James and Kaitlyn — I just love seeing these two together. Never mind that one’s a boy and one’s a girl, and that about three years separate them in age. Never mind that they each have 20 other cousins, several around their age, who they can play with. Never mind that they live in different cities, go to different schools, and have completely different interests. There is a special bond between these two cousins, and there always will be.
Kaitlyn was born 10 years ago at a hospital in Thousand Oaks, California. The same day, her older brother Daniel, sister Anna, and cousin James were being watched over by her Aunt Jen while Mom and Dad were at the hospital welcoming her into this world. None of us knew it at the time, but James was very sick. He was battling a life-threatening disease called type 1 diabetes, and his mom and dad were beginning to understand that something might be really wrong. By the next day, while I was still lying in a hospital, snuggling a brand-new baby in my arms, we got the phone call that James had been admitted to the hospital. That was when we first heard of his diagnosis with type 1 diabetes. We were shocked! Our sweet James — the fourth-born grandson in this big, crazy family who we all loved very much — was diagnosed with something we didn’t even understand yet, but that we knew would be life-changing. I remember having such conflicting feelings — overwhelming happiness, because I finally had my beautiful baby girl, and sadness and worry for James, Jen, and Craig.
Over the next few years, James was a big part of our lives. The cousins played together all the time, and I got pretty comfortable dealing with the ins and outs of diabetes management. I could count carbs, check blood sugar, give shots, and operate James’ insulin pump. I didn’t know at the time that I would one day be taking care of my own child with diabetes.
Then it happened — soon after Kaitlyn’s third birthday, at the beginning of December. We had just put up our Christmas tree and lights on the house. We were planning parties and counting down the days until Christmas vacation. Even though Kaitlyn was not showing signs of being sick, there was one night where I got a heaven-sent piece of mommy inspiration, and I just knew that there was something wrong. Sure enough, Kaitlyn was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes the very next day, and our whole family relived the day that we had just gone through three years earlier.
Nothing could have prepared me for the devastation I felt — not even having cared for James. However, Craig, Jen, and James were absolute lifesavers as we began to navigate through this new life. Jen was there for me every step of the way, and James was there for Kaitlyn. Even though they were small, I saw an immediate bond between them. James was a friend and a protector. Kaitlyn wasn’t alone.
Over the years, it’s been so awesome that they’ve been able to relate to each other. They count carbs, they test, and they carry around their pumps and CGM (continuous glucose monitor) receivers. It’s not weird because they both do it. They’re not alone. They have each other, and I love it.
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.