Near the end of winter, just before the yellow of daffodils wave in warm breezes towards a sky of blue, clouds of dark loom overhead. I see them there, foreboding and full of warning. Shadows cover the sun. Soon they dim bright lights on the lives of families for years to come. Actually, forever.
I don’t dwell on the clouds of gray above. Yet, every year without warning they still appear, springing forth even before the season. Memories of long ago scratched within my mind like the sound of children’s nails on an old school chalkboard of green. Twenty three years since my son was diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes. What can I say? I am his mother. He is part of my DNA.
Truth be told, this was a good ‘year’ for me, the month and date had already passed without memories of salty tears or praying that my son would live to see another day. Then a few words spoken within split seconds heard by my ears of two. Triggers for me…..
My husband recently returned from a trip to Canada, part of a new territory where he met fresh faces of new sales representatives who were recently assigned to him. Excitedly, he began to share his week with me, until the very end. He hesitated before looking down.
“I really like XXX,” he started to say. “We have a lot in common and I know you would like her too.” Trying to sound a little more upbeat, he added. “She’s number one in her district, married and has a little daughter who was diagnosed last month with insulin dependent diabetes.” Looking up, his eyes welled a little, misty with a touch of pink. “I did my best to reassure her,” he said, taking my hand.
My heart ached for this woman and young child together with her family whose lives were now changed forevermore. Within the span of a second, their lives would never be the same. Good again, but different. That’s how it works sometimes. We just don’t know it until it happens. This is one of the lessons I’ve learned. Do not plan. God holds the key. Trust him. I wanted to hug this young mother, to hold her tight while whispering, “Everything will be alright.”
And so the invisible bandage covering my old wound was ripped off as it is almost every year about this time. Without looking, I could feel the scar, raw and red underneath. I doubt that a mother ever forgets the day her child is diagnosed with a chronic illness. The heartbreak, the salty tears upon flushed cheeks together with the strength that must be swallowed is overpowering. Truly, it is the kind one reads about in magazines or sees in movies. For example, a mother lifts a car to save her injured child. I remember feeling like that. Mountains would have been lifted from my son together with the weight of the world, if only I could have taken his Chronic Illness away. Alas, I could not. Like the mother above, God had other plans for me.
My husband held me then. Slowly we rocked back and forth on the sofa, remembering. The sheer emotion of that time is heart wrenching. Yet, God helped us through, teaching us more and more every day and year afterward. So many lessons learned……Compared to the children living with insulin dependent diabetes, we were nothing. Mere soldiers who pitched tents in a battlefield of war that never ended.
Those living with insulin dependent diabetes must provide their bodies with needed insulin through injections or a pump attached through a small catheter. They dare not forget, no, not even for a day. Think about checking your own blood sugar with a drop of deep red four or five times per day? Yes, it must be done, no matter where you’re going or what you’re doing. And, if sickness should strike, you must measure it even more often! It’s extremely important to consume three daily meals and be sure to eat healthy snacks at regular intervals. Yes, even if you don’t feel hungry your body must be fed to balance the insulin within your system. Once inside, there’s no going back.
After the above, set your alarm clock in order to eat something during the night if your blood sugar has fallen too low. Then, check it again to make sure all is stable. When the sun rises again the next morning, everything and all is a Do Over. There are no days off. Living with insulin dependent diabetes reminds me of the movie, Groundhog Day. Everything must be done day after day after day. Such is the life of small child who is trying to fit in at school or a perhaps a young adult who is off to work every day before coming home to a spouse and children.
There are several theories of how Insulin Dependent Diabetes develops. One theory (only part of the whole mystery) is that a virus of some sort attacks the islet cells contained in the pancreas which are responsible for producing insulin. Ironically, my own son suffered from chickenpox a few months before he was diagnosed (long before there was ever a vaccine). But no one really knows for sure.
So, in my brief moment of despair, I’d like to say, “How proud I am!” of all the heroes living with insulin dependent diabetes! One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that a family’s reaction to the condition can make all the difference in the world. As a parent, try to stay positive in spite of everything negative. Join support groups or meet other families through the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International http://jdrf.org/and the American Diabetes Association http://www.stopdiabetes.com/. Incorporate diabetes into your child’s life by helping their dreams come true.
Look up into the sky to push the clouds of gray away from the light of day.