Handling Diabetes and the Holidays

We are heading into the holiday season!  Soon we will be facing holiday parties and family dinners filled with memories and so much food! When living with diabetes, all of that food can trigger a great deal of anxiety and stress.  As a parent of a child with diabetes, food and excitement can create the most ugly roller-coaster of blood glucose readings.  So how do you make the holidays a memorable time without experiencing the nightmares of highs and lows?

You can let your child eat, play, be merry and deal with the messy blood glucose levels or you can try some of these options….

  1. Have a plan!  I have always been a firm believer in allowing my son to be a child first and a child with diabetes second.  This could sometimes be easier said than done as we watch and panic. Pushing down the panic and moving forward with wag carb (wild @s$ guess) counts helped to make things much more enjoyable for my son.
  2. Integrated Diabetes’ November blog offers a lot of great advice on how to wade through the many holiday dishes that will cross your path.  One great tip is to bring some of your own food. By having a few of your own dishes at events, you will already know the carb count and know how it impacts blood glucose levels.
  3. Remember a few of the standards that will be served–15g CHO for a half cup of potatoes, 25g CHO tends to cover a lot of cookies, 20g for a small apple, and so on.  We often have the same food again and again so try to relax a bit.  Think back to some of carb counts you have used before and see if they will fit any of the food choices that you are looking at.
  4. Test a lot.  If you make an error on your carb guesses testing will catch those rises or drops ideally before they become too stressful.
  5. If you are using an insulin pump, make sure that you use pump features such as combination boluses and extended boluses to help manage high fat meals and grazing.
  6. Finally, remember to enjoy the occasion! Food is lovely…and tasty, but this is a time to make memories and cherish the time spent with good friends and family.  Remember to make that your focus and make diabetes take a backseat as much as you can.



So much changes when you are 18 and have diabetes.

My son is 17. That in itself is a shock.  How did my baby become 17? His older brother has been in the work force for a few years and now owns his own house.  Again, how has any of this managed to have happened so quickly?

When your child is born, they tell you to savor each moment because time will pass faster than you could imagine. Some days, when your children are small, the days can’t pass quickly enough. You try to hold onto time as much as you can but despite your best efforts you wake up and have to plan for the graduation of your youngest child.

I have my son’s graduation ring purchased.  We will get his pictures done in the coming months.  There will be a suit and shoes to buy that he will either purchase with me or with his father.  There is planning for what school he will attend in the fall and registering for programs.

That is where the normal part of being 17 ends.  Being a person with diabetes who is 17, there are other things to consider as well. He is counting down the number of appointments left with his childhood endo. He will be turned over to a different doctor when he turns 18 in the fall.

He doesn’t think about it but he only has 8 years left under our provincial insulin pump program.  I worry about what sort of benefit program he will have in his chosen field. I will be looking into it soon…just in case.

Because my son will be 18 in the fall of 2015, his Disability Tax Credit certificate will also expire.  In order for him to continue to own his RDSP, I have to ensure that a new DTC application is filed and approved within the next year.

The last year of high school. So many wonderful memories but when you are a child with diabetes, there are also so many new changes to consider.  New schools, new doctors, new insurance issues, new responsibilities. Where did the time go? happy18thbirthday

I am the Robert Munsch Momma. What type are you?

I was recently approached by the Outreach Coordinator of Oscar Health Insurance and asked if I would do a post on what it was like being a mother of a child with diabetes. She asked that I look at a title along the lines of “I am a mother.  What type are you?”  I thought that there could be a lot of posts with that title so I decided to make my title a bit more specific to my situation.

When my children were small I loved reading Robert Munch books to them.  One book that resonated with me was “Love you Forever“.  A lot of people find the book creepy. Sadly, to me it makes a lot of sense.

My youngest son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was only 2 years old.  He is now 17.  I have spent a lot of nights crawling quietly into his room to test him, feed him, or give him insulin–all while he remained sleeping.  I have spent a lot of those nights watching over both of my children thankful that they were alive and praying that they remained safe.

The days, just like for the mother in the book were different.  When my son was small, getting him to eat was a challenge. Like his mother, he was not big on breakfast.  Unlike his mother, he had injected insulin in his system that demanded food to cover it. Our life was hell.  I would have to force feed a willful toddler who had no idea why this was happening to him,  Despite the tears and frustration of the long days,  each night I still would see his beautiful sleeping face and I would again be grateful for that insulin that was keeping him alive.

Like Robert Munsch’s character, my son grew, and grew and grew until he too was a pre-teen who walked his own path.  No matter how long he had lived with diabetes, he forgot to test. He missed insulin doses.  He forgot to change his infusion sets…and he lied about it.

There is a lot of guilt when dealing with a child with diabetes. We, as parents, should have been able to protect them from such an evil disease. They should not have to bear this burden.  With the help of people like Joe Solowiejczyk, I learned that it was okay to punish for diabetes related lapses just as I would for failure to brush his teeth or do his homework.   I learned that  as this was the hand that we were dealt and it was up to us to make the very best of it.

My son continued to grow.  He grew and he grew until he was a teenager and once again, there were new challenges for both of us.  As he grew, he worked to push me (and diabetes) further away as he struggled for his own independence.  He no longer wanted to be bothered by a mother asking about readings.  He wanted to work-out and talk to his friends. He wanted to do it on his own…and I was terrified.

When my son turned 16, he took the biggest leap towards his own independence.  He chose to move to finish his last years of high school. Today, I no longer see my son daily. He lives about 1000km away from me.  We text and call. When he has a problem, I am always there at the end of the phone but he deals with his own doctors appointments and daily diabetes care. I still worry.

He comes to visit me during the holidays and instantly my “momma clock” returns and I am awake to test him during the night. He enjoys the break and I am once again the mother in “I’ll Love you forever”. I am creeping into this big, young man’s room, quietly lancing his finger and saying a prayer of gratitude when the readings are okay and I know he is safe.

In another year, he will be finished high school and plans to move back in with me to complete his post-secondary training.  It will be a different dynamic for both of us. He is no longer the little boy I once rocked to sleep. He is now a young man with a full life ahead of him but no matter what…well my boys will always still be my little boys and I will always be just like that momma in Mr. Munsch’s story….  I will love them forever. I will like them for always.  As long as I’m living my babies they will be.


Happy Birthday Mr. Banting!

bantingToday is a very important day as both a Canadian and as a parent of a child with diabetes. Today is Sir Frederick Banting’s birthday.  Were it not for the birth of this man, his hard work and his dog Marjory, my youngest son would not be alive today.

According to the Nobel Prize website, Frederick Grant Banting was born November 14, 1891 into a large family.  He grew up in Alliston, Ontario and studied divinity before going into medicine.  I am sure many would agree, that this change in his course of study was truly Divine in nature.

Dr. Banting used his medical degree in the Canadian Army Medical Corps during WWI where he was injured and later received the Military Cross for heroism under fire.  Upon returning to Canada, Dr, Banting set up a small private practice but it was not that lucrative and he was forced to take a teaching position at the University of Western Ontario’s medical school.

My research does not give a clear reason why but only states that Dr. Banting had become very interested in diabetes.  He was fascinated by the works of other doctors and after one sleepless Halloween night in 1920, jotted down a research idea.  His idea was aimed at isolating the internal secretion of the pancreas, a jelly-like gland behind the stomach. He recalled from his lectures at medical school that this secretion supposedly regulated sugar in the bloodstream. If he could isolate this secretion, it might hold the key in the treatment of diabetes.

banting and marjoryDr. Banting approached Dr. J.J.R. Macleod, a physiology professor at the University of Toronto who gave him a small lab for him and his research assistant Charles Best to work in.  May 21, 1921 the two began working with dogs to try and isolate this “internal secretion of the pancreas”. After many failures, by the winter of 1921, Banting and his research team were able to announce that they had isolated something he called “insulin” that was working to treat diabetes in dogs.  On January 23, 1922 Banting and Best were able to take insulin made of ox pancreas and inject it into a 14 year old boy with diabetes. ..and the rest as they say is history.

without insulin

Before and after the invention of insulin

Dr. Banting set out to find a for diabetes and he was not completely successful.  He did however find a lifeline.  Thanks to his discovery of insulin, my son and millions like him around the world are alive and thriving today.

Thank you Dr. Banting for your hard work, your diligence and for saving my son’s life!




What if it were me?

For those who don’t live with diabetes and don’t know, November is Diabetes Awareness Month. It’s a month that people who have lived with diabetes, share and work to educate the public to the realities of diabetes.

As the mother of a person with diabetes, I know a lot about diabetes. I know how dangerous it is. I know how difficult it is to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. I know that it is a 24/7 job. I understand the technology. I understand the cost but I don’t live with it going on in my own body.  I can only empathize and guess.

The other night my mind began to wander as it normally does.   I started to imagine what it would be like to be the one living with Type 1 rather than just the support system.  It was terrifying and overwhelming.

I didn’t think about the lancing of my fingers. I jump at the sound of the lancet being shot out so the process would take a ridiculous amount of time for me.

I didn’t think about injecting myself with a needle or infusion set. I cringe at needles and look away when I am getting blood work done but do what I need to do when I must.

I didn’t worry about counting carbs for every single morsel that entered my mouth. Its something that I tend to do without thinking about it after years of totalling my son’s meals.

I did think about living life on a roller coaster however.

As a parent, I know how rare it is to have more than a few hours of blood glucose levels in range at any given time.  Yes, you can be in range for 4, 6 or even 12 hours at a time but depending on the regimen and your activity level that is a lot of work to maintain.  The rest of the time you are fighting highs or lows.

Dealing with numbers is one thing.  Dealing with the physical feeling of your body being high, being low, being “normal” must be incredibly difficult.

I thought about being low. I know how horrible I feel when I am overly hungry.  I know how I feel when I have somehow missed a meal and my stomach begins to growl, my head pounds and I feel more agitated than normal.  I also know that during those times my blood glucose level is usually only hovering between 4.2 and 3.9 (75-70). In other words, just barely low if low at all.  My son can be much lower and I don’t hear him complain.  What must he and others be going through?

I thought about being high. I don’t have a lot of reference there. I have had that occasional meal that you know is a major carb overload and I feel lazy and sluggish.  I am guessing a person with diabetes feels that way and worse.  When it gets really bad, my son is constantly in the washroom, guzzling water and fighting the need to throw up.

I appreciate that the extreme end of vomiting when high is not a norm, but I am sure that some of that stuff like the drowsiness or the thirst is relatively common as his numbers climb.  That has to be annoying.

Just in case it isn’t enough to have to monitor your food intake without respite, and just in case it isn’t torture enough to be jabbed and stabbed multiple times per day, factor in the physical response.  Factor in the response  of your body to your errors in providing the exact right amount of insulin for all situations.  Consider how you would feel if your blood glucose level suddenly plummeted as you were in the middle of something important.  Consider the feeling of a sudden spike because you are facing an anxious situation. This the rollercoaster that you ride every minute of every day when you live with diabetes.

No wonder people burn out.  No wonder our children want us to take it away.  No matter what we do as parents; no matter how empathetic we are, most of us don’t live with diabetes on a daily basis.  We can’t begin to truly fathom how it physically feels.  No wonder many would just as soon forget.  After two minutes of thinking about what life must really be like for my son, I couldn’t handle it.  No one should have to handle it.

I am grateful for the discovery of insulin that allows people with diabetes to live, but insulin is not a cure.  They need a cure. safe_image.php