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Omaha moms see cure in daughters' lifetimes: "We're just so hopeful now that it's around the corner"

Jill Conway and Beth Leach stepped up their involvement with JDRF last year. Now, they want all parents to know the signs of type 1 diabetes, emphasizing early detection.
Posted at 11:28 AM, May 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-10 12:28:22-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — KMTV has proudly partnered with JDRF for years, including as sponsor of One Night. This year, the gala raised more than $1.4 million. In this medical space, donations are essentially making a difference in real time.

Two Omaha moms whose daughters were both diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 10 years old explain:

  • Symptoms can include weight loss, thirst and a lack of energy.
  • Early detection is key and can affect how someone manages the chronic autoimmune disease throughout their lifetime.
  • Recent advancements in the realms of medicine, monitors and pumps provide encouragement that a cure could come, too: "We're just so hopeful now that it's around the corner."

Continue reading for the expanded version of the story, as well as links to information provided by JDRF:

"Whitney lost about 10 pounds in two weeks."

Beth Leach said her daughter was also extra thirsty and lethargic.

Similarly, Jill Conway's daughter, Maggie, was constantly tired.

"She also had some respiratory symptoms. So, we thought she had a cold, then we thought she had COVID," Jill shared.

For Maggie and for Whitney, both 10 years old at the time, the diagnosis was type 1 diabetes.

"It was devastating. But I knew we could do it. You know? Like I've been doing it for 35 years."

Jill herself has lived most of her life with T1D. It's why she was one of the first calls for Beth. The two have been friends since high school. Then, together, they stepped up their involvement with JDRF last year. Money they've helped raise will fund ongoing research, including medications, as Beth acknowledged what's already approved.

"The fact that there's drugs now that can delay an onset for a family who might have a T1D - that's huge. I can't imagine a three to five or beyond for our daughter."

That's the potential with Tzield, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2022, after decades of JDRF-funded research for the intravenous infusion.

Jill added, "We've tested my additional children. I know Beth has tested her children. And so, now, we know what to look for. And so, the possibility that, if our other children get it, and we can keep on track of that - we could delay it - that is phenomenal."

The ultimate goal for the Conway and Leach families is a cure.

"We're just so hopeful now that it's around the corner," Jill said.

This would impact a growing number of families. From 2017 to 2020, the Centers for Disease Control tracked a nearly 30% increase in the number of people diagnosed, with the sharpest growth in African American and Hispanic kids and teens. Why is not known.

Jill and Beth have a direct message for all parents.

"If you have any inkling of your kid being just a bit off, press for that," Beth emphasized.

Jill expanded, "Once you check their blood sugar and it's out of range - it's a really easy test. A quick finger poke. And you'll know pretty quickly then... even just checking the blood sugar right away when you're having those symptoms."

There's a sense of urgency because, with T1D, finding out sooner can impact how someone manages the disease for the rest of their life.

To learn more about the importance of screening, visit this website.

Additionally, this article spells out 10 advancements from 2023, many of which were supported by Nebraskans' and Iowans' donations to JDRF.

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