Giving back to the T1D community: A Montreal family's commitment to turning type one into type none
When David Gameroff shares his story about caring for a loved one with type 1 diabetes (T1D) following the diagnosis of his youngest son, Matthew in 2011, there is no denying his tremendous devotion to his family and his incredible generosity of spirit.
It was while on a family vacation in the United States that Gameroff’s wife, Brenda Rosenzweig – a trained endocrinologist – determined that Matthew had symptoms of T1D. Carefully choosing his words, Gameroff describes the gamut of emotions he felt upon learning that his then six-year-old had a condition that could not be cured.
“There was fear, guilt, anger and shock,” he confides. “There were many, many sleepless nights. The news had a tremendous impact on how we live because the time and energy that it takes to manage the disease takes away from so many other things.”
The family was soon thrust into a world of carb counting, glucose monitoring and constant worry.
“My question was: How do you do anything?” recalls Gameroff. “As the parent of a child with T1D, you have to be available 24/7 be it for school, on a field trip, etc. because it is a full-time job. Fortunately, the learning curve was less because Brenda understood the complexities and management of the disease, and Matthew started using an insulin pump very shortly after he was diagnosed, which helped. However, having T1D still impacted his freedom and independence.”
Despite the extra planning and new considerations that T1D required, the Gameroffs constantly encouraged their son to be active and embrace life.
“We always told Matthew that T1D is an opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle in terms of exercise and diet,” says Gameroff, “and that he can do anything that someone who doesn’t have diabetes can do.”
Their advice is clearly something their son has taken to heart as the 12-year-old is an expert skier who also plays on an intercity basketball team, and recently earned his bronze star in lifeguarding.
The Gameroffs are generous benefactors who have devoted much of their time to raising funds for T1D research. Ironically – a few years before Matthew’s diagnosis – the Gameroffs had participated in their first JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes to support the family of their eldest son’s classmate who had T1D. It was after receiving the news about Matthew that they decided to get further involved and started attending JDRF-sponsored events to learn more about the organization. They soon put together a team for the Walk and Matthew became a JDRF youth ambassador shortly afterwards.
“We met other children and their families and realized that there’s a large population out there that is affected, and that every year it’s growing,” relates Gameroff. “Canada has one of the highest incidence rates of T1D among children, so it’s really an important cause for the whole country.”
Since 2012, the Gameroff family (including Matthew’s two siblings, Ben, 15, and Rachel, 9) has captained its own team for the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes and has been a tremendous supporter of the Montreal Chapter’s annual gala. This fall, the Gameroffs are generously matching all donations (up to $100,000) to JDRF made between November 1st and December 31st.
“Given JDRF’s Partnership to Defeat Diabetes with the CIHR, we felt it particularly important to participate because if we can offer to match donations made by other families to JDRF, the federal government will double them, meaning the funds will actually be quadrupled,” explains Gameroff. “Many exciting research projects are currently being funded and JDRF is doing everything it can in a responsible way to find a cure for T1D. Now is the time for people to step up and make a contribution.”