Living With Diabetes Isn't Easy But You Can Manage

Living With Diabetes

I have previously written about how to cope with the early stages of living with diabetes.  But if your child was just diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, you may be overwhelmed with the ramifications of living with diabetes.  It is not an easy transition, but it gets better.  Hopefully I can give you a better idea of what to expect, so that living with diabetes will not be as difficult as you are thinking.

Other People Have No Idea What They're Talking About

Once the word gets out that your child is living with diabetes everyone will ask how he or she is doing.  The concern is well-intentioned, of course, but people never really know what to do or say.  I had one person talk to me who insisted that my son would grow out of Type 1 Diabetes.  I eventually just nodded and ended the conversation.  Once you get more familiar with the disease, it's easier to give a quick lesson to people who don't know the facts.  Just be prepared to be frustrated at people who are not living with diabetes, but who act like experts.  They mean well so take the time to better explain the situation to them.

People Will Insist on Making Sugar-Free Foods Even Though They Don't Have To

It never fails.  We have told our family time and again that my son has no dietary restrictions when it comes to living with diabetes (other than sugared juices, which are off-limits), but that hasn't stopped some people from making special treats for my son at things like birthday parties and family reunions.  There's only one problem.  These special treats have no sugar and usually taste bad.  Most people have a better understanding of Type 2 Diabetes, where low-sugar diets are more prevalent, and they think the same rules apply to Type 1 Diabetes.  My son has an insulin system just like everyone else, it's just that his comes in vials and syringes.  That means that he wants the same cookie as everyone else!

Having Said That, There are Things Your Child Will Miss Out On

Living with diabetes is much easier today than it was just 10 years ago.  That doesn't mean, however, that it's easy.  Your child will still miss out on things.  After my son's t-ball games, a different parent each week brings drinks.  These drinks are usually always Gatorade or Capri Sun.  Those are on the restricted list and my son cannot have those.  We'll take them for him to have when his glucose reading is low, but for the most part his juices consist of the sugar-free variety.  Another thing is snacking.  Snacking is fun because it's a way to pass the time.  But for a diabetic, snacking has to be planned, and it helps if the snack is low carb.  That's not a fun thing.  At my office there is a basket that is always filled with bite sized candy.  I'll spend time at the copy machine and take a few pieces of candy with me.  My son would not be able to do that.  Granted, his snacking diet is healthier, but I don't know if that is much consolation to him.

You Will Feel Like a Bad Parent

If you're like me and my wife, you feel guilty enough with the amount of time you saw your child getting sick before you took them to the doctor.  My son was just 2 when he was diagnosed; he was totally dependent on us to figure out that something was wrong.  I still carry that guilt with me. 

The thing about living with diabetes is that the diabetic's body is always changing.  That means that you will always be a step behind in the care that it takes to keep glucose readings where they need to be.  This will leave you feeling helpless and like you're letting your child down.  But realize that this disease has no cure, and despite the great strides in diabetic care, there is still no great way to manage diabetes.  You just take it day-by-day and do your best.  The fact that you are living with diabetes every day makes you stronger as a parent.

It Gets Better

When we arrived home from the hospital after my son was discharged, I had a similar feeling to what I felt when we arrived home after he was born.  Namely, OK, what do we do now?  Well, after 18 months of living with diabetes, we've figured out what to do now.  That doesn't mean that we have an answer for everything, but it means we now have a direction for where to go.  We check blood and give shots four times a day.  We have a plan for what to do if hypoglycemia pops up.  We have taught family members how to care for my son so that my wife and I can enjoy a night out.  And we have researched preschools that are prepared to care for diabetes. 

More than anything, the thing I am most proud of is the toughness that my son now has.  I hate that he will be living with diabetes for the rest of his life, but I am happy with how easily he adapted to the changes in lifestyle.  If he can handle this at such a young age it gives me confidence that he will be able to accept any challenge that he is presented with in life. 

And rest assured that diabetes can make you a better person.  Your family and friends might not come right out and say it, but they are impressed with how you have handled things.  And most importantly, your child is very grateful too.  They more than anyone realize that it is not easy living with diabetes.