I’m known for being almost obnoxiously optimistic — especially among my friends in the type 1 diabetes community. It is true that I find value in looking for the good. But I must say that there have been some quantifiably wonderful things that have happened to us since James’s diagnosis. Here are a few of those things that James and I have found to be distinctive “perks” of managing diabetes.
The biggest perk for James is easy. He’s super glad that his strict mama allows him to have candy! What can I say? I was a stickler about candy pre-diagnosis, but when blood sugar is low, sugar really is the solution. Honestly, we mostly use juice to treat lows in our family, but even that was something we never, ever bought before diabetes. We actually had to teach James to like it. But these days, along with candy, he considers it one of the perks of his condition.
Now, that said, one of the biggest perks about diabetes for me is that we’ve been able to really examine our diet as a family. I believe developing healthy eating habits during childhood is one of the most important things that we as parents can do for our children. Thanks to James’ diabetes diagnosis, I’ve been even more careful and considered when determining the eating culture in our family. We eat all kinds of healthy foods, and we examine them closely to make sure that they’re healthy for James, that we can serve them and dose for them in the best ways, and that they’re inherently good for all of us.
On a related note, we’re grateful that diabetes has caused all of us in the family to seek out more activity. Some families just deem themselves “not sporty,” and but for diabetes we might put ourselves in that category. Because we see the positive effect of exercise on blood sugar, it has caused the whole family to seek out activities — sometimes sporty, sometimes merely “active” — that help all of us to create healthy habits.
James’ diagnosis has brought us new friends too. My friends in the diabetes online community are invaluable to me. They give great insight into new research and products and are so supportive and understanding. It’s also fantastic when these online groups can have real-life meet-ups. I’m grateful for the friends that we’ve made in this endeavor to manage diabetes.
Likewise, diagnosis has allowed for close relationships to develop between the people who care for James on a regular basis. We’re close to his endocrinologist, who supports us and understands us. We’re close to the school nurse and the administrative staff who help us daily while James is at school. We have the respect of James’ teachers and Scout leaders, many of whom have developed a special empathy for him.
There are some funny and quirky perks sometimes too. I like to say that because of CGM (continuous glucose monitor) technology, I can tell when the next big wave of illness is going to hit our family. Days before James has physical signs of sickness, his blood sugar numbers will be very abnormal, and I’ll predict that he’s about to come down with something — and maybe the rest of us are too. (I’m not sure about the science behind this one, but it’s my pet theory!)
Another of these perks for my quintessential teen is that we have allowed him to have access to technology that we might have otherwise held off on for a little bit. We’re kind of strict about technology access for our kids, but James got a smartphone to help enable his CGM, and I would say he does like having his phone just a little bit! He probably would have been the last of his friends to get one, but instead he was among the first.
Diabetes isn’t something that I would ever seek. I could make a rather long list about things I don’t really like about it, and I’m sure many of you can very much relate to that. But I can honestly say that our family has benefitted from so much learning, introspection, and empathy as we’ve dealt with diabetes that I am grateful — both for the big shifts that have been truly transformative for our family and for the little perks that James and I like to enjoy too.
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.