Category Archives: blue candles

Diabetes is not a joke. Diabetes kills.

candleDiabetes 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.  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-candleThere 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.

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 in 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.

Our hope will remain.

We came together because of diabetes but we have stayed together because of  incredible friendships that knows 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.

Blue Candles…Once again

In July of 2011, I sat down and posted my thoughts on the blue candles.  Those of us in the Diabetes Online Community know them all too well. They are candles lit when a person with diabetes loses their fight with this disease.  
Last week I saw them appear twice.  A young boy around 11 years old and then another child just beginning their life as a young adult dead at age 18.  Heart breaking, painful and leaving us desperate for a cure, I also thought is was a good time to revisit that post.  The circumstances of my life have a changed a bit. My children and I are both older but the feelings remain the same…
Blue Candles–they are the candles that we light in cyberspace to remember someone with diabetes who has lost the fight. Each month, each week, we seem to see these images pop up across the online community.  As profile pictures are changed on Facebook stories emerge, fears grow and the desire for a cure is that much stronger.
 
Most recently the candles were lit for a bright, young fourteen year old girl. She was diagnosed when she was four years old.  She laid down for a nap and her father found her dead on her bed a few hours later.  The story sends chills down my spine.  She did not die at night. She passed away sometime during the afternoon.  We do not know many of the details.  We only know that she was far too young to die.
 
I don’t tell my son about these stories any more. He is almost the same age and has had diabetes for a few years more than she did. I don’t light candles on my Facebook profile.  I don’t write about half of the stories that I hear.  I can’t. I read about these children–whether they are fourteen or forty, they are still someone’s children.  My heart breaks for the parents and the families. I hug my boys a little closer. I pray a little harder. I hope for the very best.
 
I was reading a story one day of another child lost and of course had teared up a little. Someone told me that many children sadly die each day.  It could be a complication from cancer or an asthma attack but other diseases kill as well. It was suggested that I can’t focus on these deaths and be obsessed or paranoid. I reassured this person that I wasn’t. I read. I mourn. My heart aches for the families and I grieve for the life cut short before its time.
 
It is true that our children die crossing the street, riding in cars and playing in swimming pools.  As parents, we do our very best to protect them.  We teach them to look both ways before crossing the street. We put them in car seats and demand that they were seat belts.  We teach them water safety and we warn them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.  All in all we do our very best to guide them and pray that they will be okay.
 
As parents of children with diabetes, we do all of that “normal” stuff and then we do a little more.  We work to help them to recognize highs and lows.  We test them as often as we can.  We keep tight control to prevent complications and fear going too far and having to wake to a child gone because of a low.  These fears are real. They do not keep me up all night but they do wake me up at 2am to test.  They do not stop me from letting my son be a child but it does make me check his pockets for glucose and his cell phone when he goes out.
 
As a parent, I cannot protect either of my children 24/7 for the rest of their lives. I wish I could. As much as I love watching them grow, think and spread their wings, part of me craves for the days past when I held them tight and could keep them safe in my arms.  They are growing. My oldest son is driving and almost out of school.  My youngest is well into his teen aged years and venturing off on his own more and more.  Diabetes or not, I can only pray I have done my best, continue to do as much as I can and leave the rest up to a higher power.
 
Last night was my son’s first night home after a few weeks away. I went to bed and woke a few hours later than I had planned to but he was low. The story behind one of the recently light blue candles played itself out in the back of my head. After 45 minutes and a lot of juice, his blood glucose levels were back in range and I could return to bed. I said a prayer of thanks that I woke up to test him. I prayed for families who were not so lucky.  I touched my son’s hair and wanted to hold him tight and kiss him gently on the forehead like I used to when he was small. He is now a teen. If I did anything beyond quietly touch his hair he would wake up creeped out and would claim nightmares for the rest of the night! Instead, I watched him sleep and I thanked God that he was alive, healthy and happy.
 
I will test my son at all hours. I will remind him to bolus.  I will deal with late night lows.  I will demand to know where he is going when he leaves the house. I will preach the evils of smoking, drug use and the dangers of too much alcohol.  That is my job and I need to know that when I close my eyes I have done that job to the best of my ability. This will never guarantee the 100% safety of either of my boys but its my very best and that is all a parent can ever do.