35 Candy-free Easter Basket Ideas

Candy free Easter

It is almost that time of year again. Time for Easter treats, Easter hunts, the Easter bunny and memorable time with family.  Our house was never really big on a lot of chocolate at Easter.  There was the occasional trail of jelly beans for them to follow but for the most part, my children loved to search for hidden treats like small cars, new colouring books and a new movie to watch. 

Parents of children with diabetes know that it is possible to cover treats with insulin.  If you are multiple daily injections or an insulin pump, you can simply inject or bolus insulin to cover the treat based on your carb to insulin ratio.  Despite that fact, many parents of children with diabetes or not, don’t want to give their children a lot of sugar and are looking for alternatives. For those who are trying to control the amount of “junk food” that their children eat, it can be a challenge to come up with candy-free alternatives. 

Here is a quick list of 35 items we came up with to fill Easter baskets that don’t include candy.

  • Stickers
  • Finger puppets
  • Lip gloss
  • Magic grow toys
  • Bounce balls
  • Magic grow capsules
  • Glitter glue
  • Hair ties
  • Earrings
  • Wind-up toys
  • Slime
  • Play dough
  • Silly putty
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Toy cars
  • Bubbles
  • Nail polish
  • Colouring books
  • Crayons
  • Toy cars
  • Books
  • Movie passes
  • Lego
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Bath toys
  • Ear phones
  • Body wash
  • Bath bombs
  • Silly string
  • Sunglasses
  • Gift cards
  • Plush toys
  • Tooth brush
  • Socks
  • Body spray

If you are still struggling to fill your child’s basket? Check out these great ideas…

For One-year-olds

easter for one year olds

Baby O and I has fun suggestions including PlayDough packs and rubber boots! Read all of their suggestions here.

For Toddlers

candy free for toddlers

Mommy Takes 5 shows you everything that you need for a toddlers basket from the basket itself to great things to put in it right here!

For all ages

candy free easter

The Teal Bandit has another 35 ides perfect for kids of all ages here.

Heather, over at Finding Our Green Life shares healthy treats as well as more great basket ideas here!

What is your favourite Easter basket idea? Let us know in the comments!

Six Tricks to Enjoy Halloween with diabetes.

trick or treating with diabetes
from Charles Schultz

It is that time of year again, time to get ready for the Great Pumpkin and all of the fun…and anxiety that Halloween can bring many parents. For those families dealing with diabetes for the first time, it can be a challenge to figure out how to handle Halloween with diabetes.

Children are invited to Halloween parties.  There are Halloween events at school and there is the inevitable night of trick or treating.  What do you do with all of that sugar?? Well here are a few things that have helped some parents get through.

Eat while they walk

Its okay to let your child eat candy while he/she is out trick or treating. In fact, go ahead and encourage it (as long as usual Halloween safety rules are applied of course–Mom/Dad checks candy or it is from the home of a good family friend).  All of the walking, running and general excitement will most likely lead to some serious low blood sugars.  You can help to avoid this by letting your child eat the bars, rockets (Smarties for my US friends) and other treats. Your child will feel “normal” and it will be a fun way to keep blood glucose levels in range.

Halloween treats are great from treating lows when you have diabetes

Halloween is the perfect time to stock up on low supplies. It offers fabulous 15-gram packs of sugar just perfect to carry in your bag and treat lows. In fact, even if your child doesn’t take part in Halloween events, you may want to head to the grocery store during this time to grab a few bags of low treats and save a few dollars! They tend to be a lot cheaper than buying glucose tablets from the grocery store.

halloween treats at meals
Make Halloween treats part of a meal

If you like to stick to a set meal plan, you can still add in some of your child’s Halloween treats. A bag of chips is equivalent to a bread exchange. A snack-sized chocolate bar is the equivalent of a fruit exchange.  For a treat, allow your child to have one of their Halloween items as part of a meal or snack.

Buy the candy back

Some families offer their children cash for their candy.  The children can then take the money that they earned collecting candy to purchase a book, game or favourite toy.  Mom and Dad can take the candy to work or save it to enjoy during some downtime when the kids are in bed!

The Great Pumpkin can make it fun to enjoy Halloween with diabetes

Have the Great Pumpkin or Halloween witch come to visit.  Much like buying the candy, parents will exchange the candy while the child sleeps.  In place of their loot, the child will receive a movie pass, book or other treats that don’t involve food.

Donate extra Halloween candy

Yet another way for our children to learn care and compassion is to take their candy to a local hospital or hostel. Have them share their candy with children who are unable to go out for Halloween.

Halloween is often a fun time for children. Remember that children with diabetes are children first.  Use some of the tips above to ensure that your child has a fun and memorable Halloween or let us know what works for you in the comments!

6 tricks to enjoy Halloween with diabetes Diabetes Advocacy

Looking for help to organize your life with diabetes? Check out the Diabetes Advocacy Diabetes Planner.

It’s okay to cry…or scream..or just take time for you

diabetes is hard

Diabetes is hard.  Whether you live with the disease or you are the parent of a child with diabetes, diabetes is hard! I know, I said it twice because it is true. It can be exhausting and overwhelming. There is never truly a time when you can relax and say “whatever will be will be.”

There are times when you want to relax. You want to throw in the towel.  There are times when you want to simply say “ENOUGH!!!” and hide under the covers for a the day.  I am here to tell you to do it! Seriously, take a minute or an hour or a day and just throw in the towel so that you can pick it up again with more strength than you had before.

It’s in your best interest and the interest of those you love to take time for you.  Take time to just let it all go.  Here are five easy ways to reset yourself so you can continue on your journey with diabetes.

1. Hideout in the shower

cry

The shower is an amazing place.  You can lock the door.  The water pouring over your body can be calming and soothing.  It washes away your tears gently and without judgement.  The sound of the running water also drowns out your anguish.

When things seem bad…When you are tired and just want a break… take 5 minutes and hang out in the shower.  Cry or vent.  No one needs to know. No one needs to see.  You can simply let out all of that pent up anxiety  and allow it to flow down the drain.

After you are finished crying and yelling, you can dry off and get on with your day!

2. Go for a walk

walk

Ideally, go for a walk by yourself but if you can’t take the kids and just go!  Power walk at first until you have spent all of that stress and tension out of your body.  Let all of your frustrations be released in your strides. Slowly let everything go until you can slow down and enjoy the scenery.  Breathe and just let it be.

Your heart will thank-you and so will your psyche.

3. Pass the buck

Alternate site testing

Whether you have diabetes or you are the caregiver, let someone else deal with things for an hour or a day.  Let them do the blood checking and the injecting. Give the meter or CGM receiver to a trusted companion or family member for a bit.  Allow them to deal with things in their own way.  Allow yourself to forget just for a bit.

It can be hard at first.  Diabetes is so all consuming but it can happen.  Don’t be concerned if the other person is  doing things differently than you would.  Let go.  As long as no one’s life is in danger…let it go.

I have done this for my son before.  There would be a day when I would do all of the testing, bolusing and carb counting. He would simply hand me a finger or his pump.  Diabetes was not something that he was going to actively concern himself with managing for that time period. He loved the break.

4. Enjoy a date night

have fun

If you are a parent of a child with diabetes, this is super important.  Make time for you and your partner.  If you are single, then make time for you and your close friends.  Take time once a week or at least once a month, to focus on relationships.  Leave diabetes in the hands of someone you can trust.  Do not spend all of your time looking at your phone or texting home.  Focus on enjoying yourself and recharging your batteries.

5. Meet up with other D-peeps

This one may seem a bit strange.  If you are overwhelmed by diabetes, why or why would I suggest that you hang out with other people who are just as stressed as you? Because they get it!

Seriously, meeting another person who lives with diabetes can be so liberating.  They truly do understand carb counting and pump problems.  They  are the ones who understand the A1c report card and so many other aspects of your life.

Go to conferences, events, or socials.  Talk to that co-worker who also has diabetes or that Facebook friend you met in a group.  Share with each other.  You won’t just talk about diabetes but they will understand that diabetes factors into so many other aspects of your life.

These are just a few things that can help to relieve some of the stress of living with diabetes.  There are many other things that you can do.  If you reach the point of feeling completely overwhelmed, please consider talking to your doctor or a therapist.  Diabetes is hard.  You need supports.  Make sure you find them and use them for the sake of you and all of those who care about you.

Six things not to say to parents of children with diabetes

things you dont say to a parent of a child with diabetesPeople generally mean well but sadly many just don’t think before they open their mouths.  I therefore thought that it might be a good idea to create a little list for them of thing that you really should NOT ever NEVER say to parents of children with diabetes. Consider it a personal service announcement if you will…

My cat had diabetes

Really? Seriously? Because we know that you injecting your cat’s fur with insulin is really identical to chasing a toddler around the room with a syringe,  pinning them down and explaining that you are stabbing them for the fourth time today because you love them.  Yes, I am sure they are exactly the same.

Yes, there was an eye roll here.

My great-aunt Thelma died of diabetes

Thank you.  I needed to hear that.  I have guilt on top of guilt about not protecting my child from this disease and you tell me that your 90 year old aunt died because of diabetes?

Odds are that she had Type 2 diabetes and at 90…well her odds weren’t the greatest for lasting long anyway but yeah, I can see where I needed to know this.

This is why parents of children with diabetes have bruises on their heads. They spend a lot of time banging it against a wall in frustration. .

Don’t worry. I am sure that your child will grow out of it.

The odds of my child outgrowing their diabetes are lot  less likely than as you overcoming your ignorance of what type 1 diabetes really is.

Nope, growing out of diabetes is not an option.  My child’s pancreas is just no longer doing its job.  We have tried everything we could to revive it but its dead. Gone. No functioning beta cells to produce insulin.  No hope.

On the upside, I would really encourage you to do a bit of Googling or even ask some questions of me and then listen.  Truly listen to what I will tell you and you might be surprised at what you can learn. Your ignorance can be cured!

Perhaps if you hadn’t given your child so much sugar, then he/she wouldn’t have gotten diabetes.

Perhaps if you had not thought that they said “trains” when they were handing out “brains” and decided that you didn’t want to go for a ride, you would have a bit more of a clue.

Having a child with diabetes brings enough guilt.  I fret over what I could have done. I berate my faulty gene pool for allowing this to happen to my baby. Despite these things, I did not cause my child to develop diabetes. What my child ate had nothing to do with his diagnosis.  Really.

Would she prefer a diabetic chocolate?

Eeeekkkk!! Run! Fast! Actually if you eat many of those chocolates you will have to run fast–to the washroom.  Many diabetic candies are filled with sugar alcohols that can cause diarrhea.

Thankfully, my child is able to balance insulin injections with food intake so regular candy is just fine.  We do appreciate you trying though.

Perhaps you may want to relook at how many of those candies you have as well.  I kid you not.  They are nasty!

Is their diabetes under control?

Control? What is that???  A parent of a child with type 1 diabetes is trying to keep a blood sugar fluctuation of .54grams per liter on a constant basis despite over 25 influencing factors trying to mess with things.   Imagine that…trying to maintain a balance of less than one gram of sugar with the influence of stress, food, exercise and 20+ other things!  Can you see why  as parents we simply celebrate when they get even two readings in range?

It’s a big deal.  Diabetes is a really complicated disease.  Most parents of children with diabetes are doing their very best to balance allowing their child to be a normal kid and trying desperately to manage blood sugar levels so that their children feel healthy.  It is a huge challenge.

Parents of children with diabetes appreciate when you care.  Really we do, but please, please, please, think before you speak!

There are certain things that you really truly should not say to parents of children with diabetes.  Offer them a smile, a sympathetic ear, a kind word even.  Honestly, they are much more appreciated.

Do you know the signs of diabetes?  We now have a great download to show you the symptoms of high and low blood sugar levels

9/11 and Diabetes Created New Concerns

Remember 9/11

This post was originally written in 2012.  The sentiments remain the same. 9/11 was horrible.  When you live with diabetes, 9/11 brought out fears and concerns that you would never previously have considered…

September 11, 2001.  Is there any adult in North America who does not remember where they were on that fateful morning?

I  had left my house early to drive to the airport 2.5 hours away to pick up my grandmother who was coming to visit from the other side of the country.  My oldest son was in school and my youngest was with me for the ride.

I stopped to do a bit of shopping and was looking at paper towels when my cell phone rang. I was told  “A plane has hit one of the towers in New York. There has been a terrorist attack.”   It made no sense to me and I didn’t believe it.  There had to be a mistake so I continued my shopping  before the next leg of my trip.

A few minutes later my phone rang a second time.  This time it was a woman from Air Canada who said,  “We have your grandmother here.  The plane can’t fly her  because all air traffic has been grounded.  We will be putting her on a boat and you can meet her tomorrow morning.”

What? The terrorist attack was real? Planes grounded?  I was shocked to the core as  I spoke to my grandmother who was in great spirits and excited to experience an Atlantic Ocean ferry boat crossing.  We  headed home and like many others, I alternated between being glued to the tv and checking my computer for updates from friends and family.

I had recently found an online support group  for parents of children with diabetes. The people there had not only become my lifeline, but also my family.  We were frantic to hear from people that we “knew” living and working near the towers in New York.

I had a cousin who was an NYC police officer. I had to find out if he was working that day or safe with his family on Long Island. Another cousin was due to go to traffic court that day in one of the Towers and I wondered if he went before the collapse? It was a day of chaos, fear and some relief.

By the end of the day, everyone was accounted for.  There were a lot of prayers for those lost as well as those who made it out alive.  As the dust settled–figuratively and literally, a new fear began to permeate.  I live on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and can easily be cut off from the rest of the world–the rest of my family.

More importantly, if we were cut off how would I get insulin or diabetes supplies? My youngest son relies on insulin to live.  What if we couldn’t get it as easily anymore? How would I keep him alive?  What if the terrorist attacks continued? Would they target pharmaceutical factories? Could I feed him no or low carb foods? Would he be okay? I could feel the panic welling.

I wasn’t alone in my concerns.   Other friends with children with diabetes were thinking similar thoughts but some were much more resourceful than me.  One friend investigated getting insulin from rabbits to use for her child.

Thankfully we never had to be concerned with any of those fears coming to pass.   My grandmother is now passed on.  Each year, we all continue to  remember exactly where we  were on that day and we say an extra prayer.

For those of us living with diabetes, we give an extra pause.  We remain grateful for access to the supplies that keep our loved ones alive.  It is oddly funny however that once diabetes enters your life, it permeates everything–even memories of disasters.

Tips for Managing Diabetes in the Summer

managing diabetes in the summer

It’s summer!! I mean it really is finally summer! Some areas have been enjoying great weather for a bit but where I live–well, I kind of wondered if summer was ever going to show up.   Now that it is really here, let’s talk about a few tips for managing diabetes in the summer months.

Keep your insulin and test strips cool.

Summer heat can literally ruin blood glucose test strips and insulin.  If you are on injections, make sure to keep your insulin stored in a cool place. If you are pumping, again, make sure that your pump doesn’t get overheated.  You may even want to consider changing out your cartridges more often to ensure that your insulin is fresh and hasn’t been compromised by the heat.

Frio Pack  for managing diabetes in the summer diabetes advocacy

Test strips also react to extreme temperatures.  Again, make sure that they are stored in a cool place.  If you are traveling to the beach or theme parks, you may want to invest in a FRIO Insulin Cooling Pump Wallet.  They are convenient little cooling packs that will help to keep things chilled.

If you don’t have access to Frio packs, another great suggestion is to use frozen juice packs.  You can keep your supplies cool and are prepared for lows!

Mastistol and Antiperspirant are pumpers’ new best friends.

mastisol to stick infusion sets in the summer diabetes advocacy

Summer often means swimming and swimming can mean chlorine. Chlorine can bring extra headaches for people with diabetes using an insulin pump in the summer. Personally,  the only way for us  to keep sites on in chlorine was by making sure that a product like Mastisol Liquid Adhesive was used on the skin prior to set insertion.

For people using an insulin pump and/or a CGM, you may also want to look at using an antiperspirant on the site.  Apply a light coat of antiperspirant (not deodorant) to the insertion site area.  This will help to keep sites in place when your body begins to sweat!

Have snacks everywhere.

jelly beans to treat summer lows diabetes advocacy

Summer heat can bring its own challenges for managing diabetes. It tends to mean more exertion and rapidly dropping blood glucose levels.  Make sure to carry extra snack foods with you wherever you go.  One parent suggests that you stock up on Freezies.  They are perfect treats for lows and also help ward off dehydration.  Other families have suggested fruit and frozen grapes as must have snacks for on the go.

Drink lots of water.

water diabetes advocacy

Dehydration is a real problem in the heat.  It is especially important for people living with diabetes to stay hydrated because dehydration will cause blood glucose levels to spike.

Check BG levels often.

Blood Ketone meter diabetes advocacy

Heat, exhaustion and the fun of the sun can really mess with blood glucose levels so make sure that you check blood glucose levels often to avoid any serious diabetes-related emergencies.

Bring extras!

infusion sets diabetes advocacy

As I have said, infusion sets can fall out.  Blood sugar levels can go crazy.  It is vital that you carry extras of everything–extra snacks, extra water, extra test strips, extra insulin and extra infusion sets just in case.

Wear sunscreen.

sunscreen diabetes advocacy

I know, everyone is supposed to wear sunscreen so really is this a diabetes issue? Well no…and yes! It turns out that sunburns have been known to really mess with blood glucose levels.  The moral of the story? Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen to help keep blood glucose levels in check.

Have fun!

toddler from Diabetes Advocacy

Finally, in Canada especially, we just don’t seem to see summer for long enough so plan ahead and enjoy all that this summer has to offer you and your family!

If you are planning on traveling to find the sun this year, don’t forget to check out our complete travel checklist so that you don’t forget anything before you go!

Diabetes is not a joke. Diabetes kills.

life lost to diabetes Diabetes Advocacy

Diabetes is not a joke. Diabetes is not about weight or junk food.  This disease requires those living with it to walk a fine line…too much or too little insulin can have catastrophic ramifications. The fear is real and justified.  Type 1 diabetes kills. 

The article below was originally published on May 11, 2016.  It was exceptionally hard to write.  As a parent of a child with diabetes, we know that diabetes is deadly but we hope it will never kill one of our own.  When it does….well your world is shaken to the core and is never the same again. 

I think of this family daily.  I can only begin to imagine their pain and the pain of others who have also lost their loved ones to this disease.  We will never forget. We will continue to work towards a cure. 

In the diabetes online community, the appearance of a blue candle suggests that someone has lost their life to diabetes.  Its a time of sorrow and a time during which we hug our loved ones a little closer. It is also a  time to test a little more often before we allow the memory to fade and we move on.

Last week I received a message that made my heart stop.

I headed over to a friend’s Facebook page to verify what I had read.

blue candle life lost to diabetes

There was  the blue candle.

My breathing stopped.

I read her post.

The tears began to flow.

Through the tears I sent a message to my friend.  She confirmed my worst fears with her words “I just want him back.”

“Oh, I wish I could bring him back for you!”

That’s what I replied through the tears.  I was numb.  The blue candle was no longer for a stranger who could have been my child.  This candle was for a child that I had watched grow through our online communications. This was happening to a friend who had been there for me through highs and lows of  16 years with diabetes.  I wished I could bring her son back to her.  The pain was too much for me and  I couldn’t begin to imagine how she was feeling. It hurt too much to try.

No mother should bury their child. We shouldn’t have to mourn for those who have yet to have fully enjoyed their lives. There is something fundamentally wrong with that. It makes our hearts ache.

When we hear of a child lost, we hurt but we push it away. It happens to other people.  It is horrible but it happens to other people.  But what about when it doesn’t? What about when it hits your family?

Last week it hit my family and the pain is still fresh. The reality is stark. Diabetes kills people regardless of age.

15 +years ago, I became connected to the internet.  I reached out to find “parents of children with diabetes”.  Instead I found an information email list, or so I thought but what I really found was a family.

I found people, some that I would meet, some that I would talk to on the phone, and some that I would never know beyond the keystrokes of a keyboard. All of them would become family.  They would be by my side through the good times and the bad.  They would understand diabetes –its peaks and valleys but they would also understand me.  This incredible online community would be there for me at all hours from around the globe.  They were Friends for Life–they were family.

Over the years, some of those connections have been neglected.  Our children have grown and some of  our children have become parents themselves.  We have watched each other’s lives on Facebook and occasionally we wish each other well.

Other connections remain strong. We reach out regularly.  We have remained in contact and fondly look back on where we have been.

No matter whether we are close or drifted, when tragedy strikes we are all one big family again. One family united by pain–sobbing with each other.  A family holding each other in virtual hugs through real tears.

Tragedy isn’t supposed to hit us. Not a direct hit like this one.  Diabetes isn’t to supposed to take a child that we “knew” and watched grow but it has.  The pain is unbearable.

I know that the pain will fade for some of us.  It will dull a little for my friend but that missing piece will never be replaced.  I am lucky.  In 16 years, my son has stayed quite healthy.  In all of this time, I have only known of one person–whom I had met, spoken with, and been friends with, who had died because of diabetes but now there are two. Those are two too many.

I don’t want there to be any more.  There must be a cure.  People with diabetes deserve better access to treatments.  We need more awareness. We need more…

Those of us in the diabetes community will continue to work harder. Some people will bike more while others will walk more. We will all advocate louder. The general public must understand that our fears are not unfounded. Type 1 diabetes can be a deadly disease regardless of age.

Our hope will remain.

We came together because of diabetes but we have stayed together because of incredible friendships that know no borders.  I pray that one day we will celebrate a life without diabetes.  Until then, hug your loved one a little closer today.  Send prayers and strength to the families who have lost someone during our fight. I am grateful to each of you who have become such an important part of my life.

What Parents of Children with Diabetes Wish You knew…

parents of children with diabetes

Have you read the blog post “What Everyone with Diabetes wishes you knew“? Go and read it if you haven’t. Bring tissues.  After I wiped away the tears, I began to think about “what parents of children with diabetes wish you knew.”  Some of us don’t have diabetes ourselves but we still have very strong feelings about the issue.  As parents of people with diabetes, we have things that we wish our children knew.  There are also things that we wish that the general public knew.

Parents of children with diabetes wish that the our children with diabetes knew that….

time together

We would take this disease from them in a heartbeat…a heartbeat.

With every tear that they shed,  we have privately cried  a hundred more… We didn’t want you to see how much it hurts us to hurt you.  We told you that we do this to keep you healthy and alive (and we do) but it kills us too.

No matter how old you are, we still want to “make it better”. Seriously.  Still.

We know that you can handle it.  We just wish that you didn’t have to…As parents of children with diabetes, when we were completely responsible for your care, we got tired and wanted a break. We understand that you, as the person with diabetes must feel the same way at times. We wish we could carry the burden for you.

Even when we don’t ask you how your readings are, we are still wondering if they are okay…

We know that you are more than a number.  As parents of children with diabetes, we understand that blood glucose levels are only part of the story but we want you to be okay.  We want to know that the readings are okay as well.

We have watched you sleep and cried at all of the holes that we have put into your body just to keep you alive.

Every night that we sat awake waiting for your blood glucose to rise or fall, we did from love and a need to keep you safe.

When we nag at your for not testing, injecting or rotating sites it’s because we want you to have a long and healthy life.  

It’s not that we love the sound of our own voices. It’s not that we think you don’t have a clue. As parents, we know that life happens and people forget. We just want to help.

If you need us to, we will still help you with any care or night testing. 

Ask.  We might be out of practice but we are quick studies. We will help you anyway and any time that we can. It’s just what parents do.

Even if you aren’t my child and you live with diabetes, I wish I could take it from you.  

Honestly,  I wish I could help you carry that burden for a week and let you breathe.  I have told you this before and I mean it. I don’t care how old you are.  You are someone’s child with diabetes.  You carry the same burden as my own child.  It still kills me.

I wish you didn’t have to carry so much “gear” with you when you go out.  

I wish you knew the luxury of just grabbing your wallet and keys and heading out the door without concern for insulin, pump, glucometer and glucose tablets.

We wish for a cure too.

Until it arrives, we will work with you to have the best care, the best knowledge and the best tools that we can afford.

As parents of people with diabetes, we wish that the general public really understood that…

insulin pump tattoo

Type 1  is not the same as type 2 diabetes.  

Each disease has its own challenges and issues.

We did not cause our children to develop diabetes.  

Seriously, we carry enough guilt about not protecting our children from an invisible disease.  Your added blame is not required.

It is okay for our children to have treats now and again, the same as your children do.

No child–or adult should live on junk food but a cupcake now and again will just brighten someone’s day…or raise a falling blood glucose level.

Insulin is not a cure.

It just keeps my son alive…and can kill him. It is a carefully managed tool that he must use at all times.

An insulin pump is not a cure either. 

An insulin pump is an expensive tool that not everyone can afford.  Even for those lucky enough to be able to use one, there is still much work to be done to be safe and healthy.

Diabetes is expensive.

 Let me repeat this….diabetes is EXPENSIVE. There are many great advances in diabetes care but they are only available to those with excellent insurance or deep pockets.  The cost of diabetes supplies can range from the equivalent of a car payment or mortgage payment each month. Again, that is just for a person with diabetes to stay alive.

I look tired because I don’t sleep at night.  

After years of worrying about my son’s blood glucose levels and testing him numerous times per night–well I still wake up. I still worry about what his readings are. I still don’t sleep properly

Worrying isn’t about being an overprotective helicopter parent or because I have nothing better to do with my time.

 I worry because diabetes is deadly.  Errors in insulin, errors in tools or simply changes in activity levels can have lethal consequences for people with diabetes.  This isn’t just talk. This is real.  I have lost friends to this disease.  Parents of children with diabetes have seen their children die because of diabetes. Diabetes kills. It is a scary disease.

As a parent of a child with diabetes, I hope both my child and the general public know that I will continue to work hard every day to improve the lives of people with diabetes. I will offer a helping hand, a strong shoulder or the voice of experience where necessary. I will continue to dream of a day when we can say that we are parents of children cured of diabetes.

Diabetes Diagnosis day…It slipped my mind

17 years of diabetes
Celebrating 17 years of health and wellness

It slipped my mind…sort of…well, more so than ever before. Today is the day that Diabetes turns 17 years old in our house.  Strangely, it hasn’t consumed all of my thoughts this month.  I haven’t planned this post for weeks in advance…in fact I actually had another post planned for this week when I realized the date!

That is unheard of for me.

Every March I think of two things…what will I get my oldest son for his birthday and how long diabetes has been a part of my youngest son’s life.

This March has been a bit different.  I was busy this March with other things.  For the first few days of the month, I got to spend time with my nephews after not seeing them for a  few years.  I was able to meet my youngest nephew for the very first time.  We enjoyed cuddles and goofing around.  It wasn’t until I was home that I thought about his little life and the life of his older cousin–my youngest son.

When my son was his age, he was being stabbed with a needle somewhere in his body 5+ times per day.  At the age of 3, his little fingers had tiny marks from testing his blood glucose levels 8 or more times per day.  My sweet little nephew had bruises on his knees from playing outside with his trucks.  When my son was that age, he had similar bruises but there were also bruises that would sometimes find his arms, legs or stomach after an injection.

I am so glad that none of my nephews have had to go through this.  I remain in awe of how well my son has managed to cope.  He won’t even notice this day.  Life with diabetes is all that he has ever known.  For him, it is simply St. Patrick’s Day–an excuse to go out with his friends and have a beer.

Today I will pause as I always do.  Most likely I will message a dear friend whose son shares this “dia-versary”.  On this day, I will be extra grateful for the many incredible and lasting friendships that diabetes has brought into my life.  I will also take a moment to cry for the friend who lost her child last year–we were brought together because of our sons’ common diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

Today I am sure that I will slip back in time for a moment.  There will be a pause in my day when I vividly recall the lifeless child that I held in my arms 17 years ago.  I will remember the prayers that I said and the prayers that were offered as we rushed to the hospital.  At one point today I will see, in my mind’s eye, the doctor who sent my son to ICU and told me, “if he makes it through the next 24 hours, you will need to learn a lot about diabetes.” The phone calls, the terror, the uncertainty will all come flooding back just like it was yesterday.

Today I will quietly cry for the life that was lost but I then I will wipe away the tears.  As I tell others, today is about celebrating.  Today marks 17 years that my son has lived strongly with type 1 diabetes.  He has never let it stop him from doing anything–except for shoveling the driveway in the winter.  He seemed to often be conveniently low as a child during that particular chore.

My son now manages his diabetes his way. I don’t test him.  Rarely do I know what his blood sugar levels look like.  I can’t tell you his insulin to carbohydrate ratio or even his basal rates. Diabetes is his disease to handle now.

It hasn’t all been perfect. There have been stumbles along the way.  I still remain there to help when asked.  We discuss carb counts or extended boluses.  I still do site changes when required. Seventeen years later, we are both finding our way but he is healthy and thriving.  I can ask for nothing more…except a cure of course.

Another life lost to diabetes. I wish I could bring him back to you.

 life lost to diabetes blue candle for Niko

In the diabetes online community, the appearance of a blue candle suggests that someone has lost their life to diabetes.  Its a time of sorrow.  It’s a time to hug our loved ones a little closer. It’s a time to test a little more often and then we move on.

Last week I received a message that made my heart stop.

I headed over to a friend’s Facebook page.

I saw the blue candle.

I couldn’t breathe.

I read her post.

The tears began to flow.

Through the tears I sent a message to my friend.  She confirmed my worst fears with her words “I just want him back.”

“Oh, I wish I could bring him back for you!”

That’s what I replied through the tears.  

I was numb.  

This time the loss to diabetes was close to home.

The blue candle was no longer for a stranger who had lost their life to diabetes.  This candle was for a child that I had watched grow through our online communications.

This was happening to a friend who had been there for me through highs and lows of  16 years with diabetes.  I wished I could bring her son back to her.  The pain was too much for me, I couldn’t begin to imagine how she was feeling. It hurt too much to try.

No mother should bury their child. We shouldn’t have to mourn for those who have yet to have fully enjoyed their lives. There is something fundamentally wrong with that. It makes our hearts ache.

When we hear of a child’s life lost to diabetes, no matter what their age, we hurt but we push it away. It happens to other people.  It is horrible but it happens to other people.  But what about when it doesn’t? What about when it hits your family?

When diabetes takes someone in your family

blue candle life lost to diabetes

Last week the life lost to diabetes was in my close diabetes family and the pain is still fresh.

15 +years ago, I became connected to the internet.  I reached out to find “parents of children with diabetes”.  I found an information email list, or so I thought.  What I really found was a family.

I found people, some that I would meet, some that I would talk to on the phone, and some that I would never know beyond the keystrokes on a keyboard.

All of them would become family.  These were the people that would be by my side through the good times and the bad.  They would understand diabetes –its peaks and valleys but they would also understand me.  These friends would be there for me at all hours from around the globe.  They were Friends for Life. They were family.

Over the years, some of those connections have been neglected.  Our children have grown.  Some of  the children have become parents themselves.  We watched each other’s lives on Facebook and occasionally wished each other well.

Other connections remain strong. We reach out regularly.  We still see each other. We have kept in contact and fondly look back at where we have been.

No matter whether we are close or drifted apart when tragedy strikes, we are all one big family again. One family united by pain.  One family sobbing with each other.  One family holding each other in virtual hugs with real tears.

Tragedy isn’t supposed to hit us. Not a direct hit. Not taking a child that we “knew” and watched grow but it has.  And it hurts like no other.

The pain will always be there

life lost to diabetes Diabetes Advocacy

I know that the pain will fade for some of us.  It will dull a little for my friend but that missing piece will never be replaced.  I am lucky.  In 16 years, my son has stayed quite healthy.  In all of this time, I have only known of one person–whom I had met, spoken with, and been friends with, who had died because of diabetes. Now there are two.

I don’t want there to be any more.  We need a cure.  We need better access to treatments.  We need more awareness. We need more…

We will continue to work harder. We will bike more. We will walk more. We will advocate louder.

Our hope will remain.

We came together because of diabetes.  We stayed together because of an incredible friendship that knows no borders.  I pray that one day we will celebrate life without diabetes.  Until then, hug your loved one a little closer today.  Send prayers and strength to the families who have lost someone during our fight. I am grateful to each of you who have become such an important part of my life.