Wondering what you can tell your child to help him or her deal with a new diagnosis of type 1 diabetes? There are so many things I wish I had known when I was diagnosed. Not so much about the technical bits and pieces of diabetes management, but more the emotional side of this condition.
I wish I had known I wasn't alone. Even though I didn't have a bunch of friends with diabetes (YET) when I was growing up, I still had lots of friends who cared about me. And a family that loved me. And people who didn't understand exactly what it meant to be "low" or "high," but they wanted to, and they tried.
I wish I had known that there were other kids just like me. It wasn't until I spent summers at Clara Barton Camp that I realized just how normal diabetes was for some families. That there were other kids who woke up every morning, just like I did, and "shot up" before breakfast. Or that some kids were hounded by their parents to "just let me check your pee for ketones, okay?"
I wish I had known that doctors can lie. That when they say, "This won't hurt a bit," it might hurt anyway. I wish I had known that when they said, "Having kids may not be in your future," I didn't have to believe them.
(I wish I had known about the impact of sorbitol and other sugar substitutes on a little-kid tummy. Dude, that stuff can wreck you up right proper. And for days.)
I wish I had known it was better to be honest than to lie about my diabetes. Like when my blood sugar was really high after eating a cupcake, but I lied bold-faced to my mother. "No, I didn't eat anything!" I wish I had known then that being honest was the best way to take control of diabetes and the only way I could truly take ownership of it.
I wish I had known that, despite the excuses I wanted to make, that every day matters. I'm glad I know it now, but I need to remember it more. Every day matters. Yesterday may not have been the best diabetes day, but today can be better. Stress and work and vacations and traveling and motherhood will always be there; I need to learn how to dance between those raindrops and still give my health the attention it deserves.
I wish I had known that pumping insulin would be an easier transition than I thought. I was scared about having an "external symptom" of diabetes, and worried about the implication of "robot parts" on my dating life, but it wasn't an issue at all. (My husband hasn't ever known me without the pump -- who would have thought?!)
I wish I had known, in that moment of diagnosis, that it was going to be okay. There are ups and downs with everything, and diabetes is part of that ebb and flow, but there is life to be lived -- a good life -- even with diabetes. I have some extra issues to deal with as a result of this disease, but I will be okay. I need to remember that, especially when I feel overwhelmed now, as an adult. I can't lose hope, even in that cure that's been promised to me five times over now. And I can't, for crying out loud, let any kind of pity party overtake who I am.
I wish I had known that I CAN eat that, and I CAN do that, and I CAN work there, and I CAN love him, and I CAN be loved back, and I CAN be happy. I need to remember to go DO and BE without fear of this condition.
Now I know.
About the author: Kerri Sparling is the creator and author of SixUntilMe.com, one of the first and most widely read diabetes patient blogs. She has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1986, having been diagnosed just before she started second grade. She lives with her husband and daughter in Rhode Island.
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.