A Countdown of Lessons

Ten things I have learned from my childs diabetes.

Karen HargraveBy Karen Hargrave-Nykaza

Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!

February 2008 — I think that most parents of a child with diabetes have thought about the ways that diabetes has stolen the carefree aspects of childhood from their son or daughter. It is difficult not to focus on the unfairness of it all at times and to question why it has to be our child's reality. Our children have had to face enormous responsibilities, handle restrictions in their eating habits, take precautions when they exercise, educate their peers, deal with ignorance and prejudice, and face their own mortality. As I read over that last sentence, the responsibilities hardly resemble what most people think of as childhood.

But I find that the longer my son has diabetes, the less I say, "why him?" and the more I see the life lessons that diabetes has taught my son early on. Many of which are things I don't think I truly learned until I was an adult. It is hard not to think about the advantage this gives Joel to have figured these things out at the ripe old age of 11. We are big David Letterman fans in our house, and therefore are fans of the Top Ten lists as well. So I will borrow the format from Dave as I list the top 10 things that I have seen my son learn from having diabetes.

1. Real friends. Your real friends don't care whether you have diabetes or not, they will rarely even think about it. It doesn't change who you are as a person, and also doesn't change the way they feel about you.

2. Your real friends might not turn out to be who you expect. Sometimes you will be surprised by the people who will really stick by you, and equally surprised by the ones who don't.

3. Be the change you wish to see in the world. (I can't say it any better than Gandhi) If you want real change to be made in the world (or school), or people to be more educated, sometimes you will have to be the one to make the change happen or the one to do the educating.

4. Not everyone will like you. You won't be liked by everyone while you make change happen and educate people.

5. Make a difference. You may not be able to make a huge difference in raising money for or awareness of diabetes all by yourself, but when you get more of your friends and family involved with you each year, you can make a huge difference and feel great doing it. Hopefully this lesson will apply to many things besides fundraising.

6. Responsibility. Sometimes when you want people to give you more responsibility to be independent (even though you are still a kid), you will have to jump through a bunch of hoops to prove that you are ready to have more responsibility. This is a pain in the butt, but it is worth doing if more independence is the end result.

7. Empathy. Having a chronic illness makes a child so much more empathic towards other children (or adults) with an illness who are in pain or who are going through a terrible time.

8. Humor. There are not a lot of things that humor doesn't make easier.

9. Perspective. There is nothing like living with a chronic health condition to make you keep things in perspective and not freak out over the things that don't really matter.

10. The ability to adapt. If diabetes teaches us anything, it is that you constantly must adapt to new circumstances. Exercise, unexpected sugar, low blood sugar, a high A1C at check up time, new basal rates, puberty, miscalculating a bolus, not knowing the carb count in something, eating out (and on and on). There is nothing more constant with diabetes than the need to constantly re-evaluate, adapt, and move on.

When you look at it this way, it isn't a bad list of things to learn before you are even old enough to drive, is it?

Read more of Karen Hargrave's columns here.

dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.


Last Modified Date: July 12, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
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