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Apparitions and Optimism.

You know, if I were to describe a condition that’s as emotionally charged as it is physically challenging, I don’t know if I could describe one that fits the bill more than diabetes.

Our blood sugar can go from to perfectly annoying to perfectly comfortable to perfectly fearful in the span of a single day. We can do nothing we’re told to do to take care of ourselves and wind up with zero complications. We can do everything we’re told to do to take care of ourselves and wind up with multiple complications. Yes, we think about these things almost daily.

So we hope.

We dream of the day when we won’t have to worry about our poorly or totally non-functioning beta cells. Parents of kids living with diabetes dream of the day when they won’t have to check to see if their child is still alive in the middle of the night.

We’ve seen a number of promising products talked about on websites, in podcasts, and over various forms of social media. But most of those products never make it in front of patients.

Many don’t make it simply because they’re bad ideas. Others don’t make it because they’re not any better than the products they’re aiming to replace. Still others fail because the laws of science just won’t allow for the inventor’s dream to become a reality.

Some of the drugs and devices we get excited about do make it to market. But then they fail anyway. Again, because they’re a bad product, they’re not much of an improvement over existing options, or the company that produces the product just can’t make enough money from it.

When I think about all of the drugs and devices that don’t make it, inside and outside of diabetes, I often wonder why anyone even keeps trying with this stuff. Why do you try to develop a new insulin if it’s not going to be anything more than another insulin? Why try to come up with a new way to measure glucose in the body when only a few ways have ever proven to be successful so far?

The diabetes landscape, and the health care landscape in general, is a continuing exercise in finding apparitions on the desert horizon and waiting to see if they turn out to be a mirage. Yet, the overwhelming majority of us continue to hope as well. Our optimism may take a hit now and then, but it still remains as part of the health care landscape.

Why is that?

Well, to begin with… in many ways, optimism is all we have. It’s okay to despair now and then, but all you’re left with at the end of despair is more despair. When you have optimism, even if your optimism takes a hit today, tomorrow you still have optimism to go on.

That’s why I think people still go out and raise money for JDRF even though more people live with Type 1 diabetes today than ever before. It’s why brave people at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration worked to make the pathway to approval for new drugs and devices better and more transparent. I even think there may be people at companies working on products because they truly care about making life better, not to mention longer, for all of us living with diabetes.

I’ll be honest… my optimism has waned a great deal in the past two years. But I’m encouraged by the fact that people around me aren’t giving up. And if they won’t stop grasping for something better, I won’t either.

Here’s hoping that today’s apparition becomes tomorrow’s validation of optimism for everyone living with diabetes.

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