Yesterday was Mother’s Day, but today I’d like to take the opportunity to give a shout-out to my mom – and all mothers – who care for children, young, fully grown, or any stage in between, with diabetes.
All moms, generally speaking, don’t get enough credit for all that they do for their families. I know that I am fortunate enough to say that growing up, and to this day, my mom (and dad) provided me with everything a child could ask for: a loving home, plenty of food to eat, and endless support, to name a few.
But on top of that, my mom also acted as my pancreas (and her own) throughout my childhood. She counted carbs for me, injected me with insulin, scheduled and took me to doctor’s appointments, and offered her guidance whenever I was dealing with a difficult diabetes issue.
Even in my adulthood, though I’ve taken over all of my day-to-day diabetes responsibilities, my mom is still one of the first people I turn to when I have a diabetes question.
She’s the real MVP and she’s helped me a lot during this stay-at-home situation. So I want to give her credit, and credit to all T1D moms: You’re doing great. I know that it can’t be easy, especially for those T1D moms with little ones at home who are dependent on you for everything, but you’re doing your best and your loved ones see that and appreciate that more than you could ever know.
Thank you to all the moms out there, but particularly mine: Thank you for helping to keep me grounded during this “challenging time”, and for, well, everything else you’ve done for me in my 27 years (both the non-diabetes things and the diabetes-related things).
I can’t remember a time in my life that I didn’t. In fact, as a child, I was convinced that my future profession would be a veterinarian (a marine biologist was also in the mix at one point). I went as far as shadowing a real-life veterinarian during my 8th grade career day, and I took an Introduction to Animal Science class in college when my major was still undeclared.
Alas, I decided that a career with animals wasn’t in the cards for me when I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to handle the emotional and physical challenges associated with caring for them. Interacting with animals is all fun and adorable until one gets sick and may need to euthanized (I witnessed such a thing on shadow day in 8th grade…it was so sad). Or when a large, strong billy goat charges you because you have his food and he’s hungry (true story, it’s a miracle I got out of his pen uninjured). But just because I don’t deal with animals professionally, it doesn’t mean that my love for them is any less.
So I focused on how I could help them to kick off this week’s acts of kindness.
Monday, 4/27 – Act of Kindness #22: I adopted a RED PANDA on Monday!!!
…I wish I could say it was a REAL panda who was going to come and live with me and frolic around the backyard with me and my dog, but that’s just too good to be true – this adoption is just virtual. But I’m excited about it nonetheless. I love red pandas because 1) they’re adorable 2) they’re hilarious and 3) they’re seriously photogenic – really, I’ve never seen a bad picture of one. Sadly, they’re also an endangered species: According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, there may be fewer than 2,500 adult red pandas living in the wild today.
So as I thought of how I could combine my love for animals with an act of kindness, the idea came to me that I might be able to support one of my favorite exotic species via virtual adoption. I chose to make my donation to the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. because I was lucky enough to spend a handful of treasured days there last year. The zoo is incredibly gorgeous and home to countless fascinating animals, including two sweet red pandas. During my last visit to the zoo, I was able to see one of them very up-close through a window. I was so charmed by the little one that I practically had to be ripped away so other people could take a look, too. It’s really neat that I’m able to support them, in some way, now through my virtual adoption (and I get a red panda plush sent to me as a thank you…I’m not gonna lie, I can’t wait to receive that in the mail).
Tuesday, 4/28 – Act of Kindness #23: Of course, I was looking for a way to help out furry friends a little closer to home yesterday. Specifically, I wanted to do something to help out dogs.
Dogs have always been and will always be part of my life (even though I am allergic, LOL). I grew up with two Shetland Sheepdogs and my parents have their third, Clarence, now. My aunts and uncles always had dogs, too (Labradors, Dachshunds, and some mixes are among them). Life is just…better with a dog. The more dogs, the merrier, in my opinion.
The second Sheltie that my family had was from a shelter. We never knew too much about her history, other than she must’ve suffered some sort of trauma before she was rescued. Even though she had major challenges to overcome behaviorally, my family cherished the time she was with us and we were always grateful that we’d connected with the shelter that we rescued her from.
So she was on my mind yesterday when I decided to visit a local animal shelter’s website to see if they were requesting any special support during this time. That’s when I found their Amazon wish list – literally a list of items that the shelter needs that can be purchased on Amazon.com – and went about purchasing some items that could be shipped directly to them. I bought some collars, leashes, and harnesses that they will be able to provide to new pet owners as animals are adopted. I wanted to do more, but I’m hopeful that when it’s safe to do so and when the shelter begins accepting new volunteers, I can maybe continue my support in that fashion.
Animals are awesome. I know that my pets and any that I’ve seen over the years at zoo have taught me so much. Giving back to them in any way, shape, or form is humbling and almost as nice as getting to hug a smooshy fluffy pupper or red panda…almost.
In times of sadness, fear, and uncertainty…laughter can be a powerful medicine.
I know that I haven’t had much to laugh about lately. Neither has…well, the world, really.
So my desire to have a good chuckle, and make others laugh along with me, was strong this week and inspired Friday’s little act of kindness…
Friday, 4/17 – Act of Kindness #12: I dressed up as Dwight Schrute today.
Yes, that character from The Office. Two years ago, I dressed up as him for Halloween and it was a hit among my coworkers. I figured I could surprise them on Friday by dressing up as him (I still have the wig, glasses, yellow button-down, and tie) and attending my virtual meetings in the beet farmers’ signature garb.
Despite my concerns that they might think I’m a freaking weirdo, they loved Dwight’s appearance in both of my Friday afternoon meetings. Inspired by their positive reaction, I took my Dwight disguise a step further and uploaded all sorts of pictures and videos to Instagram of me in costume doing funny things for my friends and family who follow my account to see. I got a ton of messages throughout the day thanking me for my silliness because it did what I wanted it to do: make people smile.
And I even walked my parents’ dog around my VERY small town dressed as Dwight. I got a couple of honks, a few smiles, and more confused looks than I could count, but it was all worth it – those who know and love The Office as much as I do got a kick out of it, and that’s what mattered to me.
Saturday, 4/18 – Act of Kindness #13: Early Saturday afternoon, I got the disappointing news that the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life Orlando conference was canceled this year. I was saddened because I made plans to be there in-person for the first time in seven years. There were so many people from the diabetes online community who I wanted to meet in real life at this conference, but I know that the right decision was made to help keep our community safe and healthy at home. Plus, the conference is moving to a virtual format, so it helps to know that we will be able to attend it in some form.
Anyways, the cancellation encouraged me to ask for a partial refund (in lieu of a full one) for the conference registration I’d purchased earlier this year. The money that I didn’t get back went straight to Children with Diabetes to help them fund their mission, and I feel that it was the right thing to do since they need support (and funding) to make these conferences happen in the first place.
Sunday, 4/19 – Act of Kindness #14: New England weather is effing weird. It snowed and rained all day Sunday, and then yesterday it was sunny and a fairly warm 61 degrees! The beautiful weather brought with it a revitalization for me. I had all sorts of energy to help my parents with a myriad of tasks around the home, so that’s what I did. I couldn’t even complain about it, because dare I say, I enjoyed the chance to move around the house and yard so much (if my parents are reading this, they’re probably jumping for joy over the fact I just admitted that). It felt good to be productive, and since my parents have both worked their butts off in the last few weeks (okay, they always work hard, but the last few weeks have been a little different), I was happy to do a little something that helps them out so they could have a bit more time to rest.
My acts of kindness continue to be small, in the grand scheme of things. But knowing that they’ve helped people, in some teensy-weensy way when things have been rough, continues to motivate me to keep up this challenge. Halfway there!
Six years and one day ago, my maternal grandfather passed away. He was 87 years old and lived a very full life, but his passing felt sudden to all of his family members who simply believed that we had more time with him.
In the immediate days following his death, my parents, brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins experienced a wide array of emotions, as well as physical side effects from overwhelming grief. I had some of the highest blood sugars of my life during this time, and I also came down with some sort of fever that left me boiling hot one minute and head-to-toe shivering the next.
I remember that getting myself ready for his wake was a real process – I was collapsed on the floor just outside of the bathroom, waving a hair dryer not just on my head, but also all over my body because I felt so frigidly cold. Little did I know, my blood sugar was also well over 400, but even if I’d known that fact sooner, I probably wouldn’t have cared very much.
Anyways, the intent of this post isn’t to remember a truly heart-wrenching period of my life. It’s to help me remember my grandpa, and catch him up on everything that’s happened since he left us. I thought it’d be most appropriate to do this in the form of a letter.
I have so much to tell you. But let me start with an apology. I’m sorry that I didn’t appreciate you more when I was younger. I’m sorry that I didn’t try harder to talk to you and hear your many stories firsthand. I always respected you throughout my youth and teenage years, as my parents instilled upon me early on to respect my elders. And even in childhood, I knew you were the elder to respect; after all, I was convinced that you single-handedly ended WWII. What’s more respectful than that? Anyways, I digress – the point is that I wish I made more of an effort to learn more from you and I’m sorry that I’ll never get a chance to make up for that.
You probably already know most of what I’m going to tell you. We lost Zuzu the same year we lost you, and I’m sure she’s with you in heaven now, but then we gained Clarence a couple of years ago and I think you would get such a kick out of him. There’s been a few more losses in our family, too, but many more gains of all kinds, and I know that in a way, you were there with us for those occasions and everything in between.
You also probably already know that since we lost you, I graduated college and started my career. Weird, right? I also started a blog about diabetes, and really, it’s become a much bigger part of my life than it ever was before. I would love to see your eyes widen in awe at our diabetes technology and how advanced it has become over the years. (I remember how amazed you used to be when we showed you our computers and early-model eBook tablets, I can only imagine your reaction to medical technology!)
As I sit here and type this and marvel at how much (and how little) has changed since you left, I remain grateful for the fact that you were a big part of our childhoods (“our” meaning my brother’s and my cousins’ childhoods, as well as mine). I also take comfort in the fact that just because you’re not physically here to witness all of this stuff, you’re here in our hearts and you’re with us in that manner for every step in our journeys. I know that when I’m having a tough diabetes day, you’re one of the guardian angels looking out for me and helping me recover from it.
And I also know that you’d be proud of me for what I’ve accomplished so far in life, and for me, that’s more than enough motivation to keep going, fighting, and working hard to beat diabetes and be successful in other arenas, too.
It’s November 6th which means that it’s Day 6 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! Today’s prompt asks us to name our diabetes hero/heroine. Well, I have more than one…
My diabetes hero is not just one person. It’s a small group of people that I call my family. (Awwwww, how sweet.)
My mom, dad, and brother are all-too familiar with diabetes. My mom is T1D, like me, and my dad and my brother were the lucky ducks who got to live under the same roof as us for many years. All three of them are diabetes heroes to me, but in some very different ways.
Let’s start with my brother. He is three years older than me and I’d say we were fairly close to one another in our shared childhood. Though he doesn’t share a diabetes diagnosis with me, he grew up with diabetes just as much as I did. And do you know what’s amazing about that? I’ve never once heard him complain about it. If he has ever felt any fear or worry for my mom and I, he definitely has done a good job of internalizing it. He treats us like we have normal, functioning pancreases, and I think the reason for that is he knows that we are more than capable of taking care of our diabetes ourselves. Although his thoughts and feelings about our diabetes have yet to be verbalized, I appreciate his unique brand of support for us and I continue to be wowed that he never seemed to be bothered by the extra attention I got as a child due to my diabetes. No unhealthy sibling rivalry there!
Next up is the other Type None in our family: my dad. I’ve written about my dad in a couple of previous blog posts. He is truly the Mr. Fix It in our family. If there is a problem, he wants to solve it – especially if it is something that is causing his loved ones emotional distress. He has had more than his fair share of situations in which my mom or I were seriously struggling with our diabetes. I can only imagine how he feels when all he can do is just stand by and let us work through our issues: It’s probably a combination of helpless, angry, and worried. He’s said numerous times over the years that he’d give my mom and I his healthy pancreas if he could, and I’ve never questioned the sincerity behind that sentiment. I know he means it, and to me, that’s the kind of heroism that nobody else in my life can even begin to compete with.
And then we’ve got my diabetes partner-in-crime, my mom. How on earth she managed to deal with her OWN diabetes, in addition to mine, all throughout my childhood is completely beyond me. Besides being there for me as a source of unwavering emotional support as someone who really “gets it”, my mom’s attended practically every single endocrinology appointment with me, encouraged me to start using an insulin pump, ordered alllllll of my supplies for many years (and kept track of the stacks of associated paperwork), and helped keep me as calm as humanly possible throughout my terrifying insurance transition that took place late this past spring. Let me just restate that she did all of this and still does all of this while still dealing with her own diabetes!!!!! It’s sort of mind-blowing to me that she can stay so much calmer about her diabetes than I ever could when it comes to either of ours, but she does it, and that makes her a heck of a diabetes hero to me.
What’s really neat about my diabetes heroes, as a collective unit, is that diabetes has never and will never define our family. It’s something that lingers there in the background, for sure, but it almost never steals our attention away from our time spent together. I can’t recall a single instance in the last 22 years that diabetes really, truly disrupted our family rhythm (maybe my parents would disagree with that and count in my diabetes diagnosis, but I barely remember that).
It just goes to show that even as something as life-altering and disruptive as diabetes only made my family stronger when it hit us with a double dose.
I may not be the parent of a T1D child, but I am the T1D child of my parents. So I have a unique perspective on the concerns and fears that a parent of a T1D child might have.
I also have a little more insight on these concerns and fears through my interactions with many parents of T1D children over the years. These parents had children of all ages: from toddler to teenager. Their children ranged from newly diagnosed with diabetes to multi-year veteran of T1D. Despite these differences in ages and years with diabetes, they’ve all had something major in common: An intense fear over the day when their child would make the transition from living under their roof to living independently, on a college campus or in another living situation.
The mere thought of their beloved son or daughter going through this was enough to make some of these parents on the verge of tears. It was heartbreaking, but also somewhat confusing to me. I understand the unconditional love that parents have for their children, so naturally, they were terrified at the thought of their children feeling alone as they made the transition to young adulthood, or frightened by the prospect of their children suddenly not wanting to take care of their diabetes anymore. But what I didn’t get was why they automatically assumed the worst.
What if their child thrived in this transition? What if their child found a wonderful group of people, such as the College Diabetes Network, that helped them through this period in life (like I did)? What if their child was ready to manage everything on his or her own? Certainly, it would be a source of pride for a parent to witness his or her child do well and embrace independence.
On the flip side, if a young adult with T1D struggled to make the transition smooth…well, I told many of these parents that it’s okay. Because I struggled. A lot, actually. But I made it through. The longer I spent away from home, the more I realized that it was time for me to hold myself accountable in terms of diabetes management. There was never really any big “aha” moment for me. It was more of a slow-and-steady recognition of the fact that the shitty blood sugars I was constantly dealing with could only be changed by me, and me alone. So I took the steps I needed to; naturally, with the support of my parents.
I guess that’s kind of the two-fold message I’m trying to convey here to worried parents of T1D children: 1) Have faith in your child’s ability to adapt to change, and 2) Never underestimate how your support, in any form, can mean the world to your child. Don’t be afraid to have conversations with him/her so you can get on the same page and understand how you’re both feeling about this new life stage. That way, you can find out exactly what kind of support you can offer to your child that he/she will find most helpful.
The bottom line: Parents with T1D children, it’ll be okay. Just like people with diabetes know they’re not alone in their struggle against it, you should also know that there are many other parents out there who probably feel the same as you.
In that way, we’re never truly alone when dealing with new challenges or changes in our lives. Once that’s realized, it becomes a million times easier to figure out the best way to tackle them with your support system by your side.
This post originally appeared on Hugging the Cactus on June 18, 2018. I wanted to republish it today because my dad (and all fathers of T1D children) should be recognized for everything they do for us. I also wanted to give my dad a little extra shout-out, as this is the first Father’s Day that I’m not there to celebrate him in-person.
Father’s Day was yesterday, but as I did the day after Mother’s Day, I want to use today’s blog as an opportunity to express my appreciation for dads: Namely, my own father.
Besides being the family patriarch, my dad is a firefighter/EMT. He makes his family feel safe with his emergency preparedness knowledge and skills. He also deals with his diabetic wife and daughter on an almost-daily basis, which warrants, at the very least, a ginormous golden trophy with his name engraved on it in fancy script.
That’s because he sees the ugly side of diabetes from time to time. The side that causes blood to spurt out of mom’s abdomen when she removes a pod that struck a vein. The side that causes me to lash out, because my blood sugar won’t seem to come down from a sticky high, no matter what I do. The side that causes mom and I to lose sleep, because we’re treating another middle-of-the-night low blood sugar. The side that forces mom and I to be prepared for any and every possible diabetes scenario that could occur while traveling. The side that causes us to cry, because we just can’t deal with diabetes today.
And he’s there through it all.
He’s there to apply pressure and gauze to the bloody site. He’s there, feeling just as upset as I am, because he just wants my blood sugar levels to come back down, too. He’s there to make sure mom and I have enough glucose tablets or juice to bring our levels back up. He’s there, keeping us calm as we pack for our next trip and taking care of all the travel arrangements. He’s there to comfort us when we need him to, and he hates that we live with diabetes – probably even more than we do.
He’s the kind of guy who says he’d trade his pancreas with us in a heartbeat if it meant we wouldn’t have to live with diabetes anymore.
He’s the kind of guy I’m proud to call my dad.
Thanks, Dad, for helping me handle my diabetes over the years, and supporting every venture (diabetes and otherwise) that I pursue.