Ellen is a long time volunteer advocate for diabetes awareness. She came to Victoria two years ago after she retired and became an activist with the Canadian Diabetes Associations and a frequent speaker on diabetes awareness. Helen has been motivated by her daughter's diabetes. She was a distinguished lawyer for the Federal government and involved in many of the trade agreements Canada has signed.

Ellen was overwhelmed and impressed to be at Harbourside Rotary particularly because of the early hour. She was excited to be here to talk on World Diabetes Day, November 14 which is Frederick Banting's birthday. Banting discovered insulin 91 years ago. Helen's former father-in-law was a member of the Banting lab where researchers were experimenting on themselves. Besides Banting, Canadians have shown leadership in searching for a cure for diabetes, including the Edmonton Protocol.

When Ellen's daughter was 21, studying in Europe and running marathons, a test showed she had sugar in her urine and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. The doctor asked to see her feet and commented "they're good now" which scared her. Diabetes often leads to amputation of the feet. The daughter needed to talk to young international athletes. She is 42 and still running marathons and she is involved in making a documentary film about a potential cure in Irving CA. Helen is convinced there will be a cure for diabetes in her daughter's lifetime, though maybe not in Helen's.

Type 1 diabetes affects 10% and is sometimes inaccurately called insulin dependent diabetes. In fact, with Type 1 diabetics, the pancreas stops producing insulin. You are on insulin forever. Before the discovery of insulin, these people would die. It used to be called juvenile diabetes but that is no longer true. Helen's daughter was 21, then someone 42 was diagnosed and now people in their 50s are being diagnosed.

With Type 2 diabetes, the body keeps producing insulin but the body becomes resistant to insulin. Type 2 diabetes is tied to obesity and it is critical to get exercise, stay in reasonable shape and eat well. Even if you have a tendency toward diabetes, the onset and severity of symptoms can be delayed. Type 2 diabetes is an epidemic. It is largely lifestyle related and it doesn't have to happen. In general an apple shape is bad and a pear shape not so bad. Lifestyle risks include eating out and eating too much, especially sugar based foods.

There are risks independent of lifestyle as well. Having a parent, brother or sister with diabetes puts you at greater risk. Ethnic background is also important with Aboriginals, Asians, South Asians and Hispanics at greater risk. Helen has been to First Nations communities where every man, woman and child has diabetes. Other risk factors include having had gestational diabetes, schizophrenia, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Symptoms include frequent desire to urinate, being thirsty, a change in weight, feeling tired, tingling of the hands and feet and a difficulty holding an erection. Sometimes, however, symptoms are not there. There are 9 million Canadians with diabetes and 366 million globally. The Fasting blood test can help determine risk. If numbers are consistently high but below diabetes, you are on track for diabetes and it's a heads up to get fit. All you have to do is walk several times a week for 30 minutes.

Complications from diabetes can include blindness, heart disease, kidney problems, amputations and early death. Diabetes affects all of us. It is a crisis and a financial burden to our health care system and society. 

The Edmonton Protocol was an attempt by a team of MDs to transplant the Islets of Langerhan (insulin producers) by injecting them in to insulin-dependent patients. Only people at risk of dying were used in the research. It was not deemed a success yet even though they used the sickest patients, one or two of the original 10 are still insulin independent. There was a problem with rejection. Jonathan Lakey is extending the Edmonton Protocol in Irving CA, encapsulating the Islets in salt water. This reduces the anti-rejection drugs. There are dozens of other research programs throughout the world looking at how to make transplanting successful. It offers the best hope for a cure.