When James was diagnosed, fun was about the furthest thing from my mind. Truthfully, my focus was on survival. First, I wanted James to just survive, and dealing with type 1 diabetes in a little body can be very tricky, with pretty large swings in highs and lows. Second, I needed to survive our new reality and still be able to function as a mom, and as a person!
Thankfully, things got much better. And pretty quickly, really. The blood sugar swings didn't disappear, but I got a lot better at handling them, and they weren't as overwhelming. We reached a good routine, and we were pretty happy. Type 1 diabetes was a part of our lives, but it was manageable, and our lives were filled with other good things that couldn't be diminished by this chronic illness.
James himself never seemed to mind his type 1 diabetes. I was fortunate beyond reason that he never really questioned the finger pricks. And while he didn't like the shots at first, he quickly became "used to" them. Sometime well before the one-month anniversary of his diagnosis, he didn't even bat an eye as a needle came towards him.
Now, at 7 years old, however, things are starting to change! It's as if he's just now noticing that his 3-year-old brother and most of his cousins don't have to be checked or get insulin or count carbs. In a way, I think the recent diagnosis of his cousin, Kaitlyn, more clearly showed the differences between his life and the lives of his family members. I heard the first hints of despair in his voice when he mentioned, "The only thing I like about diabetes is that I get to drink juice."
But this really makes me think: Can't there be anything fun about type 1 diabetes? Is drinking juice really the only plus? Is fun even a reasonable goal when treating something as serious as type 1 diabetes? Well, I can answer that last one. The answer is that, yes, clearly he needs to be able to see the fun—the humor perhaps—in what he deals with every day. He's a kid, first and foremost!
So just brainstorming, I've come up with a few ideas for making type 1 diabetes fun. First, we're going to have a blood glucose number jackpot. We're going to pick a random number and if we happen to hit it during a blood glucose check, he gets some kind of silly prize. The idea here is not a prize for hitting an ideal number, but just seeing if we can hit something right on the head, just for the fun of it. If James' blood sugar is precisely that number according to the meter, he gets a prize! I think it is also a great way to get a kid interested in what his blood sugar is doing.
Other ideas I'm entertaining involve special trips in conjunction with visits to the endocrinologist. I'm also going to give him more of a say in how he treats his lows and even introduce REAL CANDY. I think perhaps special "cousins with diabetes only" excursions might be in order. I know my sister-in-law won't mind if I take a special opportunity to spoil her daughter! My mind is full of ideas and, if I succeed, I'm pretty sure that juice won't be the only positive. As to the question of whether type 1 diabetes can be fun, the jury isn't in yet. I'll fill you in later on any successes!
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.