Tag Archives: children with diabetes

Six things not to say to parents of children with diabetes

things you dont say to a parent of a child with diabetesPeople generally mean well but sadly many just don’t think before they open their mouths.  I therefore thought that it might be a good idea to create a little list for them of thing that you really should NOT ever NEVER say to parents of children with diabetes. Consider it a personal service announcement if you will…

My cat had diabetes

Really? Seriously? Because we know that you injecting your cat’s fur with insulin is really identical to chasing a toddler around the room with a syringe,  pinning them down and explaining that you are stabbing them for the fourth time today because you love them.  Yes, I am sure they are exactly the same.

Yes, there was an eye roll here.

My great-aunt Thelma died of diabetes

Thank you.  I needed to hear that.  I have guilt on top of guilt about not protecting my child from this disease and you tell me that your 90 year old aunt died because of diabetes?

Odds are that she had Type 2 diabetes and at 90…well her odds weren’t the greatest for lasting long anyway but yeah, I can see where I needed to know this.

This is why parents of children with diabetes have bruises on their heads. They spend a lot of time banging it against a wall in frustration. .

Don’t worry. I am sure that your child will grow out of it.

The odds of my child outgrowing their diabetes are lot  less likely than as you overcoming your ignorance of what type 1 diabetes really is.

Nope, growing out of diabetes is not an option.  My child’s pancreas is just no longer doing its job.  We have tried everything we could to revive it but its dead. Gone. No functioning beta cells to produce insulin.  No hope.

On the upside, I would really encourage you to do a bit of Googling or even ask some questions of me and then listen.  Truly listen to what I will tell you and you might be surprised at what you can learn. Your ignorance can be cured!

Perhaps if you hadn’t given your child so much sugar, then he/she wouldn’t have gotten diabetes.

Perhaps if you had not thought that they said “trains” when they were handing out “brains” and decided that you didn’t want to go for a ride, you would have a bit more of a clue.

Having a child with diabetes brings enough guilt.  I fret over what I could have done. I berate my faulty gene pool for allowing this to happen to my baby. Despite these things, I did not cause my child to develop diabetes. What my child ate had nothing to do with his diagnosis.  Really.

Would she prefer a diabetic chocolate?

Eeeekkkk!! Run! Fast! Actually if you eat many of those chocolates you will have to run fast–to the washroom.  Many diabetic candies are filled with sugar alcohols that can cause diarrhea.

Thankfully, my child is able to balance insulin injections with food intake so regular candy is just fine.  We do appreciate you trying though.

Perhaps you may want to relook at how many of those candies you have as well.  I kid you not.  They are nasty!

Is their diabetes under control?

Control? What is that???  A parent of a child with type 1 diabetes is trying to keep a blood sugar fluctuation of .54grams per liter on a constant basis despite over 25 influencing factors trying to mess with things.   Imagine that…trying to maintain a balance of less than one gram of sugar with the influence of stress, food, exercise and 20+ other things!  Can you see why  as parents we simply celebrate when they get even two readings in range?

It’s a big deal.  Diabetes is a really complicated disease.  Most parents of children with diabetes are doing their very best to balance allowing their child to be a normal kid and trying desperately to manage blood sugar levels so that their children feel healthy.  It is a huge challenge.

Parents of children with diabetes appreciate when you care.  Really we do, but please, please, please, think before you speak!

There are certain things that you really truly should not say to parents of children with diabetes.  Offer them a smile, a sympathetic ear, a kind word even.  Honestly, they are much more appreciated.

9/11 and Diabetes Created New Concerns

Remember 9/11This post was originally written in 2012.  The sentiments remain the same. 9/11 was horrible.  When you live with diabetes, 9/11 brought out fears and concerns that you would never previously have considered…

September 11, 2001.  Is there any adult in North America who does not remember where they were on that fateful morning?

I  had left my house early to drive to the airport 2.5 hours away to pick up my grandmother who was coming to visit from the other side of the country.  My oldest son was in school and my youngest was with me for the ride.

I stopped to do a bit of shopping and was looking at paper towels when my cell phone rang. I was told  “A plane has hit one of the towers in New York. There has been a terrorist attack.”   It made no sense to me and I didn’t believe it.  There had to be a mistake so I continued my shopping  before the next leg of my trip.

A few minutes later my phone rang a second time.  This time it was a woman from Air Canada who said,  “We have your grandmother here.  The plane can’t fly her  because all air traffic has been grounded.  We will be putting her on a boat and you can meet her tomorrow morning.”

What? The terrorist attack was real? Planes grounded?  I was shocked to the core as  I spoke to my grandmother who was in great spirits and excited to experience an Atlantic Ocean ferry boat crossing.  We  headed home and like many others, I alternated between being glued to the tv and checking my computer for updates from friends and family.

I had recently found an online support group  for parents of children with diabetes. The people there had not only become my lifeline, but also my family.  We were frantic to hear from people that we “knew” living and working near the towers in New York.

I had a cousin who was an NYC police officer. I had to find out if he was working that day or safe with his family on Long Island. Another cousin was due to go to traffic court that day in one of the Towers and I wondered if he went before the collapse? It was a day of chaos, fear and some relief.

By the end of the day, everyone was accounted for.  There were a lot of prayers for those lost as well as those who made it out alive.  As the dust settled–figuratively and literally, a new fear began to permeate.  I live on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and can easily be cut off from the rest of the world–the rest of my family.

More importantly, if we were cut off how would I get insulin or diabetes supplies? My youngest son relies on insulin to live.  What if we couldn’t get it as easily any more? How would I keep him alive?  What if the terrorist attacks continued? Would they target pharmaceutical factories? Could I feed him no or low carb foods? Would he be okay? I could feel the panic welling.

I wasn’t alone in my concerns.   Other friends with children with diabetes were thinking similar thoughts but some were  much more resourceful than me.  One friend investigated getting insulin from rabbits to use for her child.

Thankfully we never had to be concerned with any of those fears coming to pass.   My grandmother is now passed on.  Each year, we all continue to  remember exactly where we  were on that day and we say an extra prayer.

For those of us living with diabetes, we give an extra pause.  We remain grateful for access to the supplies that keep our loved ones alive.  It is oddly funny however that once diabetes enters your life, it permeates everything–even memories of disasters.

Back to school with diabetes

Back to school with diabetes

Heading back to school can be stressful.  There are new books to buy.  Every child seems to need classroom shoes, gym shoes, walking to school shoes and then there are the gym clothes, jeans and more! The list is endless but when you are a parent of a child with diabetes, there list is longer.  Thankfully there are a few basics to remember when sending your child with diabetes back to school.

Meet with staff

No matter where you live, you should always make sure that you have a meeting with school staff before your child heads back to school.  If you live in an area that has 501 plans or any sort of diabetes care plans in place, this meeting can be where details are finalized.  If you don’t have any sort of official plans in your district, a meeting with staff is still important.

You want to meet with staff to discuss what they can expect when they have a child with diabetes in their school.  While your child may not be their first child with diabetes, each child’s care needs are different. It is important that they understand your child’s individual treatment plan.

At this meeting you will work together to establish roles.  Carefully outline what do you expect from the teacher and the support staff. Make sure that they understand what they can expect from you.  Finally,  ensure that everyone knows what tasks your child can do on their own.

You should also discuss things like, how will exams be handled?  It is important that school staff understand that  diabetes can cause cognitive impairment when the child is out of range.

You also want to establish a method of communication. The school  should understand that they can contact you and that you would like to be able to stay in touch with them.  Working together will make the year go smoother for everyone.

Click here for a few more ideas of what to take to this meeting.

Gather diabetes supplies.

 

 

Depending on the age of the child, the list of supplies that you require can be different.  A small child will require a change of clothes just in case he/she is high and has an accident in school.  An older child may require access to a phone or cell phone to ask you questions about their care.

Here are a few basic items that can be left in a backpack or put in a safe place at school.

  • juice boxes or glucose tablets
  • granola bars or other carb rich  and carb free snacks
  • spare test strips
  • meter batteries
  • pump batteries
  • a spare glucometer
  • extra needles or pen tips
  • spare insulin vial (to be kept in a fridge)
  • ketone meter and strips
  • spare infusion set
  • spare insulin reservoir
  • alcohol swabs
  • hand wash
  • water bottle
  • sharps disposal container
Other things to remember

If your schedule allows, volunteer to be a part of activities at school.  This will give you a chance to get to know school staff and they will learn a bit more about you.  It will also allow you to discreetly keep an eye on your child’s care without them feeling different.

For younger children, check to see if supports or nurses are available through your district.  The school may be entitled to extra funding that would allow them to have one on one care for your child for all or part of the day.

Make the year fun! Your child is a child first.  Plan ahead with staff regarding things like parties, extra curricular activities, outings and exams so that your child gets the most out of their school year.

For a guide to care policies in many Canadian schools please check out this link.

 

Tips for Managing Diabetes in the Summer

diabetes family summer partyIts summer!! I mean it really is finally summer! Some areas have been enjoying great weather for a bit but where I live–well, I kind of wondered if summer was ever going to show up.   Now that it is really here, let’s talk about a few tips for managing diabetes in the summer months.

Keep your insulin and test strips cool.

Summer heat can literally ruin blood glucose test strips and insulin.  If you are on injections, make sure to keep your insulin stored in a cool place. If you are pumping, again, make sure that your pump doesn’t get overheated.  You may even want to consider changing out your cartridges more often to ensure that your insulin is fresh and hasn’t been compromised by the heat.

Test strips also react to extreme temperatures.  Again also make sure that they are stored in a cool place.  If you are traveling to the beach or theme parks, you may want to invest in a FRIO Insulin Cooling Pump Wallet.  They are convenient little cooling packs that will help to keep things chilled.

If you don’t have access to Frio packs, another great suggestion is to use frozen juice packs.  You can keep your supplies cool and are prepared for lows!

Mastistol and Antiperspirant are pumpers’ new best friends.

Summer often means swimming and swimming can mean chlorine. Chlorine can bring extra headaches for people with diabetes using an insulin pump in the summer. Personally,  the only way for us  to keep sites on in chlorine was by making sure that a product  like Fernandale Mastisol Liquid Adhesive was used on the skin prior to set insertion.

For people using an insulin pump and/or a CGM, you may also want to look at using an antiperspirant on the site.  Apply a light coat of antiperspirant (not deodorant) to the insertion site area.  This will help to keep sites in place when your body begins to sweat!

Have snacks everywhere.

Summer heat can bring its own challenges for managing diabetes. It tends to mean more exertion and rapidly dropping blood glucose levels.  Make sure to carry extra snack foods with you wherever you go.  One parent suggests that you stock up on Freezies.  They are perfect treats for lows and also help ward off dehydration.  Other families have suggested fruit and frozen grapes as must have snacks for on the go.

Drink lots of water.

Dehydration is a real problem in the heat.  It is especially important for people living with diabetes to stay hydrated because dehydration will cause blood glucose levels to spike.

Test often.

Heat, exhaustion and the fun of the sun can really mess with blood glucose levels so make sure that you test often to avoid any serious diabetes related emergencies.

Bring extras!

As I have said, infusion sets can fall out.  Blood sugar levels can go crazy.  It is vital that you carry extras of everything–extra snacks, extra water, extra test strips, extra insulin and extra infusion sets just in case.

Wear sunscreen.

I know, everyone is supposed to wear sunscreen so really is this a diabetes issue? Well no…and yes! It turns out that sunburns have been known to really mess with blood glucose levels.  The moral of the story? Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen to help keep blood glucose levels in check.

Have fun!

Finally, in Canada especially, we just don’t seem to see summer for long enough so plan ahead and enjoy all that this summer has to offer you and your family!

*please note that affiliate links have been used in this post.  While these links do not direct to the only places to purchase the highlight products, purchasing from the links does support the work of Diabetes Advocacy

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.

What Parents of Children with Diabetes Wish You knew…

d parentsHave you read the blog post “What Everyone with Diabetes wishes you knew“? Go and read it if you haven’t. Bring tissues.  After I wiped away the tears, I began to think about “what parents of children with diabetes wish you knew.”  Some of us don’t have diabetes ourselves but we still have very strong feelings about the issue.  As parents of people with diabetes, we have things that we wish  our children knew.  There are also things that we wish that the general public knew.

Parents of children with diabetes wish that the our children with diabetes knew that….

We would take this disease from them in a heartbeat…a heartbeat.

With every tear that they shed,  we have privately cried  a hundred more… We didn’t want you to see how much it hurts us to hurt you.  We told you that we do this to keep you healthy and alive (and we do) but it kills us too.

No matter how old you are, we still want to “make it better”. Seriously.  Still.

We know that you can handle it.  We just wish that you didn’t have to…As parents of children with diabetes, when we were completely responsible for your care, we got tired and wanted a break. We understand that you, as the person with diabetes must feel the same way at times. We wish we could carry the burden for you.

Even when we don’t ask you how your readings are, we are still wondering if they are okay…We know that you are more than a number.  As parents of children with diabetes, we understand that blood glucose levels are only part of the story but we want you to be okay.  We want to know that the readings are okay as well.

We have watched you sleep and cried at all of the holes that we have put into your body just to keep you alive.

Every night that we sat awake waiting for your blood glucose to rise or fall, we did from love and a need to keep you safe.

When we nag at your for not testing, injecting or rotating sites it’s because we want you to have a long and healthy life.  It’s not that we love the sound of our own voices. It’s not that we think you don’t have a clue. As parents, we know  that life happens and people forget. We just want to help.

If you need us to, we will still help you with any care or night testing.  Ask.  We might be out of practice but we are quick studies. We will help you any way and any time that we can. It’s just what parents do.

Even if you aren’t my child and you live with diabetes, I wish I could take it from you.  Honestly,  I wish I could help you carry that burden for a week and let you breathe.  I have told you this before and I mean it. I don’t care how old you are.  You are someone’s child with diabetes.  You carry the same burden as my own child.  It still kills me.

I wish you didn’t have to carry so much “gear” with you when you go out.  I wish you knew the luxury of just grabbing your wallet and keys and heading out the door without concern for insulin, pump, glucometer and glucose tablets.

We wish for a cure too. Until it arrives, we will work with you to have the best care, the best knowledge and the best tools that we can afford.

As parents of people with diabetes, we wish that the general public really understood that…

Type 1  is not the same as type 2 diabetes.  Each disease has its own challenges and issues.

We did not cause our children to develop diabetes.  Seriously, we carry enough guilt about not protecting our children from an invisible disease.  Your added blame is not required.

It is okay for our children to have treats now and again, the same as your children do. No child–or adult should live on junk food but a cupcake now and again will just brighten someone’s day…or raise a falling blood glucose level.

Insulin is not a cure. It just keeps my son alive…and can kill him. It is a carefully managed tool that he use must use at all times.

An insulin pump is not a cure either.  A pump is an expensive tool that not everyone can afford.  Even for those lucky enough to be able to use one, there is still much work to be done to be safe and healthy.

Diabetes is expensive. Let me repeat this….diabetes is EXPENSIVE. There are many great advances in diabetes care but they are only available to those with excellent insurance or deep pockets.  The cost of diabetes supplies can range from the equivalent of a car payment or  mortgage payment each month. Again, that is just for a person with diabetes to stay alive.

I look tired because I don’t sleep at night.  After years of worrying about my son’s blood glucose levels and testing him numerous times per night–well I still wake up. I still worry about what his readings are. I still don’t sleep properly

Worrying isn’t about being an overprotective helicopter parent or because I have nothing better to do with my time.  I worry because diabetes is deadly.  Errors in insulin, errors in tools or simply changes in activity levels can have lethal consequences for people with diabetes.  This isn’t just talk. This is real.  I have lost friends to this disease.  Parents of children with diabetes  have seen their children die because of diabetes. Diabetes kills. It is a scary disease.

As a parent of a child with diabetes, I hope both my child and the general public know that I will continue to work hard every day to improve the lives of people with diabetes. I will offer a helping hand, a strong shoulder or the voice of experience where necessary. I will continue to dream of a day when we can say that we are parents of children cured of diabetes.

 

 

Diabetes Diagnosis day…It slipped my mind

Celebrating 17 years of health and wellness
Celebrating 17 years of health and wellness

It slipped my mind…sort of…well, more so than ever before. Today is the day that Diabetes turns 17 years old in our house.  Strangely, it hasn’t consumed all of my thoughts this month.  I haven’t planned this post for weeks in advance…in fact I actually had another post planned for this week when I realized the date!

That is unheard of for me.

Every March I think of two things…what will I get my oldest son for his birthday and how long diabetes has been a part of my youngest son’s life.

This March has been a bit different.  I was busy this March with other things.  For the first few days of the month, I got to spend time with my nephews after not seeing them for a  few years.  I was able to meet my youngest nephew for the very first time.  We enjoyed cuddles and goofing around.  It wasn’t until I was home that I thought about his little life and the life of his older cousin–my youngest son.

When my son was his age, he was being stabbed with a needle somewhere in his body 5+ times per day.  At the age of 3, his little fingers had tiny marks from testing his blood glucose levels 8 or more times per day.  My sweet little nephew had bruises on his knees from playing outside with his trucks.  When my son was that age, he had similar bruises but there were also bruises that would sometimes find his arms, legs or stomach after an injection.

I am so glad that none of my nephews have had to go through this.  I remain in awe of how well my son has managed to cope.  He won’t even notice this day.  Life with diabetes is all that he has ever known.  For him, it is simply be St. Patrick’s Day–an excuse to go out with his friends and have a beer.

I will pause as I always do.  Most likely I will message a dear friend whose son shares this “dia-versary”.  On this day, I will  be extra grateful for the many incredible and lasting friendships that diabetes has brought into my life.  I will also take a moment to cry for the friend who lost her child last year–we were brought together because of our sons’ common diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

Today I am sure that I will slip back in time for a moment.  There will be a pause in my day when I vividly recall the lifeless child that I held in my arms 17 years ago.  I will remember the prayers that I said and the prayers that were offered as we rushed to the hospital.  At one point today I will see, in my mind’s eye, the doctor who sent my son to ICU and told me, “if he makes it through the next 24 hours, you will need to learn a lot about diabetes.” The phone calls, the terror, the uncertainty will all come flooding back just like it was yesterday.

Today I will quietly cry for the life that was lost but I then I will wipe away the tears.  As I tell others, today is about celebrating.  Today marks 17 years that my son has lived strongly with type 1 diabetes.  He has never let it stop him from doing anything–except for shovelling the driveway in the winter.  He seemed to often be conveniently low as a child during that particular chore.

My son now manages his diabetes his way. I don’t test him.  Rarely do I know what his blood sugar levels look like.  I can’t tell you his insulin to carbohydrate ratio or even his basal rates. Diabetes is his disease to handle now.

It hasn’t all been perfect. There have been stumbles along the way.  I still remain there to help when asked.  We discuss carb counts or extended boluses.  I still do site changes when required. Seventeen years later, we are both finding our way  but he is healthy and thriving.  I can ask for nothing more…except a cure of course.

 

All Children with Diabetes are still not safe in school

school1It has been over 15 years since I was first asked to take part in discussions surrounding the issue of children with diabetes in schools.  I still speak publicly on the issue. I still assist parents but I honestly thought that after 15 years, more insulin pumps and other awareness activities that things would be vastly improved–that all children would be safe in school.

Things have changed.  Years ago, very few school had policies in place protecting our children with diabetes in schools.  Very few educators knew their roles and parents struggled as well.

Today there are provinces that  have stepped up to the plate offering guidelines and even legislation surrounding this issue.  Sadly there is still a long way to go.  There are still parents who do not feel safe sending their children to public schools.

I once looked to the US as a standard to achieve.  The rights of their children with diabetes are protected under the American Disabilities Act.  That had to count for something!  A lawyer friend of mine reminded me that this was a just a law.  Enforcing it could often be just as frustrating and overwhelming for families in the US as it was for families here in Canada.

The moral? Keep fighting. Keep educating, Continue helping and that is what I am doing.

Many years ago, just after a change in rulings on the Disability Tax Credit, I met a wonderful lady. She worked for what was then called the Canadian Diabetes Association.  She was there first formal advocacy employee.

Our sons were of similar age.  She listened to our struggles and empathized.  Over the years we have worked together on certain projects and simply managed to touch base now and then to see who the other’s family is faring.   The yesterday she sent me an email asking for help.

She too is still working on the national issue of safety for children with diabetes in schools.  There are still many families who are fearful of sending their child with diabetes to school.  There are other families that send their children to school but are constantly at odds with the system to achieve optimal care for their children.

This saddens me greatly.  If you are one of those families that are still having issues with your child with diabetes in school, please comment or message me (advocacy@diabetesadvocacy.com) with your email address. I will pass your information along to my friend and she will contact you. Hopefully together we will be able to highlight the problems and finally work towards a resolution to this issue for everyone.

 

 

I wish I could bring him back for you

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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.  Its a time to hug our loved ones a little closer. Its a time to test a little more often and then we move on.

Last week I received a message that made my heart stop.

I headed over to a friend’s Facebook page.

I saw the blue candle.

I couldn’t breathe.

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, 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”.  I found an information email list, or so I thought.  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.  They 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.  Some of  the children have become parents themselves.  We watched each other’s lives on Facebook and occasionally wished each other well.

Other connections remain strong. We reach out regularly.  We still see each other. We have kept 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.  One family sobbing with each other.  One family holding each other in virtual hugs with real tears.

Tragedy isn’t supposed to hit us. Not a direct hit. Not taking a child that we “knew” and watched grow but it has.  And it hurts like no other.

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. Now there are two.

I don’t want there to be any more.  We need a cure.  We need better access to treatments.  We need more awareness. We need more…

We will continue to work harder. We will bike more. We will walk more. We will advocate louder.

Our hope will remain.

We came together because of diabetes.  We stayed together because of an incredible friendship 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.

 

 

Mothers Day Reflections

In North America, Mothers Day is this weekend.

I have seen that JDRF Canada is doing promotion this week on #Type1derWoman  This looks really fun and I can’t wait to see more.

A few years ago, the DRI did a segment on the Real Moms of Diabetes.  A few of my friends took part. It was equally as moving.

And of course there is the incredible poem written by my dear friend Linda Kaniasty that mothers in the UK put to video.  It still makes me cry.

All of these posts have me thinking about life as a D-momma.  My role has changed a lot over the past 16 years.

I started out as the mother of a toddler with diabetes.  I was lucky.  He didn’t mind the shots.  He was okay with finger pokes.  He hated to eat however.  That was a challenge.

If I had it to do all over again…and it was 2016 and not 2000, well I would be putting him on a pump right away.  There is no need to fuss with injections, a pump would give us the flexibility to let him eat the way  he wanted.  I would have a CGM so that when he fell asleep, I would know if he was just napping versus having a low and couldn’t tell me.

I would still use bribery.  Stickers and rewards were a fabulous way to get through everything from potty training to meal fights.  I would still allow him to inject and have control of the diabetes care for his toys.  This was a great way to give him power.  I would still worry and log like crazy but that is me.

Eventually my toddler grew and went to school.  The worry again was tangible.  I had friends who would be watching out for him in school but I was terrified.  There was so much that could go wrong.

If I had to do it again, I would have released the terror.  He was left in the care of teachers who truly cared about their students.  He had friends who cared about him.  They all would do their very best…or call me if in doubt.  I didn’t need to hover. I didn’t need to stress–as much.  It was okay.  Yes, there would be wrinkles along the way but they were small. He would survive.  We would all learn. It is important to relax a little during these years as greater challenges will come.

As my child became a preteen, the issues again changed. We struggled to find a balance between what he should be expected to do and what I should be expected to do.  I ached that he was expected to do so much.  I grew frustrated when one of us failed.  If I had to give myself advice for that time looking back it would be that it will be okay.  You will find your way.  If he didn’t die,  learn from it…both of you.  Work hard. He is listening in his own way.  It will be worth it.  He can stumble a bit.  Its okay to wipe his knees but he will get it.

When my son became a teen…well didn’t that change everything!  There were now hormones.  There was the teen brain.  There were struggles.  There were worries.  How do you balance allowing him to be a normal teen (with all of the worries that comes with that stage) and being a teen with diabetes? You ask for help.  You reach out to those who have been there…and you pray.

As a teen, my son decided that he knew it all.  He decided that he really didn’t need the care of Mom any more.  He moved away and decided to finish high school while living with his father. I foresaw many problems.  Some of them came to pass…some didn’t.  I felt like a failure. I was a parent whose child didn’t want to live with them.  People reminded me that it wasn’t about me, this was about him.  It still hurt.  My one clearly defined role now became more blurry than ever.

My son is now a young adult.  He is 18 and learning to live with the choices that he has made.  He has stumbled.  He has tripped a few times but he has done okay. He is getting stronger in more ways than one.  He understands his body he tells me.  He is tightening his control.  He has learned. He knows he can still come to me when he loses his way.

So what would I tell that Mom of a toddler now? You’ve got this.

What would I tell that mom who is watching her son head off to school? The school and his peers have your back.

What would I tell that mom of a teen? He really did listen and learn when you were sure he wasn’t.  Somehow you will both live to go through another stage of parenthood.  Some days will hurt but most days will be a blessing because when you look back at where you have been, where things could have gone? Life is amazing!

There are still challenges.  We still have a long road ahead of us.  No matter how old my children are, I am still their mother.  They are still my children. I worry. I care. I love them deeper than I could have ever imagined.  They make me shake my head at times but they also make me proud.

For all of you fellow D-mommas, take a moment and be proud.  Be proud of YOU and all that you have accomplished when faced with this huge burden.  YOU are amazing!

liam barb sept 1999b