a toddler with a new diagnosis…
On 9/10/11, my son Cooper was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. You can read the whole story here, but we spent four days in the hospital and then we were sent home to manage on our own. It struck me in the hospital that they require two nurses to check a syringe before administering an insulin injection. Yet here they were, ushering us out the door with NO FORMAL MEDICAL TRAINING to “manage” at home. I’m proud to say we have managed. We do manage. We are managing.
Here’s how we make it work:
FOOD: As soon as we understood the role carbs play in the life of a diabetic (read Diabetes 101 for more specific info!), I panicked. Cooper was like any toddler and previously had a carb-heavy diet – graham crackers, Goldfish, cereal, sandwiches, pretzels. Carbs, carbs, carbs, everywhere you look! Our endocrinologist gave us permission to keep Cooper’s diet pretty much the same (making smart choices, obviously…choose Cheerios, not Fruit Loops!), and manage things on the insulin side. We count all of Cooper’s carbs and administer insulin accordingly. Did you know there are 20g of carbs in 55 Goldfish? I do!
INSULIN: Cooper is still on injections, but will hopefully move to an insulin pump in the next few months. The pump will bring a whole new set of pros/cons/vocabulary words, but we’ve got a good thing going with the injections. I feel a little more physically tethered to Cooper than I’d like to be (similar to how I imagine breast-feeding moms feel!), but Cooper handles the shots like an absolute champ. We prick his finger for blood sugar checks four to five times a day, and give an insulin shot after each meal and snack.
ROUTINE: Cooper was a grazer, so teaching him about meal TIME and snack TIME has been my biggest challenge. We’ve had to go back to scheduled meals and snacks and stick to our daily routine as closely as possible. We take our Bag of ‘Betes everywhere we go, so we’re prepared for what may come, but sticking to the routine makes things easier and more predictable for all of us.
PLANNING: This is key for us. I always have snacks, always have Crystal Light packets, always know when and where our next meal is coming from, always have my bag of ‘betes stocked. I’m a planner by nature, so this isn’t a burden for me, but it is something that’s always on my mind.
EDUCATION: Even though Cooper’s only 2 ½, I talk to him about what’s going on. I haven’t yet taught him to say “I have diabetes”…. it breaks my heart to even think about it. But we do tell him that he takes insulin to make his body work the way it’s supposed to and keep him feeling good. We tell him we’re checking his blood sugar. We let him participate as much as possible. He can load the test strip into the glucometer and likes to hold the lancet device to his finger and say “click!” I know he only understands a bit of what we say, but it’s important to me that he’s familiar with the language and truly does treat everything diabetes-related as “normal.” As he gets older, we’ll shift to food education and teach him to make smart choices for himself.
We’ve experienced a range of emotions, we have good days and bad days, and we are not perfect. But we have found a way to make it work, even in the midst of managing this disease. I believe it is absolutely possible and probable that Cooper will either be supernaturally healed of diabetes or they will find a cure in his lifetime. I anxiously pray and hope and wait for that day. In the meantime, we have a fantastic support system. Our friends and family have been amazing over the last few months. Our medical team is encouraging and informative and empowering. We have found a network of other families who have been managing diabetes for much longer than we have, and we lean on them for tips and advice. We are not alone.
And whether you’re dealing with a disease or a special needs child or a perfectly healthy “normal” family, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. If you get nothing else from this series, please know that. Everyone’s dealing with something and every mom makes it work in her own way every day. Whatever your personal challenges, find a community you can share the ups and downs with, and celebrate victories, big and small. You’re a momma. Make it work, girl!!