“When I was four years old, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It was a huge struggle for my family, as it was early in the technology of Diabetic care and everyone in my family (parents, five older siblings, and a twin) had to learn how to take care of me. My siblings have never forgotten practicing with syringes on oranges. As we became more educated, it became easier to care for my diabetes. About four years after my diagnosis, my twin brother was also diagnosed. As children, we never fully understood what was required to be a ‘good diabetic’. I just thought I could not eat too much and had to take insulin and test my blood sugar levels often. I hated that I was diabetic, I even hated myself and God for letting it happen. But now, I am personally grateful that I was diagnosed… it causes me to care and be more aware of my personal health.” -Craig
What is Type One Diabetes?
Craig’s story is not too different from other people like him. Type one diabetes (T1D) often comes unexpectedly and for no obvious reason. Type one diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. It is often referred to as ‘Juvenile Diabetes’ due to its tendency to present itself during childhood and adolescence. The pancreas holds many responsibilities and one of its jobs is to produce insulin through beta cells. Insulin is the hormone that allows blood sugar to enter cells; without this sugar, the cells have no energy. When a person has T1D, their body destroys beta cells and the pancreas can no longer produce insulin. When there is no insulin, sugar remains in the blood and damages the body. Unfortunately, there is no prevention or cure for type one. To learn more about the specifics of T1D, I recommend looking at the CDC’s website.
Coping with Emotions
It is normal to have overwhelming feelings with a new diagnosis of T1D. Many children and parents experience fear, anxiety, anger, embarrassment, or even feelings of loneliness. It takes time to adjust to such a life-changing diagnosis, and it is important to remember it is okay to be upset. One of the best things you can do as a parent is find opportunities to talk with your child about their feelings. You can also encourage your child to be honest with their doctors and to ask them questions. If your child is not much of a talker, they can try art or writing as an outlet for their emotions. To encourage this you could simply ask your child to draw a picture of how T1D makes them feel. Eventually, you and your children will adjust to this new lifestyle. For additional resources on coping with emotions after a diagnosis, try this website.
Another great resource for helping children cope with their new diagnosis is to get a solid support group. Family and friends are often a great source of support for you and your child. It can also be beneficial to add in their teachers, school nurses, and coaches to their support group. There are many different online communities, and even local groups, for parents and children with T1D. Here in Utah, we are lucky to have multiple different summer camps specifically for children with T1D; their websites are linked at the bottom of the page.
Living with T1D is no simple task, and the concern for your child will likely never disappear. Because of this, it is so important to remember that a T1D diagnosis is no one’s fault. My husband, whose story begins this post, has had T1D for 20 years; his identical twin has had it for 16 years. To this day, their mother asks about their T1D in every conversation she has with them. When we have a family gathering, their uncle gives his famous line, “Bleed before you feed” as a reminder to check their blood sugar. T1D has become a way of life for my family. It is what we do. It comes naturally to us, and one day it will come naturally to you.
We would love to hear any ideas or thoughts you have on coping with a new diagnosis of T1D. What has worked to bring comfort to you and your children? And as always, if you have questions or are in need of support, please reach out to us at Help Me Grow Utah.
For children 5-12 years old, camp ICANDO is located in Sandy, UT. Check out The American Diabetes Association for more information.
For children grades 2-8, camp UTADA is located near Hunstville, UT. Check out the Foundation for Children & Youth with Diabetes for more information.