A Diagnosis, a Layoff, and a Pandemic

This is the day our life changed.

I had wanted to go to our botanical garden for a succulent sale, and I planned to take my daughter, Piper Jane, to the splash pad at the children’s garden after. We barely made it through the checkout line with my few little plants before she was collapsing on the ground complaining about how hungry she was. I had just picked her up from her dad’s house and he said she ate a huge breakfast, so I couldn’t understand why she would be so hungry. And to be honest, I was a little annoyed. I promised her a snack; when she picked out her “snack,” it turned into a second meal — a hot dog, chips, a cup of fruit, and lemonade. She chugged the lemonade and then drank all of my water. When I got her to the splash pad about an hour later, she lasted 20 minutes before she said she was hungry and wanted to leave. Something was off.

My mom intuition told me her body was sick. I typed out a list of her various symptoms and shared it on a mom forum, and within minutes a mom messaged me. She said, “I don’t mean to scare you, but my son had all of those things, and he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Take her to get her blood sugar checked.”

Audrey at the hospital

When the monitor at the urgent care simply read, “HIGH,” I knew in my gut that she had diabetes. That night at the hospital, my world flipped upside down and I thought it would be the hardest day of my life.

I was wrong.

After a few days in the hospital we were sent home. Piper went to her dad’s for a few days and I went home and shifted my whole entire life to rearrange it around life with diabetes: carb counting, snacks, insulin, ketones, teaching her preschool how to care for her.… It was a whirlwind of information, and I was trying not to drown.

That following Monday morning I returned to work, after taking five days off to be with my daughter in the hospital. Two hours later, my world was even more rattled when I was let go from my job. The heaviness of it all was enough to make me feel completely crushed. My sweet girl had just been diagnosed with a lifelong autoimmune disease, and now, as a single mom, I was without income.

The three months that I was unemployed were a blur of madness — learning how to handle lows, our first family trip with diabetes in tow, the added costs of diabetes supplies, the job interviews, the rejections, the late nights of battling stubborn highs.

Top left: Packing for our first trip with diabetes. Top right: My parents learning the ins and outs of diabetes care. Center left: Our first CGM insertion. Center right: Late-night low saved by the juice box. Bottom left: Sneaking in extra snuggles. Bottom right: Decompressing on the beach.

In November, after three months of unemployment, I scored a job at a local hotel, where they were very understanding of my situation at home, and they were very gracious on days where I needed to leave unexpectedly to help Piper. I felt like I had found a job that I loved and that would allow me to keep Piper’s health a priority. It was a wonderful place to be for five months — until the pandemic hit. And then on March 19, I heard the familiar words that I would again be without a job. This time, furloughed. But with the hotel industry really suffering, my furlough has been extended multiple times.

I pulled Piper from school and kept her home, both to keep her healthy and safe, and because it didn’t make sense to continue to pay for preschool without a job. When unemployment ran out, I opened up an Etsy shop to keep the bills paid. Piper started her kindergarten year virtually, so I had to find work where I could be home with her; using my creativity seemed like the best way to keep a roof over our heads.

Living with type 1 diabetes

Piper living her best life with type 1 diabetes.

The pandemic, of course, has brought its own stress, but it’s also been a gift. As a single parent who shares custody, life flies by and you feel like you can miss so much. Now I’ve had months of extra memories with Piper. She’s been so understanding about the changes in the world, and knows that we keep her home to keep her safe, since her diabetes could put her at risk. She gets infinitely braver every day, and most days, diabetes seems like an afterthought to her. She knows it’s just part of life now, and she tries her best to just enjoy her days without diabetes bringing her down.

Audrey and PiperThe unknown that lies ahead is a little daunting for this mama, wondering what the world will look like for both of us in the coming months and years. But we have a beautiful community rallying around us, especially the diabetes community, who helps me afford sensors and supplies when funds are tight, so I know we will be okay. We will be more than okay, because I’m the mother of Piper Jane, and that right there is magic.

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.

Related topics:
How I Know You’ll Get Through This
In the Spotlight: Managing the Stress of a New Diagnosis
Co-Parenting Diabetes

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