For Anna Marie Dobler and her daughter Kathleen Caceres, type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a family affair—so much so that they sit in on each other’s doctors’ appointments at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center where they both are patients.
Kathleen is “an extra pair of eyes,” said her 83-year-old mother, Anna Marie. And they both can be an extra set of ears for each other. “That way, I can tell her, or she can tell me, ‘that’s not what Dr. Goland said,’” added Kathleen.
Robin Goland, MD, the Berrie Center’s Co-Director and the J. Merrill Eastman Professor of Clinical Diabetes, has been caring for both daughter and mother together since 2006, when Anna Marie, who has had T1D since she was 37, moved from her home state of Ohio to New Jersey to be closer to her daughter Kathleen in New Jersey. Kathleen has been a patient of Dr. Goland’s since she was diagnosed in 2000.
“It is unusual, although not unheard of, for people to have had T1D for nearly 50 years - like Anna Marie Dobler,” said Dr. Goland. “Having her come to her diabetes office visit with her adult daughter, who also has T1D, is equally unusual.”
Why is it so unusual? “Although T1D is a genetic condition,” said Dr. Goland, “About 80% of people with new-onset T1D do not have a first degree relative with T1D.They have inherited susceptibility genes from both their mother’s and father’s sides of the families, even if no one, until now, had T1D. It is quite common for people with T1D to have people with other autoimmune disorders in their family, such as thyroid disease, celiac disease etc.”
But in Anna Marie’s family, the numbers tell a different story. Her mother (Kathleen’s grandmother) had T1D. And her grandson, (Kathleen’s son Paul ) who is currently in the long term follow-up study at the Berrie Center for new onset Type 1. “It’s a tough disease to have,” said Kathleen. “But at least we have an active role in managing it—unlike other chronic problems which you have no control over. Diabetes is all about control.”
Both women say they enjoy the ritual of coming to see Dr. Goland at the Berrie Center—from the trip over the George Washington Bridge to the appointment itself. “Dr. Goland is so encouraging,” said Anna Marie. “You get frustrated but then you come here and she makes you feel like you’re doing a good job and you’re working hard. It kind of gives you the oomph to keep on going.”
Said Dr. Goland, “They are a lovely family, and they look out for each other. They do a great job.”