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  • Writer's pictureKirstin

Diabetes: A note of thanks

Note: This blog was originally posted on December 9, 2015, on an earlier blog I had. It was one of my most popular posts, so I am reposting it today, modified slightly for my son's 10-year "diaversary." This post is part 1 of a 2-part series on this topic.


Dear Diabetes,

I am sure you get tons of hate mail, and as someone well acquainted with you, I think such correspondence is warranted. I do not know anyone who is happy to live with you, and the knowledge of your long-term effects still makes me weepy, even 10 years in, every time I take my son to an appointment to learn how to deal with you. But I am practicing gratitude, so in that spirit, today, on the eve of the tenth anniversay of my son's diagnosis, I write you a letter of appreciation.


You became a part of my life before my story even began when you plagued my father on April 1, 1965. What a sense of humor you have!


You proved no one is immune to you by picking on someone with no family history when you made my dad a type 1 diabetic, a man whose life was already complicated enough given his family had no money, and his dad was an alcoholic.


What a blessing in disguise you were, though, because you enabled him to escape a life of poverty. The hospital stays and doctors' visits made my dad interested in the medical field, and living with you qualified him for a scholarship that paid for an education to pursue that career interest. And I know people don't choose alcoholism, but you make drinking so hard and dangerous that you kept my father from that addiction. Thank you.


You wreak so much havoc on a body that my dad didn't think he could physically handle the grueling training of an MD, so he became a dentist. Thank you for steering him to a profession with more family-friendly hours. He took advantage of that by participating in as many of my and my sister's and my activities as he could. Those years of insulin injections made him particularly good at giving Novacain shots, so I also thank you on behalf of his patients.


My dad loved dentistry and often commented that he would work until he died. We were worried whether you would allow that to happen, though, given how, over time, you attack people's eyesight and limbs. Let's be clear: I will never be okay that my dad didn't see 60. But I thank you for sparing him a slow decline and taking him suddenly in his sleep.


This sudden death ignited a passion in my to raise awareness about you. All along, I was an activist waiting for a cause, so I thank you for recruiting me. My dad's death rekindled my love of athletics as I prepared to participate in the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure and, later, run marathons for diabetes fundraising. His death made me start a scholarship fund to benefit other kids who live with you.


We do have a score to settle, though. See, you made it more personal when you added my Owen to that list of kids who live with you. That wasn't fair. In fact, after taking my father, it was downright dirty.


But don't think you have shaken my grateful spirit; if anything, you've strengthened it.


I had two healthy babies after two uncomplicated pregnancies. Aside from consistent ear infections that antibiotics quickly nixed, they had no health woes. Meanwhile, friends were dealing with their kids' colic, reflux, and asthma. I sympathized and admired them, "knowing" I could not handle being the mom of a sick child, especially since I am the only one in my family who missed the calling to go into the medical field.

Thank you for proving me wrong. Sure, the first couple times I gave Owen an injection, I had to sit on the floor because I thought I would pass out, but I did it. Along with my husband's help, I have seamlessly incorporated you into our daily life with the ease I used to marvel at in my friends. Mustering through the occasional sleepless nights when dealing with low blood sugars, fighting insurance companies for the supplies and coverage we need, giving care instructions to others who would be with Owen when we could not - and then trusting them to do as we directed - showed me I am stronger than I gave myself credit for. Thank you.


Thank you for confirming my faith in my intuition. Those frequent ear infections? I distinguished those from other minor ailments every time, as I did the bouts of strep throat. And I recognized Owen's symptoms as diabetes. I am not happy I was right, but thank you for building my confidence in my mother's intuition.


You also reconfirmed my faith in humanity. Owen's diagnosis brought out the best in people. My coworkers, family, and friends rallied to support us with diabetic cookbooks, gift cards to restaurants that publish their carb counts, and advice on medical professionals. Various extended family members took time to attend a camp about you and learn how to care for Owen.


Thank you for empowering me to educate people about you. I couldn't afford to have someone tell Owen he brought you on himself, that he will outgrow you, that he can't eat certain food, that insulin is optional, or that high and low blood sugars aren't that big a deal (yes - these statements have all been uttered). I needed them to know that he does not get a vacation from you. He thinks about you every day, all day long, and the fact that most don't have that worry is a privilege they take for granted (myself included). Thank you for the opportunity to inform.


Thank you for showing me how kindhearted and connected my daughter is to her brother. When Avery found out Owen has you, she threw up, literally sick with concern for her brother. No doubt, you are Owen's Achilles Heel, and growing up, he took great pains to keep you private. Kids can be mean. Avery knew this, and she had his back when they were together in social situations. Throughout all their sibling bickering, not once did she ever use you as a cheap shot against him. When COVID hit, Avery was especially diligent about protocols, knowing Owen was at a higher risk of complications. Thank you for letting me see what a caring young lady she is.


I will not speak for Owen because it is disingenuous for me to thank you for the gifts you've given him, especially when I am unsure what those are even 10 years in. I know you've given him leadership opportunities as he met with younger, newly diagnosed students at his school to normalize the disease. I know you've inspired him to captain his own fundraising teams to raise money for a cure. Is it because of you that he is majoring in Health Studies and writing papers about our health care system? Will you lead him to be a lobbyist for reform? Maybe one day he will write you his own thank you letter.


But I hope you're not around to receive it.


With gratitude,

Kirstin



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