Back to School Night with Type 1 Diabetes

My son with type 1 diabetes starts Kindergarten day after tomorrow. He’s excited, and we’re excited. We anticipate a safe environment in which he’ll learn, grow, and be healthy. We’ve met and planned with the school, but just hours ago, on the walk home from back to school night, tiny cyclones of fear, worry, and jealously snaked inside me.

Back to school night with type 1 diabetes means a pile of glucose tabs, glucagon kits, test strips, extra insets, a ketone serum meter, airheads for the really low lows, spreadsheets of instructions, snacks with carbs, snacks without carbs, lancets, a back-up meter, and extra adhesive have been queued in your dinning room for a week.

Back to school night with type 1 diabetes means you walk your son to all the bathrooms closest to his classroom. You point out the water fountains along the way.

Back to school night with type 1 diabetes is taking four times as long to drop off materials as other families because you have so many more items. In fact, when you’re dropping off supplies and signing form after form in the nurse’s office, the courteous mother behind you tells the staff that she’ll be back tomorrow, meaning when they’re less busy. It’s realizing, in that moment, despite your two big bags of supplies, that you forgot the snacks with carbs, so you’ll be back tomorrow as well.

Back to school night with type 1 diabetes is walking the route between the nurse’s office and his classroom several times, just to make sure he doesn’t get lost. You realize it’s a trip he’ll make several times a day, and he’ll know it like the back of his hand in a week.

Back to school night with type 1 diabetes is rushing from work to the pharmacy so you can get the glucagon kits for school, and as you walk past the cashier to the pharmacy counter, you see a mother wave a purple glittery pencil box before she pays for it. You overhear her say to the cashier, “It’s back to school night tonight, and this is the last thing we need. We almost forgot about it.” A needle of jealousy pierces you, and you wish back to school night was just about pencil boxes and markers, a blithe almost forgetting of things. But then you remember to be kind, because everyone is fighting great invisible battles. Surely living with type 1 has taught you that.

Back to school night with type 1 diabetes means looking at all the other boys and girls that your son will most likely go to school with for the next thirteen years and hoping that they will be compassionate and understanding. But you’ve been a kid on a playground and in a lunchroom. You know kids aren’t empathetic and kind all the time.

Back to school night with type 1 diabetes is hoping your non-T1D kid doesn’t feel minimalized as she waits for you to finish something diabetes related for the fourth or fifth time that day. She’d like to see her classroom too, and asks if there’s still time to visit her teacher.

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Back to school night with diabetes is forcing yourself to breathe as you walk behind this guy who is, and will, shoulder so much. You tell yourself you’re just sending your kid off to Kindergarten, that lucky parents whose kids were born after the discovery of insulin 95 years ago, and kids whose T1D is caught in enough time, get to do that— send their kids off to Kindergarten.

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Experiments in No/Low Carb Cooking: Zucchini Garlic Bread

When scrolling through social media, I sometimes pause on those sped up cooking videos that require a few ingredients. Usually, I’m appalled, and think that the simple recipe made from processed food is all that’s wrong with America (I’m thinking of you, S’mores Dip and Donald Trump). However, other times I decide to try the recipe, which is the case for Cheesy Zucchini Sticks, featured on Buzzfeedtasy’s Instagram.

Of course, people with type 1 can eat anything they want. However, it can be easier to manage blood sugars if fewer carbs are consumed. There’s a controversial method of type 1 management called the Bernstein method, of eating few to no carbs, which would require less insulin. Dr. Bernstein was diagnosed with type 1 at the age of 12 in 1946, when outcomes and control were not good. He’s now in his 80’s, living proof that his method has worked for him.

While we don’t use the Bernstein method, I do cook some meals with the objective of decreasing the carbs we consume. Last week, I decided to make a summer vegetable soup and Cheesy Zucchini Sticks.

I knew Henry would love them, but his bread, pasta, couscous loving sister would not. Please take 57 seconds and appreciate the aforementioned sister as a toddler who could not eat an entire Bing Cherry purchased roadside from the farm where it grew, still warm from the California sun that nourished it.

So some clever rebranding was in order. I called it “Garden Bread.” The rebranding worked at first.

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Garden Bread

The Verdict:

Matt, known zucchini hater since childhood, ate three pieces.

Ava, cannot eat a cherry (or any other fruit or vegetable) to save her life, gobbled down one piece, but slowed and then stopped when she spotted “something green” on her second piece.

Henry and I ate the rest. It was neither bread nor zucchini, but it was a flavorful low-carb accompaniment to our meal.  Next time, I’m peeling the zucchini first, to take care of the “something green,” but it’s back to the drawing board for names.

Across Three States and a Mighty River

We participated in a lot of fundraising this year, including our first JDRF One Walk. Now, Henry is a youth ambassador for two cyclists who will complete a 100 mile ride across three states and the Mississippi River in the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes August 11-14. Henry is a youth ambassador for Nicole and Harrison.

 

Participating in each fundraising event is a humbling experience. Sure, it’s not easy to ask friends and family for money, but once the money is raised and I’m at the event, I’m awed by the sheer number of people there. Huge groups of people are in matching shirts, rallying for one person.

When I was in elementary and high school, I knew a couple of people who had type 1. During graduate school, one of our dear friends had been diagnosed just prior to starting school. But these were a few people, and then my son was diagnosed. My world got simultaneously smaller and bigger.

A few months ago, in our little town, I was waiting to pick up some Thai take-out we’d ordered. I heard the beep of what I was certain was an insulin pump. I looked around the five table restaurant and saw an older man bolusing for his meal. It’s happening more frequently: I’m encountering more and more people with type 1. Maybe I’m just seeing things I would have never noticed before, but with all the other families who have infants and toddlers recently diagnosed with type 1 that I meet through events or the in Diabetes Online Community (DOC), I think I’m not only noticing the invisible world of T1D, but also that the incidence of T1D is on the rise.

I recently heard a talk by the ADA president, and he said that every 20 years the incidence of type 1 diabetes is doubling. It’s no wonder that a JDRF One Walk or JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes event should host a larger than expected number of people who have been affected by type 1. So that’s the girt of it: while a cure remains elusive, an increasing number of people will need a cure. If you’ve got an extra $5 bucks, send it to Nicole and Harrison as they fundraise for the JDRF.

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One day, when Henry’s older, I’d love to train for this ride and complete it with him. In the meantime, here’s a really great podcast, where diabetes mom, Moria McCarthy, talks about he challenges of completing a JDRF with her daughter, Lauren, who happens to have type 1. The podcast is Diabetes Connections by Stacey Simms.

Harrison and Nicole, we’re cheering you on!