Category Archives: coping with a chronic illness

Life before diabetes?

I recently read posts from people who wanted their lives back. The ones that they had before diabetes entered the picture.  They wanted to go back to their old “normal”. These comments gave me pause because I can no longer remember much of that life or imagine how it would be now.

Diabetes has lived in our house since March of 2000.  The number of times my son’s blood has been tested and his fingers lanced is far too many to try to figure out.  The number of times he has had needles stuck in his body to receive insulin, have blood work done or insert infusion sets again is beyond me.  I just know its a lot but I just don’t have the energy anymore to calculate the number.

When we began this journey, my son was just a toddler. He played, laughed and did his best to keep up with his big brother.  Today my son is a teenage boy.  He laughs. He does his best not to run unless he is involved in a serious game of hockey with friends. He goes to movies and looks forward to the times that he gets to spend with his big brother.

Because I have two boys, both of whom are now teenagers, I know that diabetes has created some very real differences in their lives. I worry about drugs, alcohol, driving and girls.  I worry about their education and what they will do with their lives. Before diabetes…well I still worried and wondered what sort of young men they would become.
Diabetes has added another level of worry when thinking about my youngest son of course. I worry about his level of care–will he ever learn? Will he ever wake from a low? Will he remember to test? Will he change an infusion set on time? Will he be able to afford his supplies? How will he handle girls and diabetes? Will he be careful if he decides to drink? Will he test before he drives?

Before diabetes, I never truly realized what our health care system did and did not cover. I did not understand the cost of staying alive and healthy when living with a chronic disease. I don’t think I that I would want to go back to that level of ignorance. It has given me a new respect for many people–not just those living with diabetes.

Life before diabetes was different but it was a very long time ago. It remains a distant memory.  Since diabetes, we have changed and grown.  We have seen our character become ever stronger.  I have a few more wrinkles than I might otherwise have had. I live off of a lot less sleep than I imagined possible but I have read more books…waiting for a 3 am low to come up gives you time for things like reading.
Our lives are different now than they might have been but its not all bad.  I have made amazing friends. I have met incredible people.  We have experienced things that we might not otherwise have done.

I would still give anything to see a cure. I would still do anything to take this disease away from my son.  I still wish that there was a magic wand I could wave to make this disappear for everyone’s children–young and old. Its not a life I would wish on anyone, but its the life we were handed and we do our very best to live it to the fullest.

What would the me of today say to the me of back then?

I recently came across a link to a very interesting project.  It was a video that asked mothers to think back to just before they had their first child.  If they could go back in time, what advice would they give themselves? That got me to thinking…if I could go back to the weeks just after Diabetes moved into our lives, what advice would I give myself?

At first I thought, that is too large of a task.  We have gone through so many stages. What one sentence would cover everything? What words of encouragement would have gotten me through the food battles and the vomiting I dealt with for the first two years?  What would I say to help me deal with the rigid structure of our new life? What would I tell myself? How would I provide encouragement?

What could I say to ease the burden on those days when I wanted to crawl under a rock and never return? What would stop the tears at 3am when he was low again and I felt too exhausted to go on? What would get me passed the worry of how to pay for an insulin pump or supplies? What would motivate me to continue to fight the federal government for tax change? What would make me sit down to one more meeting about insulin pump funding?

What was I going to tell myself? How would I tell myself about the amazing friends that I would meet who would help me to get up when I fell? How would I let myself know that no matter how dark the hour, there really was light up ahead and it was not always another train.

What would I say to me? I would simply say, “You will make it.”  So many days, I wondered (and still do) if I really would.  So often I thought, I just can’t do this anymore but what am I going to do? What will happen if I don’t? Tears would come and I would want the floor to just swallow me up.  I knew I had a job to do…a very important job.  I was a pancreas to my son. I was a mother to my boys.  I had to balance it all for the health of everyone involved.   

Its been over 11 years and each day brings a new challenge.  Life and Diabetes are a formidable mixture.  They show you blessings and force you to face your greatest of fears.  They bring you great joys and cause you a torrent of tears. 

The advice to the me of years ago…you are stronger than you think.  You are more determined than you know.  You will find compassion.  You will find help when you need it.  Most importantly of all–you WILL make it through.