A voice for living well with Type 1 Diabetes

Reflecting 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 by 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 collided in the boiling water.

After my daily injection, Mom cooked breakfast for herself, my sister, Dad, and me, which met the nutritional guidelines for diabetes then. 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 Tes-Tape. It measured the amount of sugar in the urine, which is much different than the sugar in our blood. But it was our only tool, and she did it to determine if my blood sugars were in a reasonable range.

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

Through it all, Mom encouraged me to live life. Despite suffering numerous hypoglycemic episodes, she supported my desire to be outside and active. 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 long and had differing agendas between people living with and treating diabetes. But she tried to look for new solutions and played a part in funding and creating them.

I went to college when I was 17, which was difficult for us both. 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 did, and I thank her and love her for it.

Love you, Mom!