1) She grabs a handful of peanut butter m&m’s and then dives into the pool and continues playing in the water with her friends. That is what 4-year-old girls do in Florida during the summer. They swim in the pool with friends all day long.
2) Bike rides to the park are so much fun for her and her friends. She grabs her tiny backpack from the house and slips both her arms through it and then meets her friends to go riding though the neighborhood.
3) Library day at school is always fun and she loves to peruse the books on the shelves yet on some days she quietly sneaks out of the library back to her preschool classroom to grab a juice box.
These are all typical examples of the life of a 4-year-old girl. Zoe is a happy and healthy girl with a special situation–type 1 diabetes. Zoe was diagnosed with type 1 when she was 10 months old. After spending the typical 4 days in the pediatric intensive care unit we began our new reality of life with diabetes. Personally those days are echoes in my mind but so happy to be where we are now. A baby with type 1 is worlds away from a preschooler with type 1 and I am sure that a teenager with type 1 is an entirely different planet.
But life is great, just ask Zoe. She wears a pump, checks her own blood sugar and has learned to negotiate her way through a low blood sugar by insisting on a “certain” candy that she knows is “in case of an emergency”. And just for full disclosure, the certain candy that is only for emergencies is not kept out of reach because Zoe has diabetes, but because it is a fully loaded sugar treat that her younger brother and she are not allowed to eat on a regular basis – this rule is based on health not based on diabetes. In fact, Zoe eats whatever she wants whenever she wants, wherever she wants. We just take one extra step and do a quick blood sugar check and then let her pump know what is coming.
Type 1 diabetes is not good but it is manageable. If given the option, I would deny the very day it invaded our lives however that is not an available option. We are living with type 1 every second of every day of our lives. At night when Zoe wakes up feeling low or in the early afternoon while swimming in the pool when she has to grab a quick sugar snack to increase her blood glucose – type 1 diabetes is there. At school, in the park, while playing at friend’s house, and at the movie theatre – type 1 is there insisting that we pay it the attention it deserves.
When Zoe was first diagnosed we were confused, surprised and most of all scared. We had no idea what all of this new, crazy information and diagnosis meant. And even worse, when we got home we were thunderstruck, “what the heck are we supposed to do with a little baby that has diabetes? What does she eat? Can we still breastfeed her? Can she eat carbs?” My husband and I felt like we were the new kids in a ghost town. There was no one around with answers or experience to aid us in our new reality. We set out to find answers and meet other resident locals in this ghost town. In the process, we made wonderful new friends and discovered great resources for information. Type 1 diabetes is unpredictable and ever changing. And having others to share this realization with was most helpful.
Knowledge and education is the key to awareness and understanding. Diabetes is not something to be taken lightly yet it should not be a reason to shed pity on another. It is something that needs to be understood. Checking blood sugars in public is common and everyday for us however I realize it is not common for most of us. Yet, some people that do not know much about diabetes may say things that are inappropriate or unnecessary. I could write a cookbook with all of the unsolicited food advice I have been given to “fix” my daughter’s diabetes. However, the more that we share our stories, educate those around us about diabetes and make everyone aware of what to do if someone should have a low blood sugar then the stronger we become.
What once felt like a ghost town to me and my husband now feels like a community. A community comprised of compassionate and skillful teachers, patient and understanding friends and curious and loving children. Type 1 diabetes involves an extra step, every day but we are taking those extra steps with great strides and support thanks to all those that took the extra step in educating themselves and asking questions to become more knowledgeable about diabetes.
Zoe continues her summer swimming while being mindful of her blood glucose, riding her bike while carrying her blood glucose meter and sugar snacks in her tiny backpack and enjoys the library even if she needs a quick juice box to bring up a low. Life is still great just ask Zoe.