Help find a cure for diabetes

Hello, my name is David Swett. I grew up in Saranac Lake, and graduated from Saranac Lake High School in 1969. Though much of this arrival is about my struggle with diabetes, that is not my goal. Some of you may remember me, most will not, but I consider Saranac Lake my hometown, and it was there I gained the strength to endure, survive and become a positive, productive member of society!

Diabetes, that insidious modifier of good health, has plagued me since I was 10 years old. I was not diagnosed until about two years later, and was the beginning of a journey fraught with pain, the breakdown if almost every living cell in my body, and caused tremendous emotional trauma on myself as well as all who have been close to me. As a result of this disease, I have had a heart attack, a five-way bypass of my heart, both vascular and nerve disease, two kidney transplants, multiple surgeries on both eyes, an amputation of my right lower leg, and many broken bones due to the osteoporosis caused by the many anti-rejection medications. I have been pronounced all but dead on six occasions, have had too many hospitalizations to count, have had hypertension and continue to take insulin as well as 26 assorted pills twice daily. Furthermore, I am immune-suppressed to avoid rejection of my donated kidneys, which began with my first transplant in 1989. There is not a cell in my body that has not felt the wrath of this disease!

Diabetes has always caused tremendous stress on my emotional stability as I deal with my many illnesses, as well as the deleterious effects all this has on those I love and care deeply about. Thus, this disease has taken its toll. It has caused my family, friends, the medical profession and myself further pain due to the constant battle between the disease and us all.

Please note that I am not relating my history to gain sympathy, as I have never asked for nor given myself any quarter for being afflicted. What I do want to do is point out the monumental need for science to find a cure. We do have the knowledge to help control the disease through a balance of exercise, insulin/pills and diet. However, that is still only a control. Pills and insulin for type 2 diabetes, insulin for type 1 diabetes, exercise and diet, but no cure! Even a diabetic who neurotically controls his or her diabetes still faces the looming complications of the disease.

Some basic facts about diabetes may better illustrate the tremendous need to find a cure. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and the American Diabetes Association, the following is true:

There are 25.8 million diabetics living with diabetes in America alone. Of this number, 18.5 million are diagnosed and 7 million are undiagnosed. This 7 million undiagnosed number is especailly significant because these people face earlier onset of severe complications.

A diabetic is twice as likely to die than a person of the same age without the disease.

Complications of diabetes include heart disease, stroke, vascular disease, nervous system impairment, kidney disease, hypertension, amputation (especially of lower limbs), diseases of the eye, blindness and complicated pregnancies.

Diabetes was cited as the underlying cause in 70,000 deaths and a contributing factor in another 160,000 deaths. Therefore, diabetes was involved in more than 230,000 deaths according to the 2007 statistics.

Finally, there is the financial burden on our medical system as it tries to tend to so many afflicted souls. It costs an estimated $174 BILLION each year to treat diabetes. This includes $164 billion in direct care and $58 billion in lost work time and productivity, disability and premature deaths. One out of every 10 health care dollars is diabetes related.

Therefore, I believe it is imperative that science find a cure rather than depend on control. I, for one, am extremely fortunate to be alive. But this did not come cheaply as there has been constant pain and many illnesses. Two people in my life have loved me enough to each give a kidney, and my family has needed to cope with the unbelievable stress of never seeing an end to the toll this disease has on us all. Multiply that by the 25.5 million with diabetes, and I believe you will see how devastating this disease is.

I also must work very hard to stay alive. I work out three to five times a week at the gym, ride my bike daily and do hope one day to be walking without any aids. In the end, though, if we are to find a cure, we do need money.

On Saturday, March 22, I will be riding in my second yearly Tour de Cure, and I am hoping my hometown will help by donating whatever they believe appropriate. The amount does not matter – the support does. Please donate on the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure website under my name, as it will mean so much to so many.

David Swett lives in Phoenix, Ariz., where he will ride in the Tour de Cure Saturday. Donations can be made to sponsor his effort at main.diabetes.org/site/TR/TourdeCure/TourAdmin?px=8420869&pg=personal&fr_id=9290.