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Macomb Township

September 18, 2013

Seneca student ready to lead team in Walk to Cure Diabetes

By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer

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Seneca student ready to lead team in Walk to Cure Diabetes
Bianca Palazzolo, a seventh-grade student at Seneca Middle School in Macomb Township — pictured here with her family: mother Rosann, father Gaspare, and younger sister Ivana — is an annual contributor to the Walk to Cure Diabetes, which will be held this year on Sept. 29.

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — When a disease affects you or someone you love, it suddenly stops being something that you’ve only heard about from a safe distance and becomes a living, breathing thing. What once was a chapter in a textbook is now brutally, unavoidably real.

This was the case for Bianca Palazzolo, of Macomb Township, and her family, as well as the countless others who cope with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) every day. Palazzolo, a seventh-grade student at Seneca Middle School, was first diagnosed with T1D in 2009 at age 8. It didn’t take long before she and her family began seeking ways to help in the fight against a disease that affects 80 new people per day in the U.S. alone.

They found a perfect match with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s (JDRF) annual Walk to Cure Diabetes and began rallying dozens of friends and family members to raise money and awareness for the organization. It has been a yearly tradition for the Palazzolos ever since.

“It’s a fun time of year where I get to see all my family and friends, and we do our part to find a cure (for T1D),” Palazzolo said. “We always get a lot of people to come out and walk with us.”

According to Palazzolo’s mother, Rosann Palazzolo, this year the family expects to round up 40 to 45 walkers, with a goal of raising at least $8,000 for JDRF.

“The great thing about JDRF,” explained Rosann Palazzolo, who also serves as a family counselor and guide for the organization, “is that you know that a good portion of the money that you raise is going directly to help kids with diabetes.”

Founded in 1970, JDRF is the leading global nonprofit focused on T1D research. Its goal is to improve the lives of all people affected by T1D by working to cure, treat and prevent the disease. More than 80 percent of JDRF’s expenditures directly support its mission, and the organization has awarded more than $1.7 billion to diabetes research and education since its inception. Each year, more than 900,000 people participate in JDRF walks held in about 200 cities worldwide. These events have raised more than $1 billion since 1992.

In southeast Michigan, there are a pair of JDRF walks taking place on Sept. 29: a 1.5-mile stroll at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren and a 5k marathon at Hudson Hills Metropark in Dexter. Registration for both events opens at 8:30 a.m., while the walks will begin at 9:30 a.m., rain or shine, and conclude at 11:30 a.m. There is no fee to participate, but all walkers are encouraged to raise pledges to go toward T1D research.

The Palazzolos will be walking in the Warren event, each step they take helping JDRF inch closer to finding a cure — or at least making life easier for people with T1D. Things have certainly improved for Bianca Palazzolo since gaining access to an insulin pump in 2010. Since that time, she has progressed from giving herself six to eight insulin shots per day to using her pump just once every two days. Still, she has to check her blood-sugar level about five times daily and admitted that she still has her fair share of bad days.

“I’m pretty much used to it now,” she said, “but sometimes it’s still really hard. It can be very frustrating.”

Added Rosann Palazzolo, “I never thought that I could accept it, but you eventually learn that you have to. Type 1 diabetes is not something that you ever outgrow, and every day is a battle. But children need to know that just because they have diabetes, their life doesn’t stop — they can still do all the same things that other kids do.”

The Palazzolos have made great efforts to make sure that their daughter does not feel limited by her T1D. To stay physically active, she plays on a travel basketball team and attends dance class every week. She also wants to become a youth ambassador for JDRF this year, a role that would give her the opportunity to attend various JDRF events and talk to other kids who are Type 1 diabetics.

According to Michael Craig, development manager for the metro Detroit, southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio chapter of JDRF, much of the scientific research that the organization conducts is to help people like Bianca Palazzolo learn to live more comfortably with their T1D until a cure is found.

“We have a lot of different irons in the fire,” Craig explained. “There are many types of research that we feel can be very valuable to the diabetic community, and they’re not all cure-based. We’re also trying to find new ways to minimize the effects of diabetes through treatment and prevention before we can eradicate it for good.”

Craig noted that T1D used to be informally known as “juvenile diabetes” because the vast majority of people who were diagnosed were kids between the ages of 6 and 15. In recent years, though, that age range has expanded considerably, with infants as young as 8 or 9 months and adults in their 30s now being diagnosed.

As a Type 1 diabetic himself, Craig fully understands the difficulties of living with the disease. When he was first diagnosed at age 9, he was receiving four insulin injections per day. But by the time he was 18, he was doing as many as 10 injections per day, along with about 10 blood-sugar tests.

“It gets easier, but it doesn’t necessarily get any better,” Craig said. “T1D is always going to be a burden; it’s always going to be a struggle. You just have to learn to adapt, because it’s not something that you have any control over.”

Still, for the Palazzolo family, one of the main reasons to take part in the Walk to Cure Diabetes each fall is to try to regain some of that control. Rosann Palazzolo believes that helping JDRF work toward its goal provides hope that her daughter, and millions of other kids like her, may be able to experience a future without T1D.

“We look forward to doing this walk every year because it reminds us that life carries on,” Rosann Palazzolo said, “and hopefully someday we can find a cure. We know that eventually, things will get better.”

To register for the JDRF walk in Warren on Sept. 29, visit www.walk.jdrf.org.

For more information, contact Krystal Dunlap at (248) 936-1282 or at kdunlap@jdrf.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jeremy Selweski at jSelweski@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5004.