My child can do anything any other kid can do, and she can eat anything any other kid can eat. That’s the line I’ve been telling people since Kaitlyn was diagnosed over nine years ago. I was tired of people treating her differently and offering yucky sugar-free alternatives to the treats that all the other kids would get. I wanted people to know that she was just as capable and just as “healthy” as every other child. For all these years, I’ve been using this same line. But I think I was actually trying to convince myself and Kaitlyn as much as anyone else.
The line is almost like a pep talk to help get us through. Because let’s be honest: Type 1 diabetes is a real challenge. And it does create some serious exceptions. Let me give a few examples…
Kaitlyn can eat ice cream anytime she wants as long as she covers it with insulin — except when she has a high blood sugar, needs a new insulin pump site, or she’s in class and needs a nurse or parent to help count carbs so she can dose.
Kaitlyn can play sports just like anyone else — except for those days that she’s running low and no matter how many juice boxes she’s had, her blood sugar wants to stay down, and so she sits on the sidelines while the rest of her teammates do the workout.
Kaitlyn can participate in all classroom activities — except if they’re right before P.E. or lunch when she’s in the nurse’s office checking to make sure her blood sugar is in range, or if she’s gone all day for an endocrinologist appointment.
Kaitlyn can go to birthday parties and sleepovers — except that she has to have her mom show up and count carbs for cake and pizza and make sure her numbers are in range.
Kaitlyn can excel in school and get good grades — except that she needs accommodations so that she can make up for missed class time, turn in assignments late sometimes, retake tests if she’s not feeling well, and be excused for diabetes-related absences.
Kaitlyn is healthy and feels well — except for when her blood sugar is high or low. Then she feels thirsty, dizzy, tired, has an upset stomach, a headache, and can’t think clearly.
Kaitlyn can go to field trips and overnight camps — except that she’s the only one that has to be embarrassed by having Mom or another chaperone hover over her.
Kaitlyn has friends and normal relationships like everyone else — except that she has to deal with people judging her for having a disease, a fact that she has no control over. Everywhere she goes, people who don’t know any better still think she got diabetes by having too much sugar as a child.
Kaitlyn is a normal kid — except that she has to draw blood from her fingers several times a day, account for every morsel of food that goes in her mouth, have machines and tubes hanging off her belt, and take just the right amount of insulin to keep her blood sugar numbers in range to stay alive.
So, do I still think Kaitlyn is exactly like any other child? In some ways, I think the answer is no. We’ve learned that type 1 diabetes is a real thing with significant challenges and sometimes limitations. But I’m more interested in who she is in spite of and (in some cases) because of these challenges. That’s what really matters to me.
I am no longer pushing everyone to see Kaitlyn just as any other child. I want them to see her for who she is and what she can accomplish even with all the obstacles she faces. She is amazing. She can do anything.
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. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.