Family in Ottawa to lobby for a cure

Tomas Kalyniuk, 12, has been living with diabetes for six years

Tomas Kalyniuk

Tomas Kalyniuk

He’s quick to smile and to laugh and he can ride a bicycle like no one’s business.

Yet, there are times when Tomas Kalyniuk, 12, gets a little quiet and tired.

That’s when the monitoring steps up for the young North Saanich boy and his family.

Tomas has Type 1 diabetes, discovered when he was six years old. His mom, Carmen Welta, says she noticed Tomas was drinking a lot, then urinating just as much. Having seen similar symptoms in friends of the family, Carmen said when her son’s own symptoms became severe, she knew she had to get him to a doctor.

“It was diagnosed quite quickly,” she said. “It was devastating at the time, as we didn’t know how it would affect our son.”

Armed with a little knowledge about the impacts of diabetes, the family pressed on and these days, Tomas is living a pretty normal life. Sure, he wears a monitoring device, has to really watch what he eats and take insulin regularly, but he’s still a 12-year-old, active young man.

“It’s a new normal, a new lifestyle,” admitted mom. “We do have awareness at all times and diabetes never takes a break.”

Nor does Tomas, it seems. Apart from getting As and Bs in his classes at North Saanich Middle School, he is an avid cyclist, entering races and even riding with Ryder Hesjedal during the 2011 Bastion Square Grand Prix. His favourite place to ride is Dean Park.

“It has a great, big area,” he said of the space in which he can ride, adding he enjoys the hills.

While he rides, Tomas ensures he has food and drink with him to control blood sugar spikes and valleys. Too much or too little can cause serious problems with his diabetes.

But thanks to the monitoring technology he has, as well as an automatic insulin pump, his condition can be controlled a lot easier than in previous decades.

Carmen said it’s advanced in diabetes research and treatment that has enabled her son to live a more normal life.

For that reason, the pair are in Ottawa this week, lobbying MPs and other parliamentarians on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

Tomas is one of 40 youth delegates chosen to go to the capital, as part of Kids For A Cure that was held yesterday (Nov. 27). He was there on behalf of the JDRF to show the benefits of diabetes research on people’s lives — and how more money and support is needed to get closer to a cure.

“These kids taking part are living proof that research is making a difference,” mom said.

In Tomas’ case, he wears a continuous glucose monitoring sensor. It’s a device that shows blood sugar levels every five minutes. Six years ago, she continued, it didn’t exist.

“This is a wonderful tool to show when his sugar levels are fluctuating, enabling him to take action.

“Over the past six years, we’ve seen pretty significant changes.”

Carmen said part of the effort in Ottawa this week is to try and expand support for the Canadian Clinical Trial Network and get it into the western provinces. She said it’s a southern Ontario program that gets people into clinical trials of new treatments. She said it would be great to see the program expand west.

Carmen said taking Tomas to Ottawa as part of the lobbying effort is a great opportunity, as well, to see the sights, visit Quebec and take in places like the Bank of Canada and aviation museum.