When a diagnosis of diabetes is given to a family, it can be a lonely road. The statistics of diabetes are staggering. However, only a small percentage of diagnoses are type 1. When C was first diagnosed, we knew just one girl who was type 1...only an aquaintance at the time. And, though so many children have type 1, they are not all in one place. So, yeah, we felt alone.
At first, I searched the internet, reading article after article about diabetes. Most were strictly factual. Then I came across organizations such as the JDRF...proof that there are a whole lot of families out there, just like us! When C began using an insulin pump, there was a whole new subject to research. Enter the DOC. And by DOC, I mean the "diabetes online community." And, that's when I found Kerri @sixuntilme...a young woman, living a full and happy life with diabetes. Her writing inspired me (and she's funny!) Her blog pointed to tons of other D bloggers. It opened more and more windows for us to learn about this thing called diabetes. Last but not least came Twitter. It's strange. But some people roll their eyes when I mention Twitter. Really, it has become invaluable for me. These people provide encouragement, a venting station, a resource for learning.
I am so happy to introduce a guest-poster today. A special D mom I've "met," Melinda (@notsostilllifes), has graciously written about her son, who is now a senior in high school, diagnosed at the age of 5. So, she's "been there, done that." And I have learned a ton from her. I hope you enjoy getting to know her a bit too! (An interesting sidenote about Melinda?...She paints beatiful watercolor paintings! You can find them on Etsy.)
On June 30th, 1997 my then 5-year-old son, Michael, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I suspected something was up with him before the diagnosis. He was thirstier, and using the bathroom more often than usual. Then, he wet the bed 2 nights in a row. Not just a little wet. Wet from neck to ankles wet. He had never wet the bed before. I had a book I used to look up symptoms and it said "Bed wetting in a previously trained child" was a symptom of diabetes. We headed to the pediatrician, but I already knew the diagnosis. She looked at him, and said that it would be highly unusual for him to have diabetes because he looked so well, hadn't lost a pound, and had had his Kindergarten check up in April and was fine then, but to be prudent, she would test his urine. I saw that strip poised over the cup, and knew that with that dip our lives would change forever. So began the roller coaster ride of living with diabetes.
Six weeks after he was diagnosed, we packed the car with his two brothers (Daniel was 8, and Dylan was 3) and headed to Bearskin Meadows Family Camp. There, we were tossed a lifeline. We met wonderful young adults with Type 1, who were happy, healthy and well adjusted. I realized that Michael could grow up and be like them. We were taught to take the judgment words out of blood sugar readings. They were High, Low And Target, not Good or Bad. You either needed insulin, food, or nothing. Food wasn't good or bad either. You just needed to carb count and cover. We were also told to let Michael be a kid first, and a diabetic second. Camp was such a safe haven.
12 years later, Michael is a healthy, happy well-adjusted 17 year old with diabetes. Has it always been easy? No. At 14, he and his older brother were at a sleep away camp about 35 miles from home at Santa Clara University, staying in dorms. It was a big step for us, but he was ready for it. The phone rang at 1 am about 3 days into camp. It was Daniel. "Mom, Michael's having a seizure and I can't wake him up". Michael had not cut back enough on his insulin to make up for 12 hours of basketball for the past 3 days. Daniel had to call 911, and get paramedics to the dorms. He handled it like a champion. Michael remembers "waking up" on the gurney having the paramedics asking him questions he knew he should be able to answer, but couldn't. Scary? Yes. Learning opportunity? Absolutely.
I can't even believe that this time next year he will be in college. We don't yet know where. Would I like to keep him home? Yes. But I know I can't. We have raised him with wings, and he is getting ready to fly. He wants to play college volleyball (and soccer too) and major in Marine Biology. He wants to live in the dorms, and have the college experience. I am so proud of him. I know he will be successful, diabetes and all. I know that I can let him go, but it won't be easy. I used to say that the hardest thing I'd ever done was learning to poke a needle into my little guy. I'm anticipating, however, that saying goodbye and driving away from wherever he chooses for college is going to be even harder. I guess it's just another one of the hills and dips on the roller coaster, and we will still get to enjoy the ride.
Thank you, Melinda!!