18 years of life with type 1 diabetes

18 years have passed since my son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and still, I remember it like it was yesterday. March 17, 2000.

The day started out sunny but by the end of it a horrible storm would hit my world and nothing would ever be the same.

We drove through a raging snowfall to take my lifeless 2-year-old son to the hospital.  There we were told that he had Type 1 diabetes.  They would monitor him for the next 24 hours to see if he would live or not.

Thankfully he survived that day but the fear never left me.   Before we left the hospital I was terrified of taking him home. I worried that I would make an error in his insulin and cost him his life.

When we got home, I did make mistakes.  Because he was so young, he didn’t know how to tell me if he was high or low. We didn’t have continuous glucose monitors then either.

If he fell asleep, I would panic.  The glucometer would be taken out before anything else.  I would clean his tiny finger, get a drop of blood almost as big as the pad of that finger, and apply it to a test strip.  30 seconds later I would finally learn if he was low or simply a toddler in desperate need of a nap.

Over the years he would learn to tell me if he was high or low.  His attitude would sometimes tell the tale for him.  When he short-tempered and trying to kill his brother by throwing things at his head, he was definitely high!

Eventually, he learned how to tell if he was low.  He would come to me and say he felt “weazy” and needed some juice.

We moved from injections to an insulin pump by the time he was 5.  My family couldn’t handle seeing him sitting by himself eating meals at set times when there was a better way. They helped us to pay for that first Cozmo insulin pump.

Our life was changed when his pump arrived.  No longer did we have to deal with 6-8 injections per day.  I was able to allow him to graze.  This was an incredible freedom for a small child and mom.

Puberty came with its own challenges.  The teen years were much like those of children without diabetes.  There were good times and bad.  Somehow we made it out alive and that is more than can be said for some children with diabetes.

My son is now 20 years old.  He has lived with diabetes for 90% of his life.  That makes me want to cry.  90% of his life has been dealing with injections, infusion set pokes. finger lancing, carb counting, high blood sugars and lows.  He has learned how to workout while managing diabetes  He goes out with his friends at night and as a few drinks all while dealing with insulin, test strips and diet.

My son works in the construction industry and must keep his pump warm when temperatures dip to below -30C.  He manages to test and combat lows all while wielding a hammer and trying to get his work done.

He lives thousands of miles away.  His roommate has known him his entire life.  They watch out for each other.  He knows about my son’s “broken pancreas”.  I wish that neither of them ever had to learn what diabetes was or how to handle it but life had other plans.

18 years.  It amazes me and saddens me.  I am so blessed to have a strong, young man who is still doing so well after all of these years.  It fills me with gratitude to think of all of the love and support that has guided me on this journey.  I still wish that he didn’t have to be on it.  I can’t believe that 18 years have passed already.

18 is just a small blip in his life.  I look forward to watching the next 18 years and another 18 after that.  Who knows what technology will have in store for him then.  Perhaps he will live to say “I used to have type 1 diabetes but now I don’t”.  I certainly hope so.

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Fourteen Years Since the World Exploded

14 years ago today my world turned upside down. It was not a fork in the road. It was not a minor blip on the radar of life. A bomb exploded and it forever changed the landscape of my life.

14 years ago this morning, I was looking at a sick little boy in my arms and was waiting to be able to take him in to see our doctor.  I was ignorant of what was to come.

14 years later, my son is a young man making his own decisions and stretching his wings…who just happens to live with Type 1 diabetes.  I am stumbling to come to terms with my new role of no longer being a hands on mom and often find myself looking back to see what I have done in hopes of figuring out where I will go next.

14 years have brought many changes.  Insulin pumps are more readily available and continuous glucose monitors are no longer things found in hospitals that are blinded for 7 days.  They are real tools that families and individuals are using in real-time to help fine tune their care.

14 years ago, diabetes threatened to take the life of my son.  Today he is strong, vibrant and learning how to handle his disease.  Diabetes does not control him. Its just his “thing” to live with.

We have not always seen smooth sailing. We have had our moments.  He has driven me crazy at times–failing to test or change infusion sets. He still can drive me nuts. I have yelled at him because of my own failings and frustrations.  We are not perfect but we are living. As the commercial says, we are living with diabetes. It stops him from little.

Diabetes has brought me the most incredible friendships.  I have friends throughout the world who have reached out at various times in my life to help me up or shove me forward. I hope I have done the same for them.

14 years seems like such a long time and yet I can see us back in that ICU just like it was yesterday.  Some things you never forget…my son has but I haven’t. Instead, on days like today,  I look back and say thank you! Thank you to the doctors and specialists that kept him alive and have taught us through the years.  Thank you to the Higher Power that has been with us through it all. Thank you to the friends and family who have joined us on this journey. Thank you for 14 years of good health and improved technology!

Diabetes sucks but life after diabetes…well its still life and that is pretty amazing!

2ish2

 

3 Tips for Parents of Newly Diagnosed Children with Diabetes

I was recently asked what advice I would give a parent of a child newly diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It has been a number of years since I fell into that category but I can sadly remember it all like it was yesterday.  That being said, it was an easy question to answer and comes in the form of three pieces of advice.

First and foremost, live your life four hours at a time.  Do not worry about six hours from now. Do not worry about tomorrow.  Live life in four hour time slots–nothing more.

Chances are high that your child is using a rapid acting insulin. They basically last four hours.  Look at readings inside the four hour window.  Look at food and activity in that four hour period.  If you see a reading that is in range for that four hour period give yourself a high-five! You did fabulously! If you see something out of range during that four hours then begin to problem solve.  What can you learn? Did you learn that your child is producing a small amount of insulin now and doesn’t need as much insulin for that food at the moment? Did you learn that not all slices of bread are the same number of carbohydrates? Did you learn that hockey practice before supper changes the amount of food and insulin your child needs?

Four hours. Its simple. Its manageable…and for an overloaded parental mind, really it is more than enough to handle.

My second piece of advice is to find a support system and use it! Let parents, partners, friends, and people from support groups (online and in real life) help! Share with them, unload on them, and again…use them.  Some people will “get it” more than others and that is okay but find a way to lean on even those who may not get it but are willing to learn, listen or take over for even an hour.  You deserve the break.  You cannot be the very best external pancreas that you can be without a break and an outlet.  Its okay to ask for help or even see a counselor. Many families with diabetes have to turn to someone along the way.  Its okay to do this.

Finally, cry in the shower.  Go ahead! Stand in that shower and let it all out. Let go of the big girl/boy pants, crumble and let that strong shell crack for just a little while.  Allow yourself to feel the pain and frustration that comes from a diagnosis of diabetes for your child. Allow yourself to feel the anger and hurt.  Allow yourself to grieve while the water washes away a bit of the pain so that you can be strong again once you step back into the real world.

You can do this.  There will be bumps.  There will be victories.  The landscape of your life, and that of your child, has changed forever.  This doesn’t mean that he/she will never achieve their dreams or live a long and full life.  It means that your perspective will shift a little (or maybe a lot). You will find new friendships that will bring you through the worst of times and celebrate with you in the best of times.  Life will be different but it can still be amazing…just four hours at a time.

crying in shower