I love to exercise. Okay, I may be stretching the truth a tad. I love how I feel after I exercise. I’ve done the Tough Mudder. Twice. I’ve run the Rugged Maniac and a handful of other obstacle races over the past few years. My husband and I are faithful to the p90x routines and encourage our three children to play in sports throughout the year. Granted, it makes for a crazy, hectic, life, but we’re a healthy family.
I’m a girl who loves, loves, loves to cook and always adds my own little healthy flair to a recipe (the kids have finally discovered that the homemade mac and cheese is actually butternut squash and chicken stock…barely any cheese or milk in the gooey deliciousness). I have an insane sweet tooth but use applesauce, coconut oil, whole wheat flour, flax seed and other ingredients to compensate my weakness.
So on July 28, 2008 when my then seven year-old was rushed to the emergency room after her routine physical and diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I was like…what?
“Her blood sugar is over 700,” the nurse said.
“Oh, is that bad?” I asked. I knew nothing about the disease, but from that day on our family’s life had changed. No, we didn’t need to alter our eating habits—Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are COMPLETELY different. One way to piss off a mother of a T1D is to ask if her child is allowed to have a cookie. Ugh. Our life became a whirlwind of carb counting, middle of the night blood sugar testing, constant email and phone calls with school, pharmacy trips, reorganizing the fridge to make room for the vials of insulin. The two younger siblings learned about carb counting and quickly grew accustomed to needles and shots.
It’s been seven years of ups and downs—literally and figuratively. My daughter still doesn’t like the world to know about her disease as she feels it weakens her. I want her to know it actually makes her stronger. Her close group of friends who know about her diabetes are in awe that she can prick her own finger and change her pump without a nurse (or medical team) to help her. It was only two months into her diagnosis that she started doing her own shots and wouldn’t let me help. Her fingertips are dotted, scarred and calloused and she’s only fourteen. She must always wear her pump the size of a flip-phone on her belly or arm or she’ll die. We must count every carb—apple or cupcake. It makes no difference. Insulin needs to be delivered. We’re constantly nagging her, reminding her, reprimanding her for not testing her blood sugar as often, or giving herself the insulin when needed.
Type 1 Diabetes is a lifestyle changer. And it can happen to anyone. But I am grateful that it’s just diabetes. Seven years ago when I paced the halls of the Barbara Bush wing at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine, I was reminded how fortunate I was to have a child who could walk out of the hospital in a few days. There were other children who were going through radiation, chemotherapy, saying good-bye to their parents forever.
I’m thankful my child is active and healthy, despite her diagnosis. Granted, her perspective is very different than mine, but as an adult, I can appreciate what we do have, and try not to dwell on what we don’t. But my heart breaks every time I drop her off at a friend’s house. I allot time to meet with the parents and explain diabetes, give them a list of emergency numbers, a cheat sheet to monitoring my child’s health, and then I text my daughter every few hours reminding her to cover her popcorn and chips and snacks she’s having with her friends. I’m the nagging mother. My daughter’s life depends on it.
We all need our outlets. I’m a romance writer. I write to escape the craziness of my regular day job, the hectic life of being a mom to three active kids, and to create romantic heroes (my husband is awesome and loyal and reliable…but he ain’t no romantic!). In my second book False Hope, the heroine is diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I wrote this book shortly after my daughter was diagnosed. I thought about writing a women’s fiction novel about a mother whose daughter struggles with the disease and started that novel, but it became too personal. Instead, I incorporated diabetes into my contemporary romance series. Emma Fulton leads a healthy, active lifestyle but faces many obstacles in her life and her new diagnosis is only a small part. Just one more thing to add to her already full plate.
What I love about Emma is that the disease doesn’t own her. It is a part of her, one she may try to forget about, but it follows her around and weaves its way into her life. We can’t escape from our problems, but need to learn how to face them, live with them, or change them.
Eating well-balanced meals, drinking lots of water, and exercising are all important and can help maintain a healthy life, but there are no guarantees. Live life to the fullest and brace all life as to offer.
And read. Read to learn, to escape, to dream.