There are some transitions in life that we know are very meaningful and come with a variety of thoughts and emotions. This year, our son Turner (at far right in the photo above) graduated from college. He had a great four years — he was active, he was happy, and he did very well academically. Emily (his mom, my wife) and I are so pleased for him. We’re also so grateful that he could thrive despite the challenges posed by his type 1 diabetes (T1D).
Turner’s college is in a small town in upstate New York that has no major hospital, so he needed to be self-reliant in his glucose management. How different his time would have been had he not had state-of-the-art tools to help him! Seemingly, all parents feel some nervousness for their kids as they head off to college. For parents of kids with T1D, that nervousness is often greatly magnified, and in fact, it even affects decisions that many students make about which school to attend, whether to join a fraternity or sorority, and other aspects of an important and formative time in a person’s life.
While in college, Turner ran distance, and in fact, he ran three marathons in less than a year. He also served as a freshman counselor, joined a fraternity, and worked jobs. Rather than worry about a climbing A1c, we worried about his lows. The combination of a pump, a continuous glucose monitor, insulin, maturity, and some good fortune served Turner very well. Anyone who is around T1D knows that there is no attaining perfection when it comes to glucose control. “Pretty good” is great, and even for a person with good control, a bad event can always be just a misstep away. We are pleased that Turner understands and respects T1D and also works to ensure that T1D won’t limit him more than need be, and he certainly won’t let it define him.
Now through with college, Turner has turned his sights to his first long-term job (management consulting) and life in a new city (New York). He will need to figure out how to deal with T1D while in the workplace — in a setting where he will attend lots of meetings, sit more than he should, travel for work, eat food at the wrong times, and deal with long and unpredictable work hours. He will need to make time to work out still, an activity that is important for almost all of us but especially crucial for a person with diabetes. Fortunately, he already has found a terrific adult endocrinologist. When we learned months ago that he would be working and living in New York, we identified some wonderful doctors for him, and in fact, he just had his first appointment. Turner was pleased with the type of conversation he can have with doctors now as an adult with T1D — discussing additional ways to tighten his glucose control and talking about how T1D may change for him as he enters a new phase in his life. We have encouraged Turner to be the lead manager of his T1D for years (except for supplies and insurance), but now he feels better positioned to do so.
As a young adult with T1D, Turner has counseled others who are newly diagnosed, and he has become a great public speaker about his life with T1D. He definitely knows how to advocate for himself, a skill that I routinely see people with T1D having developed even as children. Perhaps the best sign of where Turner is as an adult with T1D came in a text Emily and I received from him some weeks ago: “Should I run Chicago or New York in the fall?” Turner was referring to which marathon would be his next.
Rather like a marathon, life is a journey, and it can be an especially difficult one for a person with T1D. No doubt Turner will face his share of tough climbs, but Emily and I are thrilled in the knowledge that he can thrive, and we are so grateful for the past and future advances in T1D care that will help his life be safer, easier, healthier, and maybe longer.
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.