Life With a Type 1 Kid:  What I Learned From Diabetes

by Richmond mom Sue Ayers, freelance writer and training designer.
Six months ago, our pediatrician gave me the news that turned my world completely upside down: my 11-year-old daughter Emily has Type 1 diabetes. Since then, I’ve learned a few things.

I learned, from diabetes, that perseverance is an absolute necessity. You cannot mess up with this disease. You have to have all medications on-hand and toss them out at 30 days. You have to eat well and you have to count carbohydrates exactly. You can’t mix up the medication and you can’t skip a dose. My girl’s life depends on me doing everything right – every single time.

Diabetes taught me to remember to fight, to not be a victim and to teach Emily the same. We don’t use diabetes as an excuse to ‘forget’ to study for a test or to miss school on a whim. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves – everybody has something they struggle with.

Diabetes is still teaching me that I need to be patient with folks who try to offer advice – they surely mean well even when I take their ‘help’ the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong, I still bristle when I recall certain folks telling me not to baby her two weeks into this thing!

I learned that a lot of people do not understand Type 1 diabetes at all. Some people have thought that just not eating sugar is enough, that Type 1 can be ‘cured’ with dietary changes, that an A1C level of 8 is ‘good enough’ and I shouldn’t kill myself trying to get it down to 6. I still get mad when I hear these comments. Type 1 kids can eat some sugar. A 6 beats an 8 hands down when it comes to A1C. And damn it – there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes. (Note to self: continue working on the patience thing!)

I learned from diabetes the genuine goodness that resides in the hearts of children. My daughter came home from school on Friday, February 12th – the day of the Valentine’s Day party at school. While the other children brought home Hershey Bars and Skittles, Emily’s classmates Mitchell and Adam had gone to the store and bought her a bag of Pork Rinds – zero carbs – so she would not feel left out on Valentine’s Day.

Diabetes taught me that I am capable of coming precariously close to doubting God exists. Watching my daughter become a human pin-cushion, doubled over with agonizing stomach pains for hours at a time and watching the sadness on her face when she’d ask me if she was going to die, made this so. But ultimately, I learned, through diabetes, that my faith could become even stronger. Never before did I believe my faith had room to grow. Never before did it have to.

Diabetes taught me to keep a sense of humor like when we were watching Clean House for charity the other night and I asked my girls what charity they would donate to if they had the chance. Emily’s sister announced her charity of choice would be the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Emily chose the SPCA!

I learned, through diabetes, how to make the ultimate low-carb chocolate cake.

Diabetes taught me I am strong during those early days when just getting out of bed required a ridiculous amount of effort. Diabetes taught me that we only have this day and it taught me to not look too far into the future. I learned how to balance a little bit of planning with a little bit of living in the moment! I take life one day at a time and I walk in faith.

And finally, diabetes taught me to never underestimate the extraordinary resilience and fortitude of a certain 11-year-old girl who wakes up to this chronic disease every single day – with her chin up, her faith intact, one foot in front of the other and her hand in mine.

Faith! Hope! Cure!

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