A Memorable Mom

Marveling at a mothers bravery in the face of a child with diabetes.

Online CommunityBy Scott Johnson

March 2011 — Mother's Day is a hard time of year for me. I lost my mom in April of 2005 to ovarian cancer. She put up a tough fight. I will always be inspired by her bravery. The dedication my dad displayed through all of it is a model of how I hope to be if I am faced with anything as difficult.

My mom spent her life caring for others. She was a career nurse at Fairview Southdale Hospital near the Twin Cities here. As long as I can remember, she was working second shift at the hospital, spending long hours on her feet zipping around the hospital, doing her best for her patients.

For many years she worked on weekends and holidays — hospitals don't shut down just because it is Christmas, and until she built up her seniority she worked all sorts of undesirable shifts. I still marvel at the sacrifices nurses make for all of us, and will always be supportive.

I think that her being a nurse was a real blessing for me. Not only for all of the scrapes and dents I collected over my childhood years, but also for my diabetes diagnosis. I was diagnosed at the age of five. I didn't have a clue about anything at that age, much less taking care of type 1 diabetes.

But I also wonder if it was harder for her to see her child diagnosed with a chronic disease. I wonder if she saw patients in the hospital who were dealing with some of the scary complications we hear so much about. That would have been tough, knowing her son might be facing some of those same things later in life.

As I raise my own children — now eight and eleven, neither with diabetes — my appreciation for all parents grows. But my appreciation for my parents, and the challenges they faced raising a child with type 1 diabetes, has skyrocketed. As I watch my kids eating a meal, I marvel at how parents these days do it. How can you possibly count carbohydrates that actually make it into their stomach? It seems like an impossible task to me.

Times are different now, and while they are much better in many ways, they are much harder in others. I think all of the tools and data parents have today are fantastic, but those tools and data also put a lot of pressure on them that didn't exist (in the same way) back in 1980. Back then we took insulin, ate meals (that were not too regulated) around the same times each day, and checked urine sugars a few times a day (if that much!).

We dealt with low blood sugars as they came up, and some of them were terrible. I remember passing out in the lunch line at junior high school, and having a handful of seizures overnight that my parents treated with glucagon. I can still feel those recovery headaches to this day.

High blood sugars? I don't think we even had enough information to adjust for them on our own. Urine testing was giving us information that was hours old, and in many cases it might be hours before I'd be taking another shot of insulin.

We just did the best we could, and got on with trying to live a normal life. That "normal life" part was something I very clearly remember about mom and my diabetes. It was very important for my mom and dad to make sure I felt as normal as possible. They did a lot to make sure I didn't feel special, or excluded, or like a standout.

I don't remember having to skip pizza or cake at parties, but I do have vague memories of my birthday being associated with angel food cake. I suppose in the days before carbohydrate counting, and all of the knowledge about carbs versus sugars, that angel food cake probably seemed like a smart choice.

Maybe the most important lesson I remember from my mom is something I still stick to. She said, "Don't ever use your diabetes as an excuse not to do something. If you do, others will use that excuse on you without your permission."

That has stuck with me for all of my years, and will be there for all that I have left.

Read more of Scott Johnson's columns here.

Visit Scott's blog. 


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: June 10, 2013

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

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