The kids are tucked in, the kitchen is cleaned, school lunches are packed, and my husband and I finally sit down to watch a T.V. show before bed. During the opening credits something beeps. We pause the show and listen again for the beep, which could mean a number of things: there’s only 10 units of insulin left in the pump, there’s an occlusion in the pump, our son’s blood sugar is rising (or falling) rapidly, he is high, he is low, something needs calibrating or is out of range, a battery is dying.
Sure enough, there’s the beep again. We look at each other, wondering who’s turn it is to address this diabetes need this time. Diabetes has a knack for needing attention at almost every inopportune moment and roughly every two hours during the night.
Our son is young, so right now we manage his care, and we’re his parents, so as any parent knows, the motivation to keep a kid healthy is a deep biological drive. If one of us could have Henry’s diabetes instead of him, we’d do it in the blink of an eye, but we can’t. Instead, we’re teaching him to manage this disease one task at a time.
We’ve only been living with diabetes for 18 months, and certainly we were scared that first night in the hospital, but not like we’re scared now. Part of the reason we’re more scared now is because we’ve read stories in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) that don’t end welll. We’ve done research and understand what the risks and complications are. We’ve tried to manage blood sugars and learned that sometimes no matter how diligent you are, a blood sugar cannot be controlled.
While there is a lot to fear when living with type 1 diabetes, the fear isn’t very helpful. My son is four. Do I really need to be worried about him driving a car right now when that’s eleven years away? It’s not useful to worry over potential line items on his 504 when this meeting is still a year away. And it’s not entirely fair to say the DOC creates fear. Sure, stories like Kycie’s and Will’s circulate, but these stories should circulate because diabetes is a serious disease. If we weren’t sharing stories like Kycie’s on the DOC diagnoses would be missed and efforts for standard blood glucose screenings wouldn’t be part of the conversation. If fear is a result of being part of the DOC, then so are solutions, better glycemic control, inspiration, and humor, and I’ll take all this over fear any day.
I can usually set aside the future fears and deal with the daily tasks, but one fear is more nebulous, and that’s the fear of burnout, a complete and total lack of interest, and investment in diabetes care due to denial or a set of complicated emotions. My husband and I can play rock-paper-scissors to determine whose turn it is to make the beep go away, but what will Henry do when he’s 15 or 18 or 20? I’ve heard and read testimonies of teenagers who completely disregarding their diabetes because if they don’t acknowledge T1D then that means it’s not real. And this is reasonable because teenagers are tasked with managing an unmanageable disease during a time of quick physical change and great social pressure coupled with needed independence from adults. Being a teenager with diabetes is like sailing into a perfect storm.
Type 1 diabetes can’t be ignored, not even for a meal. It’s the long uphill trudge that I dread for Henry. The knowledge that to do almost anything he wants: eat a piece of cake, take a shower, turn a key in car’s ignition this means he always has to do something before. Strict attention and action will be required before the most basic tasks, tasks most of us do multiple times a day without a second thought. He’ll always have second thoughts. I hope the DOC is a place he’ll go to give and get some of these thoughts.