In November, we wear blue. But every day, regardless of the month, I wear an insulin pod and a continuous glucose monitor.
November is American Diabetes Awareness Month, and I have Type 1 Diabetes. Being a mom is challenging; facing those challenges while living with T1D is not for the weak.
Like most moms I know, my mind is always going: Did I feed the kids this morning? Did I turn off the stove? What is my blood sugar? Is Ceci wearing the same T-shirt she slept in? Do I have enough insulin in my pod to get me through the day? Did Addie just jump off the couch, over the dog, and forward roll into her play car? Did I do too much insulin for that breakfast I didn’t have time to finish? What day is it? What time is it? What is going on right now? Some of those thoughts may mirror the thoughts of many moms, others may be similar to moms with Type 1 Diabetes, and yet some are very unique to me and my little people.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I was 11 years old. I did not know anyone with Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes, and, if I am being completely honest, I didn’t know the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 until I was an adult. Sometimes I’m still unsure if I understand the differences, and today, there are more than the two types of my childhood.
I’ve lived more than two-thirds of my life with Type 1 diabetes, and I’m not sure I would even know how to live without it now. Thinking about my blood sugar from the moment I wake up until the moment I fall asleep (and oftentimes while I’m sleeping), is second nature to me. Being certain that I have enough insulin to treat a high and enough glucose to treat a low is a necessity for me. I learned how to be on top of my mom-with-diabetes game by watching my mom be on top of her mom-who-has-a-child-living-with-diabetes game. The most used strategy? Planning and preparation.
I am thankful my mother was very observant throughout my childhood — she noticed that my little 11-year-old self was not acting “normally” — I was excessively thirsty, I was tired all the time, I was constantly in the bathroom (all that extra drinking), I had unexplained headaches, and my already tiny body was losing weight. She thought I may have a virus, so she brought me in to see my pediatrician. After almost being dismissed from the office, the nurse suggested a urinalysis (thank God for nurses!) and they found sugar in my urine — a tell-tale sign of diabetes.
I was scooped up and brought to the hospital, spending the next week of my life being poked and prodded until the final diagnosis was rendered. I eventually left the hospital with a new way of life ahead of me, fear in my head, determination in my heart, and a blood glucose meter and regular and NPH insulin in my bag.
Life with Type 1 Diabetes hasn’t been a death sentence, but it also hasn’t always been easy. There are times in my life when I’ve wanted to quit (that was a terrible decision), times when I’ve grown frustrated (like last week), and times I’ve felt empowered.
As a mom with Type 1 Diabetes, my pregnancies were automatically considered high-risk. Despite the challenges diabetes presents (like a placenta that grows resistant to insulin during the third trimester), I was able to navigate two pregnancies and stay as healthy as someone living without Type 1 Diabetes.
Both of my girls (2 and 4) know that when my phone alarms, I’m most likely low and need a juice box. They know mommy feels yucky when her blood sugar is high. They know mommy has diabetes and takes medicine to help her feel healthy. They know she works out to build a strong body and heart in order to avoid complications in the future. They don’t know the intricacies of diabetes, but they get the overall idea, and that’s important. They can learn the intricacies when they get older… or maybe they won’t have to, because I am hopeful for a cure.
I no longer use regular and NPH insulin to treat my diabetes. I have an insulin pump with Novolog (an insulin that begins working 15 minutes after administering a dose). The insulin pump takes care of all the math calculations I used to have to determine whenever my blood sugar was high or I wanted to eat something with carbohydrates. It gives me small doses of insulin throughout the day, allowing me to manage my blood sugars with a precision I did not have when I took multiple daily injections. I also wear a continuous glucose monitor that tells me what my blood sugar is without my having to prick my finger seven to ten times per day. There are even systems out there that pair the CGM with the insulin pump to make diabetes management even more convenient and accurate. My newly diagnosed 11-year-old mind could not have imagined the diabetes technology that exists today, and I am so fortunate for these advancements.
The Type 1 Diabetes of my youth, my adolescence, and my early adulthood no longer exists. Technology has made management so much more accessible for so many — this means better health overall and fewer complications in the future. While I don’t necessarily feel lucky to be a mom living with Type 1 Diabetes, I do feel fortunate that I am able to show my daughters how to persevere despite the struggles I encounter each day. I feel fortunate that I can live as an example of someone succeeding while having diabetes. T1D may knock me down some days, but it will never knock me out. This mama has spent 28 years learning how to fight back, and she doesn’t intend to stop anytime soon. So, yes, in November, I wear blue to bring awareness to the disease that so many battle on a daily basis, and I will continue to do so until there is a cure.