In the summer of 2006 our daughter Arden was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Shortly after, I began writing about being a stay-at-home dad to a toddler living with diabetes on a blog I called Arden’s Day. In the beginning, the blog was a raw-nerve representation of our experiences. But as time passed and normalcy returned, I set my sights on helping others through sharing what we had learned. My idea was that people shouldn’t have to walk a dark path when others were just ahead of them and could light the way.
Today, I almost can’t believe how far we’ve come since that time, when I was first taught that blood sugar values could and would “magically” fall. At diagnosis, I was told that there was no way to avoid those frightening drops. And so when they happened, I became paralyzed. My fear led to higher blood sugar numbers that I knew were unhealthy, but I learned to swallow my guilt in exchange for perceived safety from lows.
As many of you can attest, it can take some time to figure out how to use insulin effectively. While the endless variables in a life with type 1 can serve to make the puzzle feel unsolvable, it isn’t. I began to notice that in a world that seemed random, there were many empirical truths. For example, nothing will work for us if Arden’s basal rate is not optimal.
Of all the lessons I taught myself, not being afraid of insulin was by far the toughest hurdle for me to clear. But it wasn’t until I decided to not be afraid anymore that I could see the truth. We weren’t using enough basal insulin, and that was leading to corrections with fast-acting insulin that later became unbalanced with the carbs in my daughter’s system. In short, for Arden, not enough basal insulin led to highs, which led to corrections, and those corrections eventually led to lows. Then Arden would eat, and I was too afraid to cover those carbs, turning every day into a white-knuckled roller-coaster ride. Eventually I learned that the insulin didn’t need to be feared — it needed to be respected and, more importantly, understood.
With the fear gone, it was easy to see what was really happening. One day I said to my wife, “I have a system, and it just works.” Quite simply, all of my attention and writing on the blog bore out, and it left me with a tried-and-true plan for better managing Arden’s blood sugar. As the years passed, I saw her A1C stabilize, and my stress and worry alleviate. As a result of this journey, Arden has maintained an A1C between 5.2 and 6 for the past six years with no diet restrictions.
I got to see the things that I learned help a fair number of other people through my blog, too. This process of thinking and writing about diabetes management taught me how to communicate in simple and digestible terms. In 2015, I added the Juicebox Podcast to my blog, and it spread like wildfire. Those few people a month who would write to me through my blog turned into a dozen people a day. Turns out that hearing people talk about diabetes is a terrific way to understand diabetes. It’s now been 14 years since I first wrote online, and I still learn something new about type 1 every day while making the podcast. The things I’ve learned and the people I speak to have given me a treasure trove of tools and support, and I share them on the podcast so no one ever has to be afraid again.
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.