It’s only diabetes
The big news lately surrounds the announcement over the DRI’s “BioHub” and the social-media teaser that preceded it. You can read my thoughts on that series of events in a comment I left on the DiabetesDad blog. But this post is not directed at the DRI; it’s to the folks who feel they absolutely cannot wait for the true announcement that still seems just out of reach. Give it a read, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.
As I surf the various online diabetes-related forums, whether it’s on JDCA’s Facebook page, JDRF’s LinkedIn group, or DiabetesDad’s blog, nothing distresses me more than the comments by forlorn parents and grandparents of children with diabetes. Usually, those comments read like a variation of the following: My beautiful Cameron* was devastated with the diagnosis of Type 1 two long months ago, and we desperately need a cure!! It kills me to watch my child suffer an eternity of painful injections, dietary restrictions, and being socially ostracized. I mourn the loss of Cameron’s childhood every day!!
These kind of comments make me sick. Not because it’s unfortunate for anybody to be diagnosed with diabetes, but because the parents seem to believe there’s no hope for them to live a happy life. These comments are filled with sorrow and despair, and they suggest that the child is doomed to live a miserable life. This message is for those parents:
DON’T FEEL HOPELESS! A GOOD LIFE DOESN’T END AT DIAGNOSIS!!
Your child’s pancreas stopped making its own insulin. But we can get more for you – out of tiny glass bottles. The tools that help us to do that are better than ever. Yes, it’s going to be a chore, at times an unpleasant one. Yes, it can be rough. But it is, by no means, hopeless. Diagnosis is not a death sentence. It’s only diabetes.
(I am not trying to discredit any of the difficult thoughts you may be feeling. I can only imagine what you must be feeling. But as a diabetes veteran, let me reassure you: it’s not that bad.)
Diabetes isn’t the end of life. It’s not even the end of hope for a “normal” life. Life is what you and your child make of it, and life can be good. Life can be happy. But if you don’t believe this – or even pretend to believe this – then neither will your child.
These types of thoughts destroy morale. They serve to de-motivate those who speak, write, and think them. They de-motivate those who hear, read, and subliminally sense them. Please. Don’t set your expectations short. Don’t give up hope.
You can do this. Your CHILD can do this. They just need to believe it. They need to learn it. They need the confidence to do it.
Don’t put all your hopes into a cure. It would certainly be nice, but it’s not a prerequisite to happiness.
I just celebrated my 39th birthday. For the latter 32 of those, the negotiations surrounding birthday cake were more complex than for the first seven. But like the earlier ones, in every one of those birthday photographs for the past thirty-two years, I am smiling.
Look around the Diabetes Online Community. Check out the profile pictures and the vlogs. People are smiling everywhere. (Yes, Kerri generally talks so quickly and enthusiastically that she rarely has time to smile, and Sara likes to make funny faces for the camera, but you get my point).
Life can be happy. Life can be fun. Life — even life with Type 1 diabetes — is worth living!
I look at my own life, and I feel I’ve got it pretty good. I’ve got a nice house in the ‘burbs that I share with my beautiful wife and two wonderful kids. It’s a dream-come-true.
I’m a stronger person because of my diabetes. Smarter, too. Motivated. Confident. It didn’t happen all at once; there’s a big learning curve, and I’m still gaining confidence and motivation every day, but it does happen.
Having said all of this, I know tragedies happen, too. In fact, in the midst of preparing this post, I read such a story which almost made me reconsider writing this at all. It was awful; one of those stories of a child with diabetes that ends prematurely. It can happen to adults, too. I won’t hide my head in the sand and pretend that it doesn’t.
But especially today, those are – by far – the exception rather than the rule. The tools we have today are vastly superior to what we had when I was diagnosed. People with diabetes in the 2010s live much healthier and less-restrictive lives than they did when I was diagnosed in the 1980s.
I’m still smiling.
Sure, a cure would make my smile a little wider. I might even do a little dance. But I won’t sit around, helpless and hopeless, waiting for it. My time is too valuable to waste. I’ve got a life to live, and I intend to live it. Everyone with diabetes has a life to live, and every one of them should be living it.
So please, try to improve your outlook. The doom-and-gloom attitude is toxic – not only to yourself and your child, but to others who witness it. How do you think your newly-diagnosed son would feel if he saw you grieving for him. He’s still alive!
Go ahead and reach for the holy grail. Buy your lottery tickets from DRI or the Faustman Lab. It’s good to dream big; we need people to believe in a cure in order for it to happen. Don’t put all your hopes on it, though
Believe in a happy life with diabetes. You need to believe in that, too, in order for it to happen.
* The name Cameron was chosen, completely arbitrarily, by me for the purpose of this post. Any similarity to a real child of this name with diabetes, boy or girl, is purely coincidental.