Monday, 23 August 2010

I don't know how you did it

I've suffered from a touch of writer's block (or should that be blog?) for a couple of weeks now and it is isn't because I had nothing to write about. Far from it! All those with the condition, or those who know someone with the condition, will know that every day with diabetes brings some degree of challenge. Some days its 10 degrees, some days its 90, every now and then its 360! Since I last posted there have been high sugars, low sugars, ignorant comments, news articles and countless other prods which would normally provoke me to write something about them. Usually in the form of a rant.

The truth is, I have spent a lot of time recently reading other blogs. Those written by my friends, those by 'famous' (...well, kind of) diabetes bloggers and those I have stumbled across while aimlessly surfing the diabetes inter-wave. Whilst doing so, I have been stumbling across many posts about something I know nothing about. Not that I am an expert per se, but having had type 1 diabetes for 24 years, I know a thing or two about this disease.

I know what it feels like to be high. To feel my muscles screaming at me and moving as though I am trying to traverse through thick tar. To feel the unquenchable thirst, scratching at the walls of my throat.

I know what it feels like to be low, shaking, hot, confused and weak.

I know what it is like to wear a pump. To tug on the tubing occasionally, to have to run home at lunch because I ignored the 'low resevoir' warning.

I know what is is like to have days when everything goes right. The sugars are in check, my injections don't hurt, my fingers don't throb.

I know what it's like when they don't. The tears, the pain, the frustration and the fear.

But there is one thing which I have yet to experience. In truth I hope that I never will, but the fact is the possibility is there. Increased ever so slightly by the fact I have diabetes.

When I was a teenager I never gave a thought to how much my disease hurt my mother. At the time I was filled to the brim with teenage angst. Angry at the world because I wasn't taller, slimmer, more like Jennifer Aniston in the 'Rachel' era. I wasn't more popular, my teeth weren't whiter, I didn't have as much money as my friends, Brad Pitt hadn't swept me off my feet yet (I'm still waiting on that one - it will be any day now).

Why wasn't it easier? Why did I have diabetes, yet every one else I knew escaped it.

It was so unfair. Everything was so unfair - for me.

But the truth is, my mother did have diabetes. And it hurt her more than any of the pain I felt. Every time I sat down to dinner and didn't test my sugars first. Every time I lay around on the sofa instead of going for a walk. Every time I ate sugary foods and just 'shoved in' another bolus. Every time I told her I didn't need her help when she asked if my sugars were OK.

Every time I pushed her away.

I have now reached the point in my life when children are on my mind. I am due to get married, am in a secure job and my health is better than ever. Things are good. But there still remains the fact that when I do decide to have children, there is an increased risk that they will develop type 1 diabetes.

Granted, there is a 1% chance of ANYONE developing type 1 diabetes, and having a mother with diabetes only increases this to 2%, according to the textbook. But you and I know the textbook isn't always the best measure to go by -I know too many diabetics with type 1 who end up with children who develop type 1 - for me to believe the chances are only 2%.

The chances are, my children will develop type one. It's not a given, but there is a chance. The fact is, only now for the first time in my life, do I even have an inc ling of how incredibly difficult it is to care for a child with diabetes. It is the hardest job there is, as far as I am concerned.

Perhaps when they are younger and you have more control over them, the biggest challenges might be squabbling over not wanting to have another shot, which eventually, thanks to your excellent arguing skills and 'I won't back down' attitude, you will win.

But what happens when they reach their teens. When they stop doing blood tests, when they stop taking insulin.

When they are admitted to hospital with more tubes protruding from their perfect body than you can count, as you see them there - struggling.

I knew what risks I was taking. I know them still.

I know that sugary food, no matter how well weighed and calculated, will still have an effect on my body. I know that rather than writing this blog, I should probably be out getting some exercise. I know grapes don't do me any favours, but I like them so I will eat them anyway and hope I got the bolus right.

How parents cope when you don't know what your child is doing, I will never be able to understand until I face the same hurdles myself. How will I cope? What will I say? Will I be able to instill a sense of responsibility into my child, so that even when they hit those turbulent days, they will still take their insulin and test their bloods, even if it just now and then.

Having to watch you child inject and accepting that they have to, because there are no two ways about it, is something I cannot yet understand. Knowing what is is like to worry constantly about anything above ten or anything below four, is something I cannot yet understand. Hoping the pump does its job, and keeps your baby safe for another day, is something I cannot yet understand.

But for the first time in my life, I am beginning to realise how unbelievably brave and dedicated you are. Not you, the children who have diabetes. But you, the parents who go up against diabetes. Who spend every day on the battle field, armed with injections as your weapon, insulin as your sheild, and scales as your steed.

You, Angela, Roxana, Sheila, Lorrie, Clare L, Claire M.

But most of all, You - my mum.

I wish that just for one minute, I could go back and say "Thanks Mum."

I know you don't want to be thanked, I know you don't need to be thanked. But it is only because you took such precious care of me, that I am now in the position that I can start a family of my own.

Thank you mum, you are the bravest person I know.

It's a little late, but I think I am starting to understand now. I understand why you got on at me to test my blood. Looked concerned when you knew I'd eaten more junk, but had no way of knowing. Why you looked hurt when I just scoffed if you asked me had I done my injection.

I hope that if I have a child, they will understand that it is because I care, just as you do. I hope that they will realise why 'now' is so important, just as you do.

I hope I will do what you did mum - it worked, even if it felt at times as though nothing was going in. Deep down - I was listening.

I love you - my diabetes shield.


  1. ooohh that was so gorgeous,im crying writing daughter is 11,diagnosed at 6,pumping 13 months.we are living the rollercoaster diabetes is,lots of ups and downs in many ways.
    i wish Lauren didnt have it every day,but accept she does and we are doing our very bestto instil responsibility in her for the times when we are not with her.
    its so nice to hear the things you say as sometimes we all think we`re in this alone.I hope your pumping goes well and wish you luck in your life ahead.sounds like you`re made of good stuff!! so i think you will be fine..
    thanks for the note xx

  2. I think going on the pump is one of the best things you could have done for her. There may be some battles from a teenage point of view, but had I known then what I know now it is the best possible choice you could have made.

    I'm sure that every time you ask her to check her sugars, the message is going in and one day when she spreads her wings, she will be well and truly set to look after herself


  3. that is inspirational!! i hope you dont mind me using a few lines in a letter im writing to my parents before I embark on a lifetime adventure!

    17 years of being diabetic, I'm going travelling for a year on my own! a lot to cope with.. no doubt my parents will be worrying!

    If you want to follow my blog (i'll hopefully keep it uptodate with diabetes info and how its all going)

    thanks anna! you are good at what you write!:)