It has been a decade since now 17-year-old Blythe Beebe, a recent Hoquiam High graduate and musician from Ocean Shores, first received the daunting diagnosis that would change the rest of her life.
“At first they thought I had mono … but then they found sugar in my urine” she said of a month long process in which doctors finally determined she had Type 1 Diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas does not produce insulin, a hormone that allows energy to be derived from food.
The disease — believed to be caused by both genetic factors and environmental triggers — had not previously appeared in her family.
It was at that diagnosis that she was first introduced to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDFR), which has now selected her to join 150 other young people from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, along with six international delegates, ages 4 to 17 with the disease — to come to Washington, D.C., next week to remind members of Congress of the need for continued support of research for a cure.
Actress Mary Tyler Moore is the JDRF Children’s Congress International Chairman and hosts the event, which was first held in 1999. The organization is currently sponsoring $530 million in scientific research in 17 countries and was named one of Forbes five “All-Star” charities for 2012, citing the group’s efficiency and effectiveness.
“They (JDFR) are introduced after diagnosis. They are there to give help if you need anything,” said Beebe, who said she has applied to participate in the JDRF children’s Congress — which takes place every other summer — every chance she has had since her diagnosis.
Despite waiting 10 years for a chance to join the group in D.C., Beebe worked hard to raise awareness in her own community, using her passion for music as a starting point; she started playing alongside her father as a young girl, but more recently has taken on a promising solo career. She hosted “Rock to Cure Diabetes” at the 7th Street Theatre in 2012, and the “Talent for a Cure” at the Ocean Shores Lion’s Club in 2011, raising a total of more than $2,000 for Type 1 Diabetes Research. She also participates in JDRF’s Walk to Cure Diabetes.
Her fervor for a cure was given a push after she says she developed depression a couple of years ago, rebelling against the disease, which is costly and has a need for constant supervision. Beebe needs to check her blood sugar 10 times a day, and to have 10 shots a day or to have an insulin pump — costly at upward of $7,000 — attached to her at all times. Type 1 Diabetes is known as one of the most costly chronic diseases, Beebe adds, citing the $1 strips she uses 10 times a day to check her blood sugar.
“I just didn’t want to take care of it, I wanted to be a normal kid,” said Blythe, adding her parents were essential in “keeping her on her toes” through these times.
The event will last three days, July 8 to the 10, but Beebe plans to stay for a total of 10 days, to “explore” with her mother and father, visiting historical monuments and sites in the area.
“I’ve been once before, but didn’t get to see everything,” she said.
Members of the group will perform a song, “Promise to Remember Me”— written by Crystal Bowersox, an American Idol runner-up who also has Type 1 diabetes — as a choir and will testify with their own stories during a visit that will include congressional visits by delegates and a Senate hearing. Moore, who has had type 1 diabetes for more than four decades, will also testify on the need for continued research funding.
While an estimated 80 individuals per day are diagnosed with the disease in the U.S., Beebe said her predicament was unprecedented at her Ocean Shoes Elementary school.
“They had to keep me out of school for a week while they figured out what to do,” she said, adding that she was also the only person to have Type-1 Diabetes at Hoquiam High during her time there. The idea of meeting with and sharing experiences with those who have gone through what she has is an exciting thought for Beebe. “Being around 150 kids with the same problems could be a nice change,” she said. A pool of nearly 1,500 applicants with type 1 diabetes applied by writing essays on what they have been through with the disease and what they have done to raise awareness for a cure.
Despite all that Beebe has done locally to raise awareness, she has never lost sight of a desire to raise even more awareness of the disease which drastically impacts an estimated three million Americans, through her story and presence.
“I just wanted to take it even further, I wanted to take it to the national level,” she said.