Whenever I meet a family with a child newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I am immediately brought back to when my Kaitlyn was diagnosed almost 12 years ago. I listen to them, commiserate with them, and sometimes even cry with them, but I always end our conversation with these words: “You can do this. I promise things will get better.” I truly believe that things will get better for everyone. I know it because I’ve lived it.
My husband and I sometimes talk about what it was like back then, in those first weeks and months after diagnosis. We’ll say, “Remember when diabetes was really hard?” All of these remember-whens that we can think of aren’t so bad anymore. Here are just some of our remember-whens, and what it’s like now:
1. Remember when we set our alarm for every two hours at night to make sure we didn’t miss a low?
With a few exceptions, we get a full night’s rest now. We have CGM (continuous glucose monitor) alarms that will wake us up if we need to, but we mostly rely on the connected insulin pump and sensor to automatically take care of her blood sugar numbers while we all sleep. We’ve got her basal rates dialed in, so that we don’t get those overnight blood sugar swings as often, and we rest easy knowing that she’s going to be okay.
2. Remember when it would take 10 minutes before every meal to count carbs, because we would have to look up the carb count for every single thing?
Now, we rarely look up carbs from a book, and we often don’t even measure. When you’ve counted carbs for over 10 years, you get pretty good at eyeballing it. We still look at the back of packages, and we know what kinds of food we need to measure more carefully, but most of the time, we’re pretty darn good at counting carbs in just a few seconds.
3. Remember when it would take 45 minutes to do a site change because we had to double-check every step to make sure we did it right?
The first time we did an insulin pump site change on our own, my husband and I sat side by side with all the directions and supplies laid out before us, and it literally took us 45 minutes. Now, I think our record is under two minutes.
4. Remember when every finger poke would make her cry, and then we would cry, because it hurt her tender little fingers?
Now, Kaitlyn says she doesn’t feel a thing. She has built up so many calluses from years and years of finger pokes that she insists it really doesn’t hurt at all.
5. Remember when our endocrinologist appointment would take three hours, meeting with the diabetes educators and dietitians because we were still in training?
I remember feeling like those appointments lasted all day! But now, depending on how busy the doctor is and whether or not we have lab work to get done, we can get a thorough visit including an A1C result in under an hour.
6. Remember when we were afraid to let Kaitlyn out of our sight, because we didn’t trust anyone but ourselves to keep her safe?
Yes, it was hard at first to find someone we trusted who was willing and able to take on the responsibilities of taking care of her diabetes. However, over the years, we found more and more people we trusted who were willing to learn, and Kaitlyn gradually became more and more independent. At this point, she can go pretty much anywhere and do anything on her own. We have even sent her to overnight camps a few times now. As long as there is a nurse or someone who can take care of any emergencies that could arise, she’s good to go!
I’m sure I could come up with even more remember-when scenarios. But I hope that if you are at the beginning of your diabetes journey, you believe me when I tell you that whatever you’re going through right now will get better!
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.