You are told that fateful day that your child could possibly be in renal failure. You know what this means because your father is on dialysis, due to Type Two diabetes complications. You panic. You’re the most scared you’ve ever been. The shock takes awhile to wear off. Then reality sinks in. First off, a four-day training session at the Stollery. You learn that this chronic disease is all about having to subtract fiber from carbohydrates in every bite that goes into your child’s mouth. You’ll have to weigh the bananas and apples that you used to just hand to your child without thinking twice. Two kinds of insulin. Four injections. And at specific times. Minimum of four blood glucose finger pokes every single day. Type One doesn’t go on a vacation. Ever. You learn about hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. You absorb a ton of things that can affect the one you love the most. You try to explain to people over and over again … no! It is not the same as Type Two diabetes. You learn about all the things that can go wrong. I had people say to me like ‘at least it isn’t cancer.’ ‘It’s just diabetes.’ You are guilt ridden even after being told it’s unknown what causes it.
You wonder…. is it my genes? Those Sunday’s we went for slushies? How did this happen?
At 7 my daughter said she wanted to die because ‘Mom, I don’t want to do another needle!’ I’ve had her sob in my arms about it. Tell me she feels like she is ‘weird.’ My daughter who is brilliant beyond her years shut down and hid herself at school and at home. She hated holidays because of the candy. Joy was lost for her. My heart broke daily. Invites to friends’ homes lessened. You realize pretty fast who cares and who doesn’t. It has been a very long road for her. There’s no one I admire more. She has come to terms with her illness in her own child’s way. I have finally come to terms with it as well. Years later.
Time passes. You now have a routine. It’s a part of your life. Birthday parties, events, you time them, find out what is going to be served for food. You want your child to feel normal and happy. You’ve already calculated her insulin and carb count for the excitement that special events bring because even emotions play havoc on her sugars. This is the stage of acceptance. My wish for all parents and children with this Is that they could immediately be brought to this moment. To watch your child do the most amazing things that as a child you couldn’t have imagined being able to do yourself. It has now been over 3 years since Michelle was diagnosed. We have had bumps, but my daughter has become my inspiration. She was the Juvenile Ambassador for JDRF in 2012. She has won Science fairs in school. She was one of the youngest at the Stollery to be able to draw up her own insulin, figure the amounts that match up to her carb count and inject herself. She learned that. She wanted to help me.
Time. It does heal the mind. Acceptance? Takes a long time. It’s okay to grieve. You and your child did lose something in that diagnosis. It will be okay. But it won’t be easy.
I had this idea in the back of my head since my daughter was born. To get a tattoo, but I was afraid of the needle. I did the math. At 4 insulin injections a day and a minimum of 4 finger blood sugar pokes per day… my brave little girl has already done 11,680 needles. And that number is an under-estimate. Days she is low or high we check up to 8–10 times a day. I got a tattoo on March 5, 2015. At a rate of around 160 needle pokes a minute over 2.5 hours I suffered 24,000 needle pokes. By the time my daughter is 18, she will have far surpassed that with over 35,040 needle pokes.
My tattoo has a treble clef, blue roses and one wonderful word: ‘Michelle.’