Westford Academy graduate Cara Curran is preparing to run her first marathon and she’s doing it with the team from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston to support the fight against diabetes.
For Cara, the fight is personal. She has three younger brothers, two of whom have Type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease occurring when a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin – the hormone that controls blood-sugar levels.
Cara graduated with the Class of 2011 and her brothers Tim Curran with the Class of 2014, Brian Curran with the Class of 2017, and Matthew Curran is in the class of 2020. Brian was 5 and Tim 12 when they were diagnosed.
Cara was around 11 when Brian was first diagnosed. Tim was diagnosed about four and a half years later, she said.
“I remember my mom and dad taking out a clementine from the fridge and we would practice giving glucagon or insulin injections, so in case there was a time where my mom or dad wasn’t around and Brian was either having really high blood sugar or really low blood sugar, we would know how to treat him,” Cara said.
“It’s come to the point now, not that we’re used to it, but it’s just kind of a family disease,” added Cara. “If one person has it, we all have to kind of look out for each other and be aware.”
Cara is fundraising with Team Joslin ahead of the 2018 Boston Marathon and has raised about $1,500 of her $10,000 goal on her CrowdRise page.
The Littleton Tavern in the Square will feature Cara for its “Dine For A Cause” Dec. 21, with a percentage of the proceeds being donated to Cara’s cause.
What is Type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes affects both children and adults and develops when the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells are destroyed by the body’s immune system.
The cause is unclear, but scientists believe it may have genetic and environmental components. There is no known way to prevent or cure the condition.
T1D requires constant management with insulin — either with injections or an insulin pump. People with T1D must balance insulin intake with eating, exercise, and other activities and must measure their blood-sugar levels through finger pricks or by wearing a continuous glucose monitor.
There are 1.25 million Americans living with T1D and 40,000 people are diagnosed annually in the United States alone, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Five million people in the U.S. are expected to have T1D by the year 2050, including nearly 600,000 youth.
Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2015, cited as the underlying cause of death on 79,535 death certificates, according to the 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report.
Running for a personal cause
Cara went to college at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut and works as a physical therapist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Having completed a few half-marathons in college, running in the Boston Marathon was always on her bucket list, she said. When Cara got her job at Beth Israel Deaconess, she decided to apply for the Joslin marathon team.
“I applied for the Joslin marathon team because I figured if I’m going to run, I want to run for my brothers and for a cause I’m passionate about,” Cara said. “What better way to do it than for them.”
Both Brian and Tim have gone to the Joslin Diabetes Center for their care over the years.
“They’ve just been completely a part of our lives ever since Brian was diagnosed,” Cara said.
All of the money raised by Team Joslin supports the High Hopes Fund, a fund that contributes to Joslin’s capacity to prevent, treat and cure diabetes through research, comprehensive patient care and education, according to Cara.
Advancements over the years
Since Brian and Tim have been diagnosed, Cara has seen the Joslin Diabetes Center lead the charge advancing technology and care in the field.
Cara said she’s seen her brother Brian go from carrying syringes and vials of insulin to an insulin pen. She said she’s seen Tim go from pricking his fingers every hour to test his blood sugar to wearing a sensor relaying glucose levels straight to his phone.
“All I can think of is back almost 15 years ago when Brian was first diagnosed. It was an unknown what his blood sugar was unless he tested it through his finger. It was an unknown of if we’re dialing up his insulin right. Are we injecting it into the right muscle if he’s going to go play a sport at this time,” said Cara. “Now it’s almost no question. They have it almost down to a science. But still, it’s something that although we have all this technology… at the end of the day, they’re still dependent on insulin and it’s still that extra thing they have to think about.”
With promising research and modern advancements for a cure, Cara hopes to one day see her brothers free from insulin injections, free from sensors, and free from the complications of diabetes.
“What we went through as a family having two kids diagnosed, it just makes me realize that yes, we’ve gone through a lot, but Joslin has progressed the technology so far and now we’re on the cusp of such amazing research, that I want to make sure… that no other kid has to go through what they went through to get to the point they’re at now,” Cara said.
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