Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake!

I was at the public library with C the other day.  As she was browsing for her selections, I found myself thumbing through books on diseases, written with children in mind.  Of course, my eyes shot to the few on diabetes and I grabbed one.  The cover was cute and it was written for very young children, maybe K-2 grades.  The illustrations were sweet.  I flipped through the pages.  It had all the same shocking turns that our own experience held:  illness, hospitalization, diagnosis, insulin injections, finger pokes, nutrition, emotions.  However, one of the last pictures made me pause.

It showed a birthday party scene.  Happy children gathered around a table.  Party hats and streamers.  Each child was enjoying a thick slice of birthday cake, except one little girl.  On her plate was an apple.  An apple?!!  Her face was so sad.  The couple of sentences underneath this picture eluded to the fact that because this child has diabetes, she no longer was allowed treats.  What?!!!

Now, I'm a big fan of apples, really.  But I 'm a bigger fan of allowing my type 1 kid to be a kid, to not make her stick out of a crowd, like an apple at a birthday party! 

I quickly flipped the pages back to the beginning.  When was this book written?  1991.  Okay, that is quite a ways back.  But still I question:  Why in the world was this still on a book shelf?  I mean, seriously, that gave me the feeling of a pit in the bottom of my stomach.

I glanced over at C.  Do I show her the few little books I found on diabetes?  Do I show her this one?  I thought to myself, We could talk about how she's on a pump --how we calculate carbs for treats -- how she can certainly have birthday cake.  But I stopped.  She was happily busy looking for a book on Pandas.  Not today, I thought.  We don't need to talk diabetes today...not right now.

I slipped the book back in its place.  As we checked out our stack of books, I kept wondering, Do people really believe that still?  I know the myth is alive and kicking in non D circles.  But do parents of type 1s still think this way?

Birthday cake.  It's a challenge, for sure.  As are a lot of other delicious, carb-exploding foods.  But challenge or not, everyone deserves a piece of cake now and then.  Hopefully, our library just has an old publication.  Hopefully, that book has been updated.  An apple instead of birthday cake?  I don't think so.


  1. We had 4 birthday parties within 2 weeks of diagnosis. The nurse's advice? Let her be a kid. (And of course give her insulin to cover the cake.)

    Even though there aren't that many books about diabetes for kids, perhaps you should talk to the librarian of the children's department and see if there is a way to take that book out of circulation and replace it with more up-to-date ones.

    I went into our library right after diagnosis to try to find a book to take to preschool and they had not one book. And we are part of a large lending system.

    (Add that to my to-do list!)

  2. I can identify with that book because that is exactly how I grew up. I don't remember a lot about diagnosis (in 1979 at age 11) but I clearly remember my hospital room-mate had a birthday and they brought her cake. And I told the nurse that I couldn't have cake anymore. The nurse told me that I could have one slice each year on my birthday.

    I am SO THRILLED things have changed a lot since then. I'm thrilled for me, yes, but I'm even more thrilled for the kids who don't ever have to be told they can only have cake on their birthday.

    As for parents of T1s still thinking that way - well, about a year ago my dad made a comment about me not being able to have chocolate. My poor dad is not the most observant - but I know he meant well.

  3. I know that book. I took that book out of the library within the weeks after Caleb's diagnosis. I can see that illustration because it is something that has stuck with me.

    I know that's how it used to be, and it makes me sad. I'm so happy that is not how it is today.


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