Three Coffeys, No Sugar.
This is one of the most remarkable stories I have heard in a while – three siblings, all with type 1 diabetes? When Lori first emailed me several months ago, I was intrigued by her site, 3CoffeysNoSugar.com. After hearing her family’s story, I had to share it with you guys. Lori, take it away!
Kerri: What's the story behind your involvement with diabetes?
Lori: Our middle child, Emily, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes almost 7 years ago. She was 2 1/2 years old at the time, and still in diapers. She had been peeing excessively and her diapers were like bowling balls; they would sometimes fall off her tiny waist from the weight of all the urine. That was really the only symptom she had.
I worked as a research scientist in my life "pre-kids," so I have the type of personality that researches every little symptom in children. I had read somewhere that increased urination was a sign of juvenile diabetes, so I scheduled an appointment with her pediatrician and requested a test for diabetes. I'm sure her doctor thought I was overreacting. To be honest, I was hoping that my suspicions were wrong. When they pricked her tiny finger for a blood test, I expected the nurse to say, "Everything is normal; she must have a urinary tract infection." Instead, the nurse said, "Don't panic, but her number is so high that this meter won't read it." (Too late, I was already panicking!)
So began our journey with type 1 diabetes. That was October 19, 2001. Fast-forward almost five years, and my youngest child, Matthew (age 5), was exhibiting extreme thirst symptoms. I had checked his BG on previous occasions when I thought he was drinking too much water, and in the past, his BG levels were fine. But this one particular morning, he had peed his bed again, and when he woke up, he was so thirsty that he went to the bathroom and drank water using a bathtub toy as a cup. I checked his fasting BG and it was close to 200. Later that day, our beloved pediatric endocrinologist confirmed our worst fears: he, too, had type 1 diabetes. That was September 7, 2006.
We were devastated by this second diagnosis and remained in shock for quite awhile. Yes, we already knew how to "manage diabetes" (I use quotation marks because there are many days I think the possibility of managing this disease is a myth!!). Many people pointed out this silver lining to us: we already knew what to do! But since we had been dealing with D for five years, we also knew all the bad parts, like severe low BG episodes, sick days with ketones, counting every gram of carbohydrate, the long-term risks, and the day-in, day-out relentlessness of it.
Fast forward seven months, and our oldest daughter, Sarah (age 11), remarked that she had been feeling very thirsty lately and wanted to check her BG. My husband, Brian, was out running errands with the kids, so he tossed Matthew's diabetes kit to her. She checked her BG and remarked to Brian, "It says 310." Brian scolded Sarah, saying "Sarah! Don't tease about something like that!" but Sarah held up the meter and said "I'm serious." Brian immediately called me on the cell phone, and my first thought was that she had sugar on her fingers and needed to wash her hands first. I remember thinking, "No way, there is no way Sarah can have diabetes, too. It just isn't possible!"
When they arrived home, Sarah washed her hands thoroughly and re-checked. Now, the meter said "Hi." I grabbed a second meter and an alcohol swab and checked myself. 470. We grabbed a third meter and cleaned a different finger with more force. "Hi."
At this point, Sarah began crying and saying "No, no! Please don’t let it be diabetes!" She had watched her sister cope with this disease for 5 1/2 years, and her brother for the past 7 months. She was old enough to understand the huge burden this would be placing on her life. She and Brian held each other and sobbed. (I went upstairs and called a friend for support. We deal with grief differently.)
And that is the story behind our involvement with diabetes.
Kerri: Holy cow, that’s quite a story! Can you explain the "Three Coffeys No Sugar" title?
Lori: After Emily's diagnosis, we learned about JDRF and began participating in the Walk to Cure Diabetes.
For four years, our team name was "Emmy's Dream Team." The year of Matthew's diagnosis, he was diagnosed just one week before our walk, so we changed our team name to "Em & M's Dream Team." After Sarah's diagnosis, we knew we needed yet another team name.
Our last name is "Coffey", and we also happen to love coffee and all things coffee-related. Brian suggested the team name "3 Coffeys, No Sugar" as a play on words. We have three Coffeys (our 3 kids) with type 1 diabetes, and our goal is for them to have normal blood sugar levels (i.e. "no sugar").
We have had a lot of fun with this new team name. : )
Kerri: Why coffee? And how has your awareness campaign and fundraising angle been received by your community? What has the feedback been like?
Lori: As I stated above, we love coffee and drink a lot of it. Even 7-year-old Matthew has a cup of coffee with breakfast every morning (a splash of coffee and mostly milk). After choosing our new team name, we approached a couple local coffee shops about sponsoring our team, either financially or with in-kind donations. Brian became friends with Lori McCombs, the owner of Leaves-n-Beans, and he was impressed with her line of Storyteller's Blends coffee. Each blend of coffee tells a story and has an eye-catching label to go along with it.
It was Brian's idea to partner with Leaves-N-Beans to create our own Storyteller's Blend of coffee. We have a friend who is a graphic artist and had created our "3 Coffeys, No Sugar" logo. Another friend, Vicki Taufer at VGallery (www.vgallery.net) had taken a wonderful photograph of our kids as part of a fundraising/awareness presentation for JDRF. Vicki generously allowed us to use that photograph on our coffee label. Vicki's husband, Jed Taufer, created a mock-up of the coffee label and sent that to Lori McCombs' graphic designer. A dear friend of ours, who wishes to remain anonymous, donated the $500 necessary to pay the graphic designer and get the coffee labels created.
We chose a blend of coffee that is very delicious. It is "Golden Breakfast Blend", but we drink it around the clock. Leaves-N-Beans roasts their own coffee in small batches, so it is always fresh and very delicious. Our coffee is available online http://leavesnbeans.com/ and $7 of every pound sold goes directly to JDRF.
We had a "Release Party" in May at the Leaves-N-Beans cafe and invited friends and family to taste samples of our coffee. So far, our coffee has done really well; we've sold over 150 pounds. We were featured in the local newspaper, and this attracted quite a bit of interest. Lori McCombs reports that people stop by Leaves-N-Beans, requesting our coffee. Some have driven here from an hour away just to buy our coffee beans!
Not only is this coffee raising money to help find a cure for diabetes, but it is educating the public and raising awareness about type 1 diabetes, which is priceless!
Kerri: What's next for you and your crew?
Lori: We are currently gearing up for the Central Illinois Walk to Cure Diabetes on September 7. This is our 7th year participating in a JDRF Walk, and our 2nd year as "3 Coffeys, No Sugar." Last year, our family team raised a phenomenal $34,000! We do a huge letter-writing campaign and have a crew of dedicated friends and family who do their own mini-fundraising campaigns. Our goal for this year is $40,000.
I am currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Eastern Iowa branch of JDRF. This is a huge honor for me! My next big goal is to see a JDRF office opened in Central Illinois. There are so many more families we could reach if we had local staff. For the time being, I am immensely grateful to the dedicated staff at the Eastern Iowa office. We wouldn't be where we are today without their hard work. Our Central Illinois walk has raised over $1 million in just 3 years. I'm thrilled and very proud!
I'm not sure what the future holds for our family. I am very hopeful that technology will continue to improve to make diabetes management easier and more precise. In the meantime, we'll be busy raising funds and awareness for diabetes. It is just what we do. : )
Editor's Note: If you want to try out their special blend, visit Leaves n' Beans and order up a batch of 3 Coffeys, No Sugar. All proceeds go to the JDRF to help find a cure for type 1 diabetes. Coffee and a cure - these are my kind of people!