At first glance, Trevor Kennedy looks like a typical 16-year-old.
The Armstrong resident goes to high school in Vernon and plays midget rep hockey with his goal next fall to earn a spot on the Kamloops major midget team.
But the cord hanging from his pocket belies the reality that Trevor is living with type 1 diabetes, one of an estimated 33,000 school aged children afflicted with the disease, according to the Canadian Pediatric Society.
That cord connects a sensor in Trevor’s cell phone to a pump that injects insulin into his body to manage his blood sugar levels.
It is part of the reality that Trevor has adopted into his everyday life since he was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes nine years ago.
“Beyond the blood sugar testing, it doesn’t affect me too much. I have to test every time I eat to apply insulin to match with what I’m eating,” he said.
“With hockey, I have to test my blood sugars after the first and second periods and make sure I have chocolate milk on the bench in case I need sugar or extra water. I have to keep the hockey pump on me when I play, which I protect with bubble wrap and kleenex, but I’ve broken a few.”
The cell phone app sensor has removed the need for daily insulin needle injections.
Teri Kennedy, Trevor’s mom, defined the initial diagnosis as life-changing not just for her son but for their family, which includes an older sibling who doesn’t have diabetes.
“Our world was turned upside down but you know what, you just have to take each day as it comes,” said Teri.
She has learned a lot about diabetes in their journey, information she has passed on to Trevor to enable him to be responsible for his own disease management.
“One thing you find is no two days are ever the same. And some days are more challenging than others. We try to carry on life as normal.”
Trevor’s extended family includes his cousin, award winning country singer Ben Klick, who has become a strong advocate for the JDRF Walk To Cure Diabetes, taking place this year at Mission Creek Park on Sunday, June 10, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Klick says the life changing aspect of a diabetes diagnosis for his relatives also carried over to his family as well.
“It was an adjustment for the rest of the family watching them go through this. We all have learned a lot more about the disease as a result. I think I have only missed one walk event since Trevor was diagnosed,” said Klick, who lives in West Kelowna.
While there has always been a live band performing as part of the activities surrounding the walk, last year Klick said his aunt told him “you should get yourself in there and go do it,” pointing to the stage.
“That sparked something in me to figure out how I could get more involved and the end result is I will be performing at this year’s event,” he said.
Shannon Jolley, fundraising and development manager for JDRF in Kelowna, says adults diagnosed with diabetes still far outnumber children, in part because of symptom recognition.
“A lot of parents think their child is sick with the flu or have a cold, but it gets worse and worse until the realization sets in it might be worse than a virus,” Jolley said.
Some of those symptoms, she says, included constantly being thirsty, peeing a lot or losing weight.
“If someone is undiagnosed, and you go on a vacation field trip and you have to stop every half hour because your child has to go to the bathroom, something is just not right.
“And the insidious nature of this disease is it is not passed on by the parents. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor and get your blood tested.”
For Trevor, the ‘Why me?’ question is one that he’s had to work out in his own mind over time.
“Sometimes I have asked myself that question, but then I think it also makes me stronger and I have learned things about myself.
“Just like playing hockey. Eight year ago I thought I wouldn’t be able to play anymore but here I am today playing at the highest level for my age.”
Trevor’s mom concurs with that assessment, saying she can’t remember ever hearing him say to her he felt sorry for himself, even though his 22-year-old sister is healthy.
“I think sometimes I have tougher days than he does, but I am very proud of him,” she said.
She is also thankful they have the health coverage means to apply new technological advances to Trevor’s life to ease the adjustment to loving with diabetes.
She says the old school practices of insulin needles and pinpricking your finger to monitor blood sugars is not Trevor’s current reality, but it comes at a price.
“We have all the modern bells and whistles that we can but he uses equipment now that costs $12,000 to $15,000. It’s tough enough for us to manage but for people without any kind of coverage for those costs, it’s hard to access that.”
The JDRF Walk raises money in part to foster research on finding a cure for diabetes but also to help families with the financial constraints of affording new treatment advances in technology.
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