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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight with Brenda Novak

Hello and welcome to Wednesday Spotlight! I have a very special treat today. My featured guest is NY Times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak! And with a gorgeous backdrop of rolling green hills, lilacs, daffodils and red rose bushes, Brenda and I are sitting out in the English garden, talking about her sixth annual auction to raise money for diabetes research. Let’s have a warm welcome for Brenda Novak! Hello, Brenda. How are you on this lovely spring day?

Brenda: I’m fabulous—so glad that spring has sprung. I love the longer days of summer. Having been raised in Arizona for ten years, I also love the sun!

Oliver struts out onto the terrace, pushing a silver caddy full of coffee, tea and hot chocolate, along with a platter of blueberry scones, plump strawberries and Devonshire cream. Gracing Brenda with his most dazzling smile, he asks, “What may I get you, Ms. Novak?”

Brenda: I’ll pass on the coffee but would love a hot chocolate and a blueberry scone or anything that comes with a bowlful of Devonshire cream.

Sharon: And coffee for me, thank you, Oliver. Brenda, your annual auction is such a worthy cause. With diabetes being so near and dear to my heart, I cannot encourage people enough to participate in this event. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Brenda: The auction is such a fun thing to participate in! It runs every May (May 1 – May 31st) in honor of Mother’s Day at

This will be my sixth year hosting it. Together with my friends, publishing contacts, diabetes research supporters and fellow authors, we’ve raised $770,000 so far. Our goal for this year is to break $1 million.

Sharon: With America in the lead, there are more than 230 million diabetics in the world, and the numbers are rapidly increasing. I was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic at the age of six and developed diabetic retinopathy in my early twenties. This condition causes fragile blood vessels to grow and rupture in the back of the eye and can lead to progressive blindness. And as much as I kept up with all the latest treatments with my retinal specialist, I still lost the battle ten years ago. Blindness is just one of the many complications resulting from this devastating disease. At least half of diabetics will develop some stage of retinopathy in his or her lifetime. But what’s even more frightening is type 2 diabetes because it can go undiagnosed for long periods of time. Tell us about that.

Brenda: Since my son also has Type 1, insulin-dependent, diabetes I’m not as familiar with Type 2. The good news is that it can very often be controlled through diet and exercise. When it can’t, however, it progresses to Type 1, which comes with a whole host of side effects. Blindness you’ve already mentioned, but there is also nerve damage that could result in amputations, heart disease, kidney failure, etc. Diabetes affects every major organ in the body (and some that aren’t so major).

Sharon: What continues to amaze me is the mystery shrouding the cause of diabetes. When I was diagnosed all those years ago, doctors at Children’s Hospital were quite confident it was a hereditary disease. And while it is a factor, there is still a degree of uncertainty. Some of the symptoms I experienced were an unquenchable thirst, frequent urination and severe weight loss. As it turned out, my body was not producing any insulin, the hormone necessary to convert food and sugar into energy. But this isn’t the case with type 2 diabetes, is it? Can you explain to readers what insulin resistance is, and how new research suggests lack of exercise and obesity may be a contributing factor?

Brenda: My understanding of insulin resistance is simply what you might guess from the words—the body builds up a resistance so that more and more insulin is required to offset high glucose levels in the blood, or something is required to help the body utilize what’s being made. Hormones can cause resistance in Type 1’s. I know that my son’s insulin needs changing often because he’s going through puberty, a particularly difficult time for a diabetic.

Sharon: With your son having diabetes, how do you both deal with it and what is a typical day like?

Brenda: My son must poke his finger to draw blood (in order to test his blood sugar levels) 5-8 times a day. He wears an insulin pump which must be inserted subcutaneously every three days. Since the needle necessary to do that is a significant one, this isn’t always an easy task. Moving it around to different areas of the body is imperative to avoid sores and possible infection, but there aren’t a lot of places where a plastic canula is comfortable (the waistband of his jeans can rub it or bend it such that it doesn’t work properly, etc.). Although doctors often tell me that I should be able to get his numbers stable enough that I won’t have to get up and test him in the middle of the night, I find that I must do this for my own piece of mind—and am often glad I did when I find him dangerously high or low, either of which can kill him.

Sharon: While there is still no cure for diabetes, the risk of complications has gone down considerably due to the treatment. When I was diagnosed, there were no glucometers to keep tabs on sugar levels. Testing blood sugars several times a day is key in determining the amount of insulin needed. This alone made a huge difference in my life, eliminating the guess work. Exercise is vital in keeping glucose numbers at an ultimate level. But there is also a down side. Sugar levels can drop rather quickly, can’t they? Can you tell us what can happen and what to look for with low sugar attacks?

Brenda: When my son goes low he gets very ill and shaky. He can’t think straight and may cry for no reason. It’s almost as if his “emotion bell” has been rung. If he goes *really* low, he can’t see or control his body and could lapse into a coma. The scary thing is that, the longer he has the disease, the less likely he is to be able to determine when he’s “going low.”

Sharon: So balance is the key, and not always an easy thing to achieve. Stress and excitement can cause levels to skyrocket or bottom out. Diabetes presents a challenge every minute of every day. Brenda, can you tell readers what a normal blood sugar should be and how easily one can be tested for the disease?

Brenda: A normal blood sugar should fall in the range of 90-110 or so (some can be as high as 120). A simple urine test can determine the presence of diabetes.

Sharon: Isn’t it time to find a cure for this devastating disease? This is why I commend Brenda for her efforts in raising money for research at her annual auction. Let’s make this year a huge success. What are some of the things people can do to help?

Brenda: I’m all for a cure. The great thing about the auction is that it’s a win/win situation for those who are as anxious as we are to find a cure and those who have no particular tie to diabetes at all. There are so many great items up for auction. Just having people go on and buy the gifts they’d normally buy elsewhere would help a great deal--and it should be exciting for the recipient of such gifts because we have so many unusual items on the auction (like getting your name inside a Christine Feehan book, an author who’s hit #1 on the NYT many times, or maybe lunch with Catherine Coulter or Diana Gabaldon). The auction offers many one-of-a-kind opportunities. It also offers fabulous business opportunities to published and aspiring writers. Every major publishing house has editors who have donated their time to do a read (consider a manuscript for publication). Some have even promised to respond within twenty-four hours—which is unheard of in the publishing world! Another way to help is to spread the word—tell friends and family and encourage them to get involved by either donating an item or shopping at the auction.

Sharon: And can you give us the date and address of your auction one more time?

Brenda: The auction runs May 1 – May 31st at

Sharon: Thank you so very much for being my special guest today, Brenda! I wish you much success. I’ve donated several copies of Echo of a Raven, the book about my personal struggles with diabetes. Let’s all work together and make it happen.

Oliver waltzes onto the garden with a bouquet of red roses and hands them to Brenda with a sweeping bow and a big smile.

To learn more about Brenda and her amazing auction and books, visit her website:


Sharon Donovan said...

Let's have a warm welcome for Brenda Novak. Brenda, come on out! I'm thrilled to have you with me today to highlight your annual auction for diabetes research. As a type 1 diabetic since early childhood, I salute you. I wish you mega success and here's hoping for a cure for this devastating disease.
Remember folks, Brenda's auction runs for the entire month of May at:

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Sharon and Brenda - oh and Oliver too, of course. What an interesting and informative interview. I wish you fantastic success in your auction
and I applaud you for your efforts and for raising so much money
already in the quest to find a cure for diabetes and for raising awareness of the effects of this devasting disease. With very best wishes to you and your son.

Dawn Chartier said...

Brenda and Sharon,
Thanks for posting this.
I knew very little about diabetes, but I have clearer picture now.

I donated to Brenda's auction, and I'm also up for "coffee/chat" at Nationals. The last few years I bid on author's critiques, and learned so much from them. Now I'm published. It's my turn to return the favor.

Here's to $1 million!

Dawn Chartier
Not An Angel, May 12, 2010

P.L. Parker said...

My mother has diabetes, has to take some medications but relies mostly on diet. Good information in this post and good luck with the auction. Very informative.

kerribookwriter said...

Look at this! Two of my fave women in one location?!

Hey Sharon & Brenda!

You both know how much I adore you and this wonderful cause. I've even decked out my own website homepage all about the auction and my super hero daughter Brooke. She's very pleased to have her photo up on my homepage as well.

I don't normally put my kid's pics online but I want to show people "the face of diabetes" because it is not just something that is "out there" it is really something that affects innocent children every single day.

We just bought Brooke a new bathing suit for the summer yesterday. She was all concerned about getting a specific style of suit so that it wouldn't show her insulin pump site. This is something that little girls shouldn't have to worry about. As girls/women, we have enough to be modest about already!

Thank you to both of you for all you've done to help find a cure. I know that one day, I'll be cheering right along with you when we put this disease to bed for good!


Miss Mae said...

Hello to Sharon and Brenda,

I'm so glad Sharon has featured you today, Brenda, as your May auction is such a worthwhile event. Let's do hope this disease will be conquered in our lifetime!

Wendy Davy said...

Hi Sharon and Brenda!

I am so glad you are both here today. First, thanks for promoting such a good cause.

Also, Brenda I am a big fan of your novels. :)

I do have a question. My brother is a type 1 diabetic. He was thirteen when he was diagnosed. Now, umpteen years later, he's been told Type 1 Diabetics often have Celiac disease (An allergy to gluten) as well. He tested positive two weeks ago. Have you heard of any kind of a correlation between diabetes and celiac disease? Also, you might want to have your son tested for it, it's a simple blood test.


Wendy Davy
Inspirational Romance Novelist

K.M. Daughters said...

Good morning Sharon and Brenda. This is one of the best, informative articles on the nature and complications of diabetes I've ever read...first hand from Sharon, and from a mother's heart from Brenda. Kathie's husband was diagnosed at an early age, and he, too, uses an insulin pump. Kathie and her mother-in-law have too many terrifying stories to recount about his struggles with this disease through the years. We are so honored to be sponsors of Brenda's 2010 JDRF Auction and donors of a Nook E-reader and $100 BN certificate. Come bid on these and so many other wonderful items. We wish you $1 million PLUS by 5/31, Brenda!

Marianne Evans said...

Sharon and Brenda, you're both an inspiration. Thanks for raising awareness, and supporting a cause that's so important to so many!! Blessings to you!

Linda Banche said...

Sharon and Brenda, you're both amazing--Sharon, because you don't let anything get you down, and Brenda, because you're doing a lot of good. Best to you both.

Tiffany Green said...

Hi Sharon and Brenda! What a worthy cause. I am in awe of you both and admire you greatly. Brenda, I will be glad to take a look at the auction and see what I can do. Best of luck to finding a cure for diabetes!

Brenda Novak said...

Sorry I'm a bit late, folks. I had a radio interview that got over not too long ago and then started plowing through email before I realized I should be here. I'm trying to do too many things at once! LOL

Brenda Novak said...

Thanks for the warm welcome, Sharon. I know how hard it is to live with diabetes--from watching my son. I hope you're managing well. And I hope that someday you can throw your insulin and needles away.

Brenda Novak said...

Thank you, Hywela. I believe we will someday soon have a cure. :-) This is the year we should break the one million dollar mark, so my fingers are crossed.

We're adding new items to the auction all the time, so definitely check it out!

Brenda Novak said...

Way to Pay it Forward, Dawn. I appreciate your support on BOTH ends!

Brenda Novak said...

Thanks, P.L. My father had diabetes--the reason he died of a heart attack at 64. It touches so many lives....

Brenda Novak said...

Hi Kerri--

I think diabetes is even tougher on girls than boys. It's easy for my son to hide his pump site (diabetics have to reinsert their pump every three days and often have unsightly sores or scars where it has been before) because boy swimsuits cover that area well. I think of wearing a prom dress, a wedding dress, lingerie--it would be so hard with a pump. I've never really considered this but the pump would often be present even when making love (if it was spontaneous, etc.). This disease impacts every facet of life.

Brenda Novak said...

Thanks Miss Mae!

And, yes, Wendy, I have heard of the high correlation between Type 1 diabetics and celiacs. I have my son tested routinely and am terrified he'll be positive (not so far--thank God). Celiacs is a difficult disease to deal with, too. Putting them together...I feel really sorry for your brother. Hopefully he's good at, once again, modifying his diet.

Brenda Novak said...

K.M.--you and your sister are amazing for all you do to support my efforts. Thanks for helping me sponsor the auction and thanks for always giving a fabulous item.

I'm sorry to hear about Kathie's husband. I think the longer you live with the disease the harder it becomes to feel when you're too high or too low (blood sugar levels) and that can be very dangerous.

Brenda Novak said...

Thanks for your kind words, Marianne and Linda. And Tiffany I'm so glad you're going to get involved! Besides raising money for a good cause, it's a lot of fun to participate. We have lots of prizes and giveaways. :-)

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Brenda Wow, look at all the support. A big shout out to all for dropping by today. Yes, living with the daily challenges of diabetes is tough, and it's a day by day thing. Brenda, so true. I've had diabetes for over forty years and the highs and lows are unpredictable. Sometimes I just bottom out when I've done nothing different in my routine. It's a horrible feeling, hearing what is said, but unable to comprehend it when the glucose is too low. And it takes me a long time to elevate once I've dropped. So, I'm all for finding a cure. I've donated 50 copies of Echo of a Raven for this worthy cause. Let's help Brenda reach her goal. Here here!

Mary Ricksen said...

Hi Sharon and Brenda. I have to tell you that both of your stories touched me. As God is my witness, I have never met two stronger, more vibrant, women in my life. Who are both wonderful role models for us all to emulate. The inner strength you must have, I don't know If it's in me.
My husband has type two diabetes, and he doesn't take it seriously. His brother lost his leg to diabetes. What will it take to get to this stubborn ding bat?
I so enjoyed your interview Brenda. And I hope the auction makes a lot of money for diabetes. One of the most devastating of diseases.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Brenda and Sharon,
What a wonderful and informative discussion. Near and dear to my heart also as my mother and my husband are both diabetics. My mother has developed diabetic neuropathy from her lengthy fight with the disease and my husband is already experiencing some problems related to his diabetes going undetected for quite a while. I will definitely be dropping in on the auction and will be praying for that cure right along with all of you.

EA said...

What a great cause. I think you are using your communication skills in such a positive and uniting manner. My best for this auction, but more importantly praying for the lives this even touches.

Brenda Novak said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your husband, Sharon. My son is much the same way. I think it's a form of denial. He doesn't want to have diabetes so he often neglects his care. He worries me sick!

Brenda Novak said...

Wow, Rebecca. All of these posts remind me of how many people are in the trenches with me. Together we can make a difference. Thanks for helping out!

Brenda Novak said...

EA--we can always use prayers. Thank you!

Brenda Novak said...

Thanks for having me, Sharon. And thanks for your contribution to my efforts!

Sharon Donovan said...

A heart-felt thank you to everyone for dropping by today and for your prayers, encouragement and support. Diabetes has touched so many lives, and will continue to do so unless we find a cure.

A very special thank you to Brenda for being my featured guest today. Brenda, I wish you much success at your auction and here's to meeting the goal so we can all bury this horrendous disease and its complications once and for all.

Until next time, may the luck of the Irish be with you as you travel through life.

Love and Blessings,

Romantic Suspense with a Twist of Faith

昀睿roccolivingstone07 said...
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Laurean Brooks said...

Sharon, I admire you and Brenda for the work you are doing, getting the message about diabetes out there. I pray that sometime in the near future a cure will be found.

God bless you for your efforts.

(Sorry I'm a day late. Wasn't online much yesterday.)