Just How Far We've Come

Learning, growing, and thriving in spite of 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!

October 2007 — This month will mark my son's 4th "anniversary" since being diagnosed with diabetes. It is always such an emotional time for us and surprisingly, not all of those emotions are negative ones. So many of the things I think about regarding Joel having diabetes for four years involve just how much we have learned and how far we have come in that time.

When we first were told that Joel had diabetes and what that meant for him, I immediately jumped to the worst of all of it and what it would do to his body, his future and all of our lives. I just remember that incredibly overwhelming feeling, like I had just been hit by a tidal wave and I couldn't get my feet on the ground. I couldn't imagine that our lives would ever resemble anything "normal" again. With all these constant tasks we would have to perform, it seemed like he would be testing, calculating, or correcting his blood sugar at least half of every day. We would also be the different family wherever we went, no matter what we did. Would our friends be uncomfortable around us because they couldn't relate? Would they not want Joel to play with their children so they wouldn't be scared by the blood and the needles?

Not being someone who is strong in either math or science, I also seriously doubted my ability to understand the complexities of the disease, and questioned my ability to care for Joel adequately even more. It took time and experience to overcome those doubts and for each of us to build our self-confidence in managing diabetes. On the very first day Joel was diagnosed, his diabetes nurse told me that in no time, she would be asking me what changes to make in his doses of insulin, diet, etc. I thought to myself, maybe that is what happens in most families, but I couldn't picture myself ever feeling like I knew what I was doing enough to figure out what he needed on my own.

But in time, that tidal wave feeling started to go away and only returned occasionally instead of every moment of every day. Those many tasks really did become a routine and before long they were second nature to Joel and to the rest of us too. Each week it seemed that it took us less time to test, calculate, and correct Joel's blood sugar. We also got better at knowing what foods were going to affect him more than others. And our friends stunned us with their support. Of course there were those who were so uncomfortable with all of it that they just couldn't hide it, and those that needed to protect themselves from it, so they kind of denied it and kept their distance. But the ones who wanted to learn along with us made up for all the rest of them. It showed us that we wouldn't always be the family who was different, at least not if we stuck with the people who really understood and cared to learn with us. They gave us someone to lean on when we needed to complain about the school nurse, or were just exhausted by thinking about it and dealing with it so much. And despite the math and science, I do just fine figuring out what needs to be done for Joel. I am able to make those necessary changes in his regimen that his nurse predicted I would be making, and even more importantly, so is Joel. I also get calls from my sister-in-law who is a school nurse caring for two diabetic students whenever she is stumped about what to do for one of them, or is unsure of how many carbs are in a hot fudge sundae that they are having for a treat that day.

Not all of what we have learned has to do with diabetes directly, but instead about some life lessons that apply to much more than diabetes. I would expect that we appreciate our children's health more than most parents do just because we know what it is like to get a difficult diagnosis. We know that our children and our family are not untouchable. Bad things do happen and sometimes they happen to us. We also don't take for granted that we can leave Joel with just anyone, such as new teachers, coaches, and babysitters who haven't been educated about diabetes. We have to take the time in every new situation to make sure that they have the information they need to keep him safe. Living that way and having to educate others about diabetes constantly is a constant reminder of just how precarious Joel's health and safety are. I have to believe that that effects how we feel about both of our children and our lives on a daily basis.

Although October 16th will always be a very sad day for us, and one that brings back strong life-changing emotions, there is something about the day for me now that makes me know that there is also something to celebrate. Joel is doing well, we all are. We have learned, grown, and thrived in spite of diabetes.

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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