It is weird how life can take such unexpected turns and lead you to a place you never knew existed. A place you now call “home”. My life has been a series of these ‘out of left field’ turns that have steered us in directions we never saw coming. My husband and I moved from Texas, to Idaho. While there we struggled with years of infertility and loss. I finally got pregnant, and found my bliss writing a book on the rigors of Infertility and Pregnancy Loss. I was and AM so impassioned about the plight of other marriages out there that would be struggling as we once did. I wrote a book while on bedrest, and 6 weeks after our first son was born we moved from Idaho to Tennessee for hubby’s job and I received a contract from a publisher on my manuscript! In Tennessee hubby started a new job, I moved forward publishing my book on Infertility and Pregnancy Loss and we adjusted to being a family of three. No wait – FIVE ‘cause I got pregnant with twins when my oldest turned one. WHOOPS! Never saw that coming. Hubby changed jobs AGAIN to work from home and we sold the SUV for a Minivan. When I was about 32 weeks pregnant with twins I had my first book signing on my new book – about infertility – and began radio and print interviews on the subject. The irony was fabulous, I know. Then shortly after my twins arrival things got REALLY crazy. Mommy got sick, one of the twins had surgery, and then whammo. The biggest left-field hit we have ever had to date.
My oldest son, then 2.5 years old, was slammed with Type 1 Juvenile diabetes. I say SLAMMED versus diagnosed because that’s what it was. A ton of bricks swung upside our heads while we looked blissfully the other way.
It was such a shock to my system that my husband had to literally carry the burden during those early weeks while I just tried to keep from drowning in the sucking void of anger I was piling on myself. Caring for twin 6 month old babies and a new diabetic toddler about ruined me. I remember calling my mother in Texas and SOBBING and begging her to come and help because I didn’t think I could handle it. We learned new math, a new way to look at food, and a whole new level of “parenting” that we didn’t know existed. Like all parents we had to teach our sons about respect, boundaries, staying safe when out at the park, shapes and colors, ABC’s and 123’s. But now we had to teach our sons about Carbs to help them grow and Proteins to stabilize their blood sugar. My oldest boy now knows about Blood Sugar, Hypoglycemic crashes, the importance of getting his eyes checked and teeth cleaned, and how to communicate to others when he feels shaky. As his twin brothers grow, they too will learn how to watch out for the warning signs of high or low blood sugar and they too will learn about Carbs, Proteins, etc. Why – because we are a family and as a FAMILY is how we do it.
J (my big boy) wears an insulin pump, has a TEAM of doctor’s he knows very well and sees often, and if I’ve done my job right he will LOVE to see them as much tomorrow as he does today cause this is his life – F O R E V E R. How is that for a suck-tastic piece of information? That one still gets me riled up even now, nearly a year and a half later. My son will forever be a Diabetic. He will forever have a life of insulin pumps and injections and doctor visits. He will forever have that layer around him of “how will THIS affect my blood sugar” if he begins sports or activities of any kind.
The crazy thing about all of this is how UNKNOWN it all is. I have a family full of Type 2 Diabetics and being that both illnesses are called “Diabetes” you would think they are similar. But it was absolutely nuts to me how different they were. And even now I get asked questions from people who just flat don’t know anything about Type 1 Diabetes…or how it’s so wildly different from Type 2. Let me be frank and clear. I. Am. Not. Judging. I am not judging anyone who asks me questions because frankly I give you kudos for being curious. If it hasn’t touched your life and you have never known Type 1 Diabetes (or T1D as the insiders refer to it) then consider yourself blessed and fortunate. I myself was once so ignorant as to think that all Diabetes were created equal. It’s amazing how a Ton of Bricks can change your perspective after you look out from under the rubble that hits you.
The core difference between T1 and T2 lies in a basic and very simplified definition: Type 2 Diabetics still MAKE insulin but the cells can’t receive the insulin very well whereas Type 1 Diabetics don’t MAKE insulin any longer. Type 2 can be caused by a multitude of things but the most common culprit is diet and lifestyle and as such altering the diet and lifestyle can often times reverse the diabetes. If you are a Type 2 diabetic you can take a pill to help your cells RECEIVE the insulin you already make, and you can control your diet to prevent making too much sugar etc. On the flip side, Type 1 Diabetics DO NOT MAKE INSULIN. Let’s be very candid on that point. There is an auto-immune involvement whereby the body has ATTACKED the islet cells that produce insulin and they are gone. They are no more. There is NO INSULIN being produced. As such, it does NOT MATTER what you eat, or what lifestyle you have….the process is irreversible. At least for now. Researchers are fighting for a cure but it’s not here yet and that is a topic for a WHOLE other article. A Type 2 diabetic can have sugar-free candies or graze a bit more and cheat once in awhile on their diet without too much of a detrimental spike or drop in their glucose levels, a Type 1 really can’t (or rather – shouldn’t). It doesn’t matter if it’s a natural sugar or refined sugar or sugar substitute…it’s the CARBS that count in Type 1 diabetes. I know…brave new world here. Sugar doesn’t matter to a Type 1, but ALL carbs count and carbs are in EVERYTHING. You can’t take a pill for Type 1 diabetes either, ONLY injections of liquid insulin. Before his pump, we had to give J injections about 8 to 10 times a day. And yeah, if you are wondering, at age 2.5 he was NOT okay with shots and we had to wrestle that scrawny kid bodily to the ground to do each and every one….and then console the tears afterwards in all three of us.
There are also varying degrees of severity within Type 1 Diabetes. When my son was first diagnosed I was told that anything under 15 grams of Carbs was a “free snack” that didn’t need to be counted. We quickly learned that was not the case. Our son has a particularly brittle (or in my terms brutal) form of diabetes and every single stinking carb that kid eats causes his sugar levels to go up up up up and the slightest miscalculation in insulin can send him down down down. The only thing my son gets to eat as a “free” snack is basically MEAT, CHEESESTICKS, WATER, and Sugar Free Jell-o. Everything else….every cracker…every cup of milk….every piece of chocolate…he has to have counted, and be dosed for. Right around now is when my Mommy-Guilt kicks in too. His twin baby brothers waddle themselves into the kitchen for a snack, hit the snack bag, and pop into their high chairs without a care in the world. Their big brother runs in, grabs his snack, and sits and waits for mommy to check his blood sugar and put it in his pump and he often asks, “can I eat it now?” As proud as I am that he has that amount of understanding and control – this is his life now – I’m equally guilt-ridden that something so basic as toddler snack time can’t be held sacred enough for the child to enjoy uninterrupted by diabetes. It touches everything in our lives.
There is nothing that isn’t shaped or altered by that stupid label – diabetes. And if I sound angry, I am. My kid is amazing, full of life and curiosity, and has forever been a ball of beautiful energy from the moment his eyes opened in this world. My biggest and most constant fear is that Diabetes will somehow make him feel – less. Less than the awesome kid he is. So we began, from day one, teaching him. YES he is a diabetic…but he’s also a ROCKSTAR and amazing and smart and capable.
I am constantly searching for snacks and food he can run and grab for free like his brothers. I am constantly searching for ways he can shine like any other "normal" kid. I gladly answer questions of people who ask me, and I invite him to ask other’s questions too. I want him to SEE the people who use a wheelchair, or need glasses. I encourage him to speak to the shy kids or the friends who have children that are autistic. Why – because their kids are Rockstar’s too! I want him to see that Diabetes is just a part of who he is…but it’s not ALL of who he is.
We’ve learned some amazing things about the human body in our journey to learn more about Type 1 Diabetes. Since it is an auto-immune related disease, it’s got a genetic component that touches Celiac’s as well as a huge host of other chronic conditions like allergies, asthma, kidney and vision issues, and more. And amazingly, nearly across the board, all the illnesses that are attached or remotely tied to T1D, can be affected if not better by lifestyle changes in diet and nutrition and overall exposure to harmful chemicals and processed foods – now don’t that just make your head spin. And before you go crazy sending me links to growing my own hemp fabric and hatching my own egg factory and living off the grid….let it be known that YES I still give my kids chicken nuggets – EEEEE GAD!
They are kids, I’m a busy mom, we have a life, and sometimes that involves junk food, fast food, pizza nights, cookies, or my family’s favorite treat of choice, STARBUCKS CAKEPOPS! But do you think I’m incorporating changes every day little by little to help improve ALL of our health overall… YES! I’m investigating organic foods, chemical free cleaners, allergen proofing our home, and more. Little changes that I can feasibly live with and still raise three little boys to one day be MEN who go out into the big bad world and make an impact.
So yeah, my son will forever be a Diabetic. A DIABETIC ROCKSTAR! On the go, On the move, Balls-to-the-Walls, Adrenaline Junky, red-headed ball of fire and energy ROCKSTAR! And if you ever wanna slow him down, beware the claws of Mama Bear who is shadowing right behind him. I make sure he gets to live his life as unhindered as possible and that includes from others who may, out of ignorance, try to make him feel less. And if you think my family is gonna let something like Diabetes hold us back – you have another thing coming. We look at this like any other challenge our Good Lord has seen fit to throw our way. We'll square our shoulders, look that bull straight in the eye, take it by the horns and say....Bring It On!
Originally posted on Houston Style Magazine at: