So Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. Perhaps you loathe the holiday of love and celebrate it solo, or choose to use the day to express your gratitude for your close friends, in the style of Parks and Recreation’s invented holiday, Galentine’s Day.
If you’re in a relationship, you might have an extravagant, candle-lit, five-course dinner planned with your loved one. Or maybe you’ll keep it a bit more simple and say “I love you” to your sweetheart, with a thoughtful card, box of chocolates, and a dozen roses in hand.
Whether or not your scenario includes a dozen roses, though, consider this:
What if you received 11 roses in your bouquet, instead of 12? What if you knew that a rose was spared because the value of that flower helped support a child living with diabetes in a less-resourced country?
I bet you wouldn’t mind getting one less rose in that case.
This Valentine’s Day, please consider sparing a rose as part of your celebrations. Life for a Child is a nonprofit charity that created the Spare a Rose campaign. They’re able to support nearly 20,000 young people living with diabetes by using donations to buy them insulin, syringes, clinical care, diabetes education, and more. Anyone who’s familiar with diabetes realizes that access to care, education, and resources is critical to living a healthy and normal life. No one would want to deny another, especially a child, from having to forgo these resources because of the financial burden associated with them.
Clarence the Shetland Sheepdog joined our family almost one year ago, and he’s brought us nothing but joy and unconditional love ever since then. Well, he’s also brought us a few headaches (when he has been disobedient) and some panic attacks (when he chews things he shouldn’t), but that’s besides the point – this little puppy is adored beyond his own comprehension and he fits in perfectly with us.
But something else that Clarence doesn’t quite understand is…yep, you guessed it, diabetes. Realistically speaking, he’s probably totally unaware of it – the bliss of being a dog. I wish he had some sort of grasp of it, though, because there are times when it gets in the way of my interactions with him. How? I’ll get really specific here with my list of things that I wish my little peanut knew about diabetes:
I wish that he knew my pods/CGM sensors aren’t chew toys! He doesn’t often grab at them, but every now and then, he’ll notice them on my body and nudge them curiously. And since he’s a mouthy guy (being a puppy and all), he has tried nipping at them a couple of times, which always leads to me yelling at him and shoving him away. So it’d be nice if he could recognize that these things help me stay alive and shouldn’t be played with.
I wish that he knew how to fetch glucose tablets or raisins for me/my mother when we’re dealing with low blood sugars. Man, that’d be awesome! But knowing Clarence, if I tried to train him how to do that now, he’d be way more interested in drinking or eating anything intended to remedy a low blood sugar, rather than bringing it over to me or my mom.
I wish that he knew how to react, period, to any sort of blood sugar “event”. For example, if we’re out walking and I need to take a break in order to check my levels, it’d be swell if he could wait patiently rather than tug on the leash to keep the walk going. I can’t blame him, he’s just trying to continue his exercise. But if he knew WHY we had to stop – if he could understand in any sort of way – that would be hugely helpful.
I wish that he knew that, on the occasions that I can’t play with him, it’s not because I don’t want to. It’s because I HAVE to do something medically necessary, whether it’s change my pod or bolus for dinner, that takes my attention away from him.
And I wish that he knew that sometimes, diabetes can take a mental toll on me and my mom, and that there’s not much he can do about it besides continuing to be his sweet self. It’d certainly be convenient for him to realize that his impish side just exacerbates things when one of us is dealing with a stubborn high or shaky low.
That’s my list of wishes, but there’s one thing that I never had to wish for or teach Clarence when it comes to diabetes…and that’s his innate ability to bring us comfort in just about every situation with his mere presence.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Attaboy, Clarence.
Type 1 diabetes sucks. It’s a chronic illness that is incredibly demanding, both mentally and physically. But it’s got nothing on Alzheimer’s disease.
I know this from experience because I watched my grandmother (and her sister) suffer through it.
I don’t have many memories of my grammy pre-Alzheimer’s, but by all accounts, she was an amazing woman. She raised six children alongside her loving husband. She was an active member of her community, working as a secretary for the Department of Public Works, a teller for the local bank, and a clerk at the neighboring city’s hospital. She was devoted to the local church and played the organ for it, and enjoyed singing. By the time she passed, she had eleven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Alzheimer’s will never take away the contributions she made to the lives of her family, friends, and community, but it took away her ability to tell me stories, firsthand, about these experiences.
It took away her independence.
It took away her mind.
It took away her life.
Some facts about Alzheimer’s: It is the most common cause of dementia. It is a degenerative disease of the brain characterized by many symptoms, such as memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive skills. The most mundane activities, like walking or swallowing, cannot be performed by an individual in the final stages of the disease. As a result, they require 24/7 care until succumbing to the devastating disease.¹
In 2018, nearly 6 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s. Every 65 seconds, another person in the United States develops the disease.²
I knew my grandmother when she was in the more severe stages of Alzheimer’s, and it was not easy to watch her experience them. It was even harder to watch how it affected her husband and children.
I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, just as I wouldn’t with diabetes.
This November marks nine years since my grammy passed away. She is missed every single day, but one way that my family celebrates her life and fights back against Alzheimer’s is by participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. On September 15th, we’ll be partaking in our (sixth, I believe) Walk as Team Mary’s Little Lambs – a team name inspired by Grammy’s first name. I like to think that it’d make her smile.
The Walk is an emotional event for us in general, but especially when we hold up pinwheel flowers that represent our promise to remember, honor, care, and fight for those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Imagine how powerful it is to see the colorful pinwheels lifted into the air, with each color having a distinct meaning:
Blue for a Walker who has Alzheimer’s/dementia
Yellow for a Walker who supports or cares for someone with Alzheimer’s/dementia
Purple for a Walker who has lost someone to Alzheimer’s/dementia
Orange for a Walker who supports the cause and the Alzheimer’s Association vision of a world without Alzheimer’s
Just like with diabetes, imagine how incredible it’d be if one day, there was a white flower lifted into the air: a flower that would signify a cure.
If my grandmother’s story moved you, or if you want to show support for someone you know affected by Alzheimer’s/the cause, please consider donating to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. You can use this link here, or click on the widget in the right sidebar of my blog – it’s the very first one listed. All donations advance the care, support, and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association. Thank you in advance, and thank you for taking the time to read this deeply personal blog post.
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.
I know Mother’s Day was yesterday, but mothers deserve more than a Hallmark-card holiday in order to be adequately recognized. (They also deserve more than just this blog post; however, I can only express my admiration for moms using my words.) Let me explain my appreciation for moms.
All of the mothers I know, especially my own mom, work tirelessly to support their families in multiple ways. This is especially true of mothers of children with diabetes. They spend so much time counting carbs, losing hours of sleep, injecting insulin, attending doctors’ appointments, and dealing with difficult diabetes emotions all on top of normal mom duties. And many of the diabetes moms I know work(ed) full-time jobs, to boot!
I think my mom is particularly amazing because she did all of the above, all while managing her own diabetes, too. Now that I’m an adult, I can’t help but marvel over how she did it all with such capability, humor, and unconditional love. I’m blessed to have an incredible mom who taught me what it means to be a dia-badass.