Diabetes is a disease that affects the whole family, especially when a child is diagnosed. Parents of children diagnosed with diabetes face overwhelming, and sometimes frightening, questions such as: How can I strike the balance between caring and hovering? Will she ever be able to eat sweets again? How will I ever be able to let him go out on his own?
This is the latest in our occasional series from parents of children with diabetes, illustrating the emotions, challenges and successes each family faced upon diagnosis.
(L to R) Jake with brothers Nate and Max
Name: Kaprice Dal Cerro
Location: Chicago, Ill.
My son Jake was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 6 and a half. He was in first grade at the time.
He had been changing both physically and emotionally for months, which we attributed to growth spurts. But one day, he was having labored breathing, so I contacted our pediatrician. Since it was the middle of December and he had issues with croup before, I thought for sure we would do our normal routine: go the doctor, get a breathing treatment, then head off to the ER for a chest x-ray to rule out bronchitis.
As it turned out, the problem was much more than that. I never suspected a diagnosis of diabetes.
When we were finally seen by an ER nurse, she could smell the sweetness to Jake’s breath, which led her to take his blood glucose reading. It was off the charts: 656 mg/dl. Jake had DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), so he spent six days in the hospital: two days in the ICU and four more days in the hospital learning all we could about how to care for our child with type 1 diabetes. He was a trouper through the entire process.
Looking back, I realize Jake was showing what I now know are the signs and symptoms of the onset of diabetes (weight loss, consistent thirst, frequent urination, sudden bedwetting). Had I known this, I would have had him to the doctor a lot sooner. But there is no going back, only moving forward.
For my family, I chose to face diabetes head-on. I never felt this was a “life sentence,” but rather just a new way of taking care of our son. I decided we were going to manage the diabetes and not let the diabetes manage us! I have personally found that there is never the “right” balance for anything in your life, but rather you make decisions to help balance the needs of everyone in your life.
Jake is very proactive and does very well with his diabetes management. I felt it was important to share everything we learned about diabetes with him in ways he would understand. I personally chose not to hover, but I do have a very active role in his everyday care, as does he. I felt it was important for him to learn what his body is telling him, and how to react accordingly. He needs to be his own advocate when I am not around—and most importantly, still be a kid!
Will my son be able to eat sweets again? Absolutely! I chose not to limit his food choices, for fear that one day he might feel the need to binge when he is away from me and not know how to handle the consequences of his actions. This has worked well for us. He now makes educated decisions and thinks twice about what he eats. Does he still enjoy “junk” food—sure, what kid doesn’t? I allow him to get it out of his system, but I also don’t leave too many of those temptations around the house.
If you are honest from the start about the effects of diabetes, your child will be a better-informed individual who feels like he or she has a voice in diabetes care. That makes them part of the care team, which leads them down a better path to wellness.
Jake is now 12, healthy and living a very active and fulfilling life. Thankfully we have never had to be admitted into the hospital again for diabetes-related issues.
Here’s to finding a cure one day for every person living with diabetes.