Posted in Family, Type 1 diabetes

The Seven Year Itch & Type 1 Diabetes

(A post written to mark the seventh anniversary of my daughter’s diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes)

Debbie and Laura at TIm's house
Laura doesn’t remember being without Type 1 Diabetes

Getting ready to celebrate my daughter Laura’s 11th birthday in 13 days’ time, I can’t help remembering that seven years ago on this day, I was hoping that we’d be out of hospital in time to celebrate her fourth birthday party.

What were we doing in hospital? We’d been urgently despatched by our lovely family doctor, Dr Mather. She’d alerted A&E (aka the Emergency Room) at Bristol Children’s Hospital to expect our arrival.

It was imperative that we were seen straight away to reduce the chance of Laura becoming dangerously ill.

“Are you in a fit state to drive?” Dr Mather asked. “If not, I’ll call an ambulance to blue-light you there.”

With adrenalin surging from the shock of the diagnosis, we were almost in a fit state to fly there, Superman-style, to save our baby.

All Change with Type 1 Diabetes

That was the start of a whole new way of life for us, accommodating the daily need to do things that fly in the face of maternal instinct:

  • to stick needles in in my child to deliver life-preserving insulin
  • to prick her fingers, lots of times, every day, to draw blood to test it was neither dangerously high or low

It’s a balancing act, always, 24/7, 365 days of the year. Until a cure is found, there’s never a day off, because if we stopped doing those things, she’d be dead within days. Managing Type 1 diabetes is not for the faint-hearted. But being faint-hearted is not an option.

Lucky Seven?

Laura and Debbie Young on a hill
With Laura, aged 7

Seven years feels like it should be a magic number. It’s a special anniversary when people are meant to become suddenly desirous for change or take off in new directions in search of freedom.

There’s no magic here today, except the evidence, as every day, of the wonders of modern medicine and the compassion of our NHS (National Health Service) that supplies us with the resources we need to keep Laura alive.

Another Sea Change

Laura and friend at JDRF Youth Ambassador Event
Laura hugs a JDRF mascot for luck

When Laura was diagnosed, we were just getting ready for her to move up from playgroup to school. That’s enough change to challenge any family without the complication of serious illness, but hey, when it’s your kid, you deal with it.

Now she’s poised to move up to secondary school. Next week, as her final fling at the village school, she’ll be doing her SATS exams – the tests that the government imposes on every child in Britain at this stage. The school has been preparing the children for SATS since January, and the stress of SATS is bad enough for children (and parents!) who don’t have special health care needs.

But for Laura, she’ll have the added challenge of taking exams while trying to keep her blood sugar level. Stress can have two effects on a diabetic – it can send them very high or very low. Either state is not ideal for sitting exams – it can make you feel faint, drunk, angry, scared, tearful. Or it might have no effect at all. Trouble is, you don’t know how it will affect you till you’re there.

The supposed treat of a class breakfast in school at the start of each examination day adds further complexity. Moving away from her normal breakfast routine adds risk: if we miscalculate her insulin dose to deal with whatever she chooses there for breakfast, it could scupper her blood sugar for during the exam. But we don’t want to stop her from going to the breakfast, because it’s important for her emotional and psychological well-being not to feel different from her classmates – another potential source of distress.

Laid-Back Laura

Laura head and shoulders
Calm as ever

Fortunately Laura is the most laid-back person I know.

“I’m not worried about SATS,” she assured me yesterday. “I think doing tests is quite fun.”

She’ll be fine, I’m sure. She’s bright, she’s thorough, she has a strong  work ethic. She’s not spending the weekend worrying about her SATS – she’s completely absorbed in setting up a Eurovision Song Contest final for her cuddly toys.

Yes, she’s doing fine. But I still wish we could ditch the diabetes, seven years on.

Cover of my new book, "Coming To Terms with Type 1 Diabetes"
Click cover for more info

In November, I’ll be launching a paperback of the ebook I published last World Diabetes Day, to raise funds to search for a cure. All proceeds are going to JDRF, the leading charitable funder of Type 1 diabetes research. If you’d like to read the e-book in the meantime, it’s available exclusively via Amazon on Kindle for now, wherever you are in the world. (More info here.) If you’d like to be alerted via email when the paperback is available, please sign up for my mailing list here.  

 

Author:

Optimistic author, blogger, journalist, book reviewer and public speaker whose life revolves around books. Her first love is writing fiction, including the new Sophie Sayers Village Mystery novels (out 2017), short stories and essays inspired by her life in an English village. She also writes how-to books for authors and books about living with Type 1 diabetes. She is Author Advice Centre Editor and and UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) Advice Centre blog, an ambassador for the children's reading charity Readathon, and an official speaker for the diabetes research charity JDRF.

4 thoughts on “The Seven Year Itch & Type 1 Diabetes

  1. I think you, your daughter and your husband are so brave to deal with this, Debbie. I have to say I’m a real coward – when you mentioned needles and pricking fingers for blood, I went a little bit squeamish!!

    But I think you’ve all done an admirable job at dealing with such a serious condition. I’m sure it can’t be easy. I know a little of what it’s like as I have to take medication every day for my condition and I have to manage myself. But there’s no needles involved thankfully – apart from blood tests a couple of times a year – and generally I cope OK.

    Your daughter sounds very level headed; in the years to come I’m sure she’ll be dealing with her condition on her own really well and she’ll be wanting you to take a back seat with it all! And who knows, God willing a cure for diabetes will one day be found.

    1. Thank you, Elaine. I don’t feel brave – that would suggest there was a choice involved – but we are as a family determined to make the best out of what we have been dealt, and we don’t let diabetes stand in our way. I think that feeling in control and taking the upper hand really helps with something like this, even with something a condition as unpredictable and tricky to manage as type 1 diabetes. I have a couple of conditions – underactive thyroid and rheumatoid arthritis – and am constantly thankful that I only have to take tablets rather than injections or blood tests, and that makes me feel cowardly compared to Laura! And of course any trip to the Children’s Hospital reminds me that there are much worse illnesses to have. I’m always grateful for my good fortune to have such a lovely daughter with or without diabetes!

      1. Of course. I’m sure she has a bright future ahead of her and I’m certain there will be big advances towards a cure in her lifetime, maybe a complete cure. And it’s good that you can be so philosophical about it too.

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