Living with type 1 diabetes, children are challenged to be just kids.
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May 2009 — We just attended the annual fundraiser for our local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). It always overwhelms me to see a huge room full of people, all from our local area, directly affected by diabetes. Knowing that this is just the small group of people who could afford to attend the dinner, or who had been invited, or who had a strong enough tie to JDRF to know about the event makes it even more powerful. It speaks to how far-reaching this disease is and how many people are truly impacted directly by it. Then to see the number of children in the room who have type 1 diabetes, children who are local to our area, is so powerful and sad.
Even to parents who live with the reality of diabetes every day, seeing a room full of children living with the disease is overwhelming. As much as it creates a sense of community and support among those who live with it, it also creates great sadness. Knowing how many children are growing up too quickly because they aren't allowed to simply be a child because of the enormous responsibility they face creates such intense sadness for the parents of these children. Their innocence has been stolen. The awareness has been created that terrible things CAN and DO happen to them. They are no longer untouched by something that is truly dangerous and unfair. Seeing the numbness and needle-sized holes in their fingers is heartbreaking and makes you wish they could be unscarred physically and emotionally by type 1 diabetes. Children saying their biggest dream is a cure for diabetes makes you long for a time when this shouldn't be a concern of theirs at all. And seeing the tears in the eyes of every parent in the room makes me wish we didn't have quite so much in common. The only reason most of us know each other at all is because with type 1 diabetes, children – our children - suffer in such similar ways.
I think that as parents we all share a similar belief and fear. The belief that one day there will be a cure for diabetes, but the fear being that it may not come soon enough for our children to see it. And as much as we feel for all of the other parents in the room and want the cure for their children as well as our own, we really want our own child to benefit from that cure. And we want it to come before the end of our own child's childhood. And if I am honest, I have to admit that I become a little bit more resentful each year that I attend the JDRF event. Because I have watched my son's childhood exist within the context of diabetes. Because my child turned 13 this year and he is now officially a teenager. His childhood is over. A cure didn't come in time for him to have any part of childhood without diabetes. I will still raise money for a cure, still hope that my son sees it in his lifetime, maybe even before he goes to college or gets married. But the time when it could have given him more of a childhood without diabetes has past and that intense sadness has grown for me because of it.
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.
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