Judi Ferne knows firsthand how diabetes can affect families: her dad was diagnosed when she was a teenager, and two of her aunts died from diabetes complications in their twenties. She also lost a friend who died in her forties. “I watched her struggle for years with type 1 diabetes and the many complications she developed over the years,” says Ferne.
However, none of those experiences prepared the 68-year-old nurse from Ottawa for her daughter’s diagnosis. Although her daughter, Kimberley Hanson, developed type 1 diabetes at the age of 20, Hanson’s diagnosis wasn’t confirmed until two years later. By that time, she was very ill.
I felt helpless and it took me several years to fully grasp what we were dealing with. I would have given anything for it to be me rather than my daughter going through this.
Fortunately, the helplessness that Ferne felt as a mother did not stop her from taking action. For almost 20 years ago, she has volunteered, raising money, awareness and support for her daughter and all Canadians living with or affected by diabetes. After participating in local events for a few years, she created the charity, Canadian Discovery Canadian Cure (now known as Cure Diabetes). The charity, which supports adults living with type 1 diabetes, funds research at The Ottawa Hospital and Ottawa University. It has also paid for public education sessions and grants for insulin pump supplies for those with financial challenges. Since 2005, Cure Diabetes has raised almost $500,000.
Today, Ferne’s energy is directed toward supporting Diabetes Canada’s national diabetes strategy, Diabetes 360˚. Her daughter, who is now 45 and works as federal affairs executive director at Diabetes Canada, played a major role in developing the strategy. This past summer, Ferne was one of two lead volunteers in Ontario, who collected signatures on a petition to present to the government. “We have an epidemic and yet no plan for dealing with prevention, management or support,” she says. “I remain hopeful that through Diabetes 360˚, we can prevent many people from developing diabetes, and that more Canadians will be helped in the management of their disease.”
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