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.
The Clynch family: daughter Gabby, Matt, Cathy and Chase
Name: Matt and Cathy Clynch
Location: Wichita, Kan.
We are the parents of a son who was diagnosed type 1 diabetes on Nov. 22, 2010, when he was in 8th grade. In a matter of hours our lives changed!
Chase did not display the normal symptoms of diabetes until the day he was diagnosed. As a teenager, he was growing like crazy (4 to 5 inches over about a 6-month span), so we just thought the “slimming down” was from his height gain. Chase never reported uncontrolled thirst and frequent urination until the day before his diagnosis. On a Sunday he complained about having to go to the bathroom a lot, but we just attributed that to his being in middle school basketball tryouts, or a possible bladder infection.
When he woke up on Monday, he said he was going even more. I asked him to try to go to school, and meanwhile I would get him a doctor’s appointment for the same day. But before I could get one, the school nurse called. Chase was in dire straits. I immediately called his doctor and we got right in.
The first thing they did was a urine analysis. Within five minutes they said they had found something and needed to check Chase’s blood. I instantly knew what that meant! Once they checked his blood glucose level, we were sent directly to the hospital for confirmation and treatment. Around midnight that night, the results of his A1C came back, confirming type 1. Chase’s journey had begun.
We have had to learn to not panic and not let diabetes control us—rather, we control it as best we can. We have purposely not changed Chase’s routine, as we want this diagnosis to integrate into his life as seamlessly as possible. He has to do the usual checking and shots, but that takes as little as 15 minutes out of his day.
The hardest part for him is managing his blood glucose while exercising and playing sports. He is a golfer and that requires him to walk a lot carrying a heavy bag—that’s 5 to 6 days a week during the season and then several times during the week the rest of the year. Not to mention, the weather could be 40 degrees or all the way into the 90s. We have worked with him to keep his numbers stable while golfing by staying hydrated and eating protein throughout the round.
As a family, we have had to make sure we are prepared when we travel. Even when just leaving the house during the day, we take enough supplies for anything unforeseen. We also work with the schools to make sure Chase’s supplies are stocked and up to date, so they too are prepared if anything happens. We have been extremely fortunate to have top-notch school nurses who have worked with us in the most exceptional ways!
Chase has taken this head on. As can be expected, he has had his ups and downs. But he has accepted the fact that he has diabetes and needs to do some things that are out of the norm for the rest of the population. Chase is a very quiet person and does not make his diabetes known to everyone. When it does arise, he answers questions people have and sets them straight on any misconceptions.
We have been so lucky to have a support group around us at school, plus doctors who are fantastic and available 24/7.
If I were to talk to the parents of a newly diagnosed teen, I would say to keep a positive attitude and never panic. The other thing would be to always be open and honest with your child about this disease. Finally, I would let them vent without fear, just listen and let them talk.
Today Chase is 17. It is hard enough being a teenager normally, but throw in diabetes and it is twice as hard. As a growing adolescent with changing hormones, Chase’s target is always moving. But with planning and a little patience, it is easier to handle. Now he’s driving, so we have made it mandatory that he check his blood glucose before he puts the car in gear, each and every time!
Live with it openly, honestly and, most of all, without fear!