Wednesday, January 26, 2005

DieHard Cubs Fan Walks for Diabetes Research

Yeppers, I'm one of those dyed-in-the-wool Chicago Cubs fans (I think the author bio on the British version of the novel is even going to say that!) and have been since I was a kid. Wrigley Field is still one of my favorite places on Earth.

When our son developed Type 1 Diabetes this summer, we spent a good deal of time looking into atheletes and role models who have the disease. The Athens Olympics were in full swing, and we all were so inspired watching Gary Hall Jr. (dxed with Type 1 in 1999) swim to the gold in the 50-meter, his 10th Olympic medal. In fact, watching and reading about him helped us get through the first difficult months. (I've got a lot to say about this remarkable athlete, but that's another post, to be written at another time.)

At the time of our son's diagnosis, I wasn't much aware of Ron Santo's diabetes (All-Star Chicago Cubs third baseman, first and only major league ballplayer with Type 1 Diabetes). My years as a Cubbie Fan started with Ryne Sandberg, Rick Sutcliffe, Jody Davis and that unforgettable 1984 season. Ron Santo was ancient history as far as I was concerned. I just knew him as a name from the broadcast booth.

In a way I'm glad no one went out of their way to tell his story to me at that time, because for quite awhile the prospect of complications (Santo lost both legs to Type 1 Diabetes) would flip me out and I would literally spend the day in tears. Don't get me wrong; I still am VERY upset about diabetes--I fucking HATE the disease and I wish for a cure more than I wish for anything else in the world. But I am no longer a fragile disaster who falls to pieces at words like "dialysis," "retinopathy," etc. We plan to reduce our son's chances of the complications of diabetes by keeping his blood sugars under control, but there's a good chance he will develop one or more of them in his lifetime, unless there is a cure... about which I'm hopeful, but for which I'm not holding my breath. So I suppose that I have adjusted to our new reality.

During the time he played for the Chicago Cubs, Santo kept his diabetes a secret, thinking it would cost him his job. He did not test his blood sugar during games and would inject insulin or have a candy bar based purely on how he felt. Last year, Ron's son Jeff made a documentary titled "This Old Cub" about Ron's life and career, not glossing over his father's amputations or the other terrible complications of Type 1 Diabetes. Much of the proceeds are going to the Juvenile Diabetes Reseach Foundation.

While I'm sure it's a fabulous movie, we haven't watched "This Old Cub" as a family. Our son is quite young and we aren't ready to talk about complications. I'm not ready for him to see Santo's amputations and to be told that diabetes was the reason. Right now, we are focusing on getting through each day, staying upbeat, with his blood sugars as stable as possible. Also, although I admire Santo greatly, and I realize he dealt with his diabetes when there was less understanding than there is today... I'm not a huge fan of keeping major health conditions a secret. But we'll see it someday, I'm sure.

Anyway, after watching "This Old Cub" several times, 56-year-old teacher Bill Holden, a lifelong Cubs fan, was inspired to take a walk. A very long walk for diabetes research. 2100 miles, in fact, from Camp Verde, Arizona, to Wrigley Field, between now and June 30. He hopes to raise $250,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
"Filmmaker Jeff Santo is planning to shoot footage of Holden and put the clip on his Web site, He is also donating $5 to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation from every DVD and VHS sale at between now and June 30 in the name of Wild Bill's Walk for the JDRF.

"If you want to contribute, you can send a check to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Illinois Chapter, 500 N. Dearborn, Suite 305, Chicago, IL 60610. You may also call (312) 670-0313 or donate by visiting"
Bill Holden's an All-Star in my book. You can read an article about "Wild Bill's" walk here, and get the play-by-play at