Management of type 1 diabetes can be relentless, ever-changing and never perfect. I've met some personality types that have really had a hard time dealing with the fact that two to three hours after a meal a number might be "wrong." They wonder what they've done incorrectly or how they "messed up." Those of us that have been in the trenches for a while know that sometimes nobody "messed up," diabetes is just tricky, and there are variables that we simply do not know how to account for quite yet!
This makes setting goals difficult. For example, a really type-A person might set a goal to achieve a particular average glucose level. But this is hard to do when there are so many factors outside of our control! I know that with James, we've generally had excellent results, and I do credit some of this to effort and planning. However, there have been tests that have come back higher than we would have liked. Sometimes this could be due to a more "lax" attitude, but it can also be the result of fighting an illness, going through a growth spurt, or various other factors.
So what do we aim for? What are OUR goals? I've set up a few "rules to live by" with the acronym HOP, which stands for Habitual, Optimistic, Pragmatic. I try to gauge my success on how well we are able to incorporate these principles into our life.
The most important thing for us in type 1 diabetes management is doing things consistently well -- in other words, habitually. Over the course of the years, one good day or one good week won't amount to a hill of beans if we have weeks and months with poor management. So it's the little things, the habits that we form, that make for a good life of diabetes management.
Some of the habits we try to maintain include frequent testing, taking care of fingertips and insulin injection sites by rotating, eating consistently healthy foods, practicing good carb counting, trying to pre-bolus as much as possible for meals to reduce post-meal spikes, logging blood glucose readings and responding quickly to any aberrations with appropriate and rapid changes to our insulin dosing as directed by our healthcare team. Striving to incorporate these healthy habits into our life is far more important than stressing over a single number. Second, we try to always remain optimistic. We surround ourselves with positive role models and recognize that pro athletes, rock stars and even Supreme Court judges are not limited by type 1 diabetes!
Finally, in the same vein, we are pragmatic in our approach to dealing with diabetes. We've learned that we just have to roll with it! We've gone through stretches where it seems despite our best efforts, we'll have a spate of high blood glucose numbers at night, for instance. It is frustrating, especially to try a battery of different approaches and not quite "get it right." Generally, however, when we refuse to be discouraged, when we enlist the help of our diabetes team, when we just follow our healthy habits, we come up with solutions that lift us out of a difficult rut. We recognize that there isn't any one right way to manage diabetes, and we try to talk with our healthcare team about new ideas in the scientific community that could very well make our lives better.
So when we try to assess "how we're doing," we look at it more as a feature of how our habits are progressing, or whether we need to step it up in a certain area (better logging, more precise carb counting, etc.). Then we look at how we're feeling. Are we feeling bogged down by diabetes, or can we recognize that while currently in a difficult period, limitless potential for James still lies ahead? Lastly, we try to examine our management to see if there is anything else we can do -- any new ways to adapt or things to try, any expert advice to seek out, any new product on the horizon that can make diabetes management easier and better. When we do these things we feel successful, regardless of the day-to-day fluctuations of our blood glucose levels!
About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our three boys. Our oldest son James has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I’m thankful for this opportunity -- along with my sister-in-law Kim and her daughter Kaitlyn, who also has type 1 diabetes -- to share our struggles and triumphs with our friends in the diabetes community.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.