Imagine that you were terribly worried about your child. You brought him or her to the doctor who affirmed your concern and let you know that your child was indeed VERY sick. In fact, it was likely that he or she would die within the month. What devastation you would feel! I imagine that you would plead with the doctor that there must be something, ANYTHING, that you could do to prevent such an outcome and that you would wholeheartedly mean it!
I feel like this is essentially what happens with parents of children who are diagnosed with diabetes. We are faced with a very real situation. Our children have a chronic illness that will never go away, that will last their whole lives through, and, if untreated, will lead to an early death—perhaps within weeks! But thankfully, there ARE ways to treat this disease. Imagine the doctor diagnosing your child said to you:
"Well, I suppose there is an option. If you want your child to live, you will need to poke his fingers eight times a day with something sharp and use a machine to read his blood. He may not understand why you do these things to him when you're supposed to be protecting him from harm. You will have to inject him with a needle multiple times a day for the rest of his life. There won't ever be a meal that your child can eat without your having to count it, weigh it or figure out how much insulin to give for it. It's unlikely that you will ever sleep through the night again. It will cost thousands of dollars every month just for supplies and scheduled doctor visits. Routine illnesses might require a trip to the ER. Even healthy choices like participating in soccer games and swimming will require hours of planning and intervention. Even if you do all this, there is no guarantee that things will go as planned."
This sounds hard to hear all at once. But when faced with either the death of a child or a lifetime of effort, concern, care and intervention, what parent wouldn't choose the second option? I would hazard that those parents are very few. All of us would leap at the chance to preserve the precious life that we created.
This is the choice that parents of children with diabetes get to make! We can take our children home after the devastating diagnosis. We can love them for years and years and give them good lives and go on to see college degrees and spouses and grandchildren! Through the amazing advancements in type 1 diabetes treatment, we have this choice before us.
Truly, when people around me tell me that I'm admirable or that I put on a brave face, I feel compelled to tell them that I'm really, really not brave or courageous or any of those things. I just truly, legitimately feel blessed beyond measure to have my James to hold every single day. And look at him! What a vibrant kid! I would do anything to maintain that, and I know how precarious a gift it is to have our children in our lives. Considering the alternative, can it really be considered bravery?
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.