A voice for living well with Type 1 Diabetes

Reflecting back on the first 20 years of my diabetes, I sometimes wonder how I made it. Much of the credit goes to my Mother. In many ways, she lived diabetes with me.

There’s not much a three-year-old can do to manage diabetes. So, that’s where my Mother stepped in. She started her days giving me my morning insulin injection. She learned how to give the injections and how to boil the glass syringes. I still remember the sound of the cooking pot shaking violently, as the syringes were colliding in the boiling water.

After my daily injection, Mom cooked breakfast for herself, my sister, Dad and I that met the nutritional guidelines for diabetes at the time. When I was old enough for school, she packed a lunch, and when I was in high school an after school snack, so I could make it through school activities, including 7 am marching band practices, weekend debate tournaments and baseball practices that lasted past dark.

Blood glucose meters weren’t yet invented, so she tested my urine with something called Tes-Tape. It measured the amount of sugar in the urine, which is much different than the sugar in our blood. But it was the only tool we had and she did it in order to find out if my blood sugars were in a reasonable range.

We did these things to manage my diabetes and Mom and Dad made sure I had access to the best available medical care. There weren’t a lot of Pediatricians specializing in diabetes in the 60’s and 70’s, but she worked hard to find the absolute best medical care available. She took me to the appointments and listened carefully in order to learn and to apply the recommended insulin dosage, urine testing and diet.

Through it all, Mom encouraged me to live life. She supported my desire to be outside and active, despite suffering many hypoglycemic episodes. She also encouraged my interest in music and academics. Despite the highs and lows that were part of every day, she encouraged me to explore my interests and live life.

Before JDRF was started, she became involved in an organization called Diabetes In Youth. It didn’t last terribly long and had differing agendas between people living with and treating diabetes. But she made the effort to look for new solutions and played a part in funding and creating them.

I went to college when I was 17 and that was difficult for both of us. For nearly 15 years, we lived and managed my diabetes together.

As you reflect on this, you might think I had what today is called a helicopter Mom. I absolutely did and I thank her and love her for it.