Claire & Aubrey Fox

If anyone knows how to maintain a diligent watch on their children’s health, it’s Chi and Andrew Fox.

Some years ago, the Burnaby family learned their first hard lessons surrounding type 1 diabetes when their second child, Claire, was diagnosed with this auto-immune disease. She was just shy of her fourth birthday at the time.

Before the diagnosis, the Foxes weren’t clear on what Claire’s symptoms – weight loss, constant thirst, and a constant need to drink – meant to her health. Within a month, Claire had lost 10 per cent of her body weight. That’s an alarming number, considering she weighed just 35 pounds.  She was in the midst of diabetes ketoacidosis. If she hadn’t been treated immediately, the condition would have left her in a coma.

“We felt completely overwhelmed and unsure if we could manage all the complexities of type 1 diabetes,” says Claire’s mother, Chi. “With the help of the Endocrinology team at BC Children’s, we left the hospital that first week armed with tools and information needed to start our ‘new normal.’ It has been close to six years now, and even though her diabetes is better controlled with vigilance, we are still learning.”

So when little Aubrey came along more than four years ago, completing their family of five (including eldest child Sean), they monitored her health closely.

“We knew that sibling connection increases the risk of our other two children having type 1 diabetes as well, and also knowing the symptoms, we were always watchful,” says Chi.

Their diligence paid off when, late last year, Aubrey showed signs of the disease, such as frequent washroom breaks and excessive thirst. From their experience with Claire, Chi and Andrew knew enough to check their children’s sugar levels. But even with this knowledge and experience, they found it tough to deal with what lay ahead for Aubrey.

“In our heads, we knew the outcome, but in our hearts, we were still in denial. Even after spending a day at BC Children’s Hospital waiting for the confirmation, and knowing what was to come, we were still hoping for a false positive,” she says.

“Type 1 diabetes is a 24-7 disease. It never takes a break and if we slack off in their care during any of those moments, they pay the price.”

Through their experiences with Claire and now Aubrey, the Foxes are always learning and adapting to the changes and complexities that come with life with juvenile diabetes. The Foxes see caregivers at BC Children’s as a lifeline for both their girls.

These health professionals will be a main source of information and advice on everything they need as the girls grow and change, and as they deal with the complexities of diabetes – “everything from diet and changing settings on the insulin pump and adjusting insulin dosages to counselling on how to deal with this ever-present disease,” says Chi.

Meanwhile, Claire is growing into an advocate for type 1 diabetes awareness. She heads an annual fundraising team for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Walk under the team name “Claire’s Bears.” The team has helped to raise more than $30,000 in the past five years for funding research to find a cure. She has recently become a Youth Ambassador for JDRF and has done various presentations at school to raise awareness of type 1 diabetes.

“We urge parents and caregivers to know the signs – increased thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, fatigue, extreme hunger – and seek help as soon as possible if they notice these symptoms,” says Chi.

“The Endocrinology team at BC Children’s Hospital has been invaluable in helping us manage this disease.”

Ultimately, the Foxes are dedicated to teaching Aubrey to take after big sister Claire. They want both of them to enjoy their lives to the fullest.

“Our hope is that both Aubrey and Claire never let diabetes dictate how they live and love.”

Claire and Aubrey will be featured this year as our 2015 Jeans Day Champions.