When my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes it was one of the darkest times of my life. I was scared. I felt terribly alone. I didn’t know what was happening or how we would cope. I was overwhelmed and unsure.
I left the hospital terrified that I would somehow do this wrong. I eventually called a lady whose daughter was diagnosed the month before my son. Her little girl was a bit younger than my son but we had a lot in common. We lived in different communities however and it would take years before we actually met face to face and become good friends.
In the meantime, I struggled. I stumbled. I am sure I made mistakes. I tried. I cried alone in the dark at night not sure of how I would make it through but grateful that my son was alive and knowing that failing or stopping was not an option. I had a job to do and somehow I would do it.
My son’s diagnosis happened in the beginning of the year 2000. We had survived the Y2K scare only to land in a new nightmare. We had a computer but this thing called the “internet” was interesting but new to us. With prodding from my mom that it would make keeping in touch with family easier, I finally broke down and ordered our first dial-up service.
After a bit of playing around, I stumbled across this place simply called “children with diabetes“. In a few more keystrokes, I was hooked up to a group of strangers who would come to know more about me over time than many of my own family. They would be there in the dark of night and share the brightest of days.
Over the years we would share our personal lives as well as the highs and lows of diabetes life. We would talk treatment options and share opinions. We would get together in real life and instantly share hugs, meals and a warmth to be found nowhere else.
For me this was the beginning of my exposure to the Diabetes Online Community. It was a place where we, as parents, could share and learn. We moved past the awkwardness of telling the people around us about our “online family” that we have never met in real life. We knew just how real this online family was and how strong the bond was. We knew that they were there for us no matter what.
Today, this online community has grown. The advent of Facebook and Twitter has expanded the community. We have been able to come together with more adults living with Type 1 diabetes and those with Type 2 diabetes. The bond and the generosity has someone managed to equally grow.
I have seen the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) reach out to help people who have run out of test strips. I have watched as they have helped to raise funds for families who were out of work and just needed a little help to cover their light bill this month. I have seen money raised to help a family struggling through the loss of the prime income earner due to terminal illness. I have seen them jump to the aid of members who have lost everything due to fire. There is no boundaries to the help they will provide and no borders stopping the support.
The support is not always about money. It’s not always about a cyber shoulder to lean on. The support can also come in technology. The community has always been a breeding ground for innovation. From the early days of creating a headlight for parents who were doing night tests to the most recent creation of the “Night Scout” for parents who wish to have access to CGM data through cloud technology. It is amazing.
While I am fortunate not to have had a lot of illness in my family, I remain forever grateful to have landed in a community that contains the most generous and true friends that a person could ever ask for. A place filled with family.