make use of the sugar it takes in, and is forced to begin eating into the muscles for energy instead.

“You just know that your body is literally dying on you,” she says. “Every little piece is stopping working.”

Her doctor, whom she describes as “excellent,” had suspected diabetes and tested McPhee, but ruled it out when her blood sugar measures came back normal.

“At that point, I had given up on the doctor. There were no more tests to do,” says McPhee, who endured ultrasounds and a battery of other blood work in an attempt to determine the cause of her sickness.

The doctor had erred in testing her only randomly, and her sugar levels had so happened to be normal at those times.

McPhee is now outfitted with a computerized insulin pump, which delivers a steady stream of the vital sugar-processing hormone, allowing for more flexible mealtimes and more even blood sugar levels.

Still, everyday stress, surprises and even hormonal cycles throw curve balls into managing the levels, creating ill effects and mood swings, she says.

McPhee, like a growing number of others who are developing Type 1 diabetes, has no relatives with the disease.

“It seems a waste to be angry about it. No one can fix it. It’s nobody’s fault. It happened. It’s a part of me now,” she says.

But she admits wondering how and why it appeared in her family for the first time.

After reading a wealth of books and articles on the subject, she now believes it may be linked to her severe childhood allergy to milk.

Active in a number of diabetes advocacy efforts and groups, McPhee has met far too many people in her age group with the same history to dismiss the theory.

“Not every single person I have met has been allergic to milk, but certainly the great majority, and that’s an awfully big coincidence,” she says. “For me, I’m just going to assume that’s it. You need a reason to rationalize things.”

It was not so long ago that diabetes was a rare disease.

Although the rate has climbed steadily over the past century, a short generation ago most people likely felt unless someone in their family had the misfortune, they were at little to no risk for Type 1, also known as juvenile or insulin-dependent, diabetes.

But today, it is common for children and young adults like McPhee, who have allergies and other autoimmune disorders, to develop Type 1.

The days of attributing juvenile diabetes to genetics are over, says Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and President of the Vienna, Virginia-based National Vaccination Information Centre, in a telephone interview.

“You don’t have a genetic epidemic. Something has changed in our environment.”

Fisher, whose 29-year-old son was rendered mentally disabled by complications from a routine diphtheria, tetanus and polio vaccine at 18 months, travels the US speaking about the dangers of vaccination, which she and a growing body of experts and lay people believe to be the common thread in a number of exploding epidemics, including Type 1 diabetes.

“More vaccines equal more diabetes,” proclaims a sub-heading of an article posted on the centre’s website, which challenges every aspect of vaccinations, from their content to the agendas behind their delivery, and even the science by which some of them were created.

“If I had used that methodology in my Grade 8 science class, I would have flunked,” says Fisher.

According to its figures, juvenile diabetes, which strikes most of its victims when they are between the ages of five to nine, has increased six-fold in America over the past 39 years, putting the number of diabetics at almost 16 million.

There is little reason to believe Canada’s youth fare much better.

The Canadian Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation pegs the number at more than 200,000 in a nation that ranks third highest in occurrence.

It carries almost as many postulations for causes as it does side effects and complications.

One aspect all experts agree on is diabetes, like allergies and arthritis, is an autoimmune disorder, meaning the immune system of the sufferer turns on the body it is intended to defend, attacking the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.

And, like other autoimmune disorders, diabetes can result from the disruption of the natural development of the body’s immune system by vaccines containing the same chemicals found in substances such as roach killer, as well as heavy metals and the very viruses against which the shots are intended to defend children, says Fisher.

“By preventing all infection and not allowing the immune system to experience infections the way it should, it sets it up for chronic dysfunction.”

“Nothing can be left off the table, when immune system and brain are developing at a rapid rate,” says Fisher, adding the number and frequency of vaccinations for children worldwide has more than doubled since the 1950s.

The upsurge in diabetes and other chronic conditions has been met with a paradoxical mix of panic and apathy.

In her past 20 years of advocacy, Fisher has faced an uphill battle in awakening the world to the possibility that childhood vaccinations are rendering children sick and disabled.

“Vaccination has become the new sacrament,” she says.

The human cost of diabetes is devastating.

Despite diligent blood-sugar monitoring, a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and several times-daily injections of insulin, via needle or pump, diabetics still face, on average, a 15-year shortening of lifespan, largely due to complications such as kidney failure, heart attack and stroke.

They are also several times more prone to adult blindness, nerve damage and the need for amputation.

Sometimes called “the disease of affluence,” because of its prevalence in the developed and, in many cases, obese population, diabetes is also creating an unprecedented burden on North America’s medical systems.

In 1992, America’s total medical bill for treatment, lost work time, disability payments and premature death was $132 billion, according to the vaccine centre.

Given the epidemic continues to grow at an astounding three to five per cent per year, Fisher shudders to think what measures desperate taxpayers and decision-makers will take in the near future to combat it.

“Society will begin to justify euthanasia, because they can’t pay for it all,” she says.

Her organization charges the administrators of the mass-vaccination program employ the “utilitarian rational,” or the belief that the death and injury of a few are acceptable for the benefit of the many.

The centre advocates not for the elimination of vaccines, but for the parents’ rights to make an informed decision about their dangers, and to have the right to decide whether or not to vaccinate their children, says Fisher.

“The crisis is that they’re only telling people half the story,” she says. “They (parents) suddenly feel betrayed. They’re really being stupid, the powers that be. They’re lying to them and deceiving them. It’s a recipe for revolution.”

Unlike Yukon, in much of the US, vaccination is mandated.

Some parents who are threatened with criminal charges or other penalties for refusing to vaccinate their children are resorting to forging vaccination certificates, says Fisher.

But, even if an increasing number of parents are awakening to the possibility vaccinations can harm their children, Fisher’s message still meets with great resistance and refutation from the medical establishment.

“They’ve tried for years to neutralize me, and discredit me,” she says. “It’s difficult for doctors who push drugs and vaccinations that they’ve hurt more children than they’ve helped.

“The problem is the truth is more powerful in the end.”

The annual walk to cure diabetes takes place in Shipyards Park on Sunday, May 27 at 1 pm. Registration is at 11:30.