Heroes Behind Shadows


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.

 child-of-the-light

25 thoughts on “Heroes Behind Shadows

  1. It is hard to picture handling our children’s trials, without our feeling some ‘guilt’ or responsibility. I had my youngest daughter, my ‘miracle’ birth 8 months after I had had stage 3 cervical cancer. When she felt pain in her joints from age 10-12, I always attributed these to be ‘growing pains.’ When her knees had egg shapes on either side of them, we first went to a sport surgeon, who attributed these to her soccer playing. Turns out, all he really should have done was a blood test. JRA is also something which continues like your son’s Juvenile Diabetes, throughout his life he will battle this. I feel blessed that my daughter, Felicia, feels she should be in a work field to help enable people with physical challenges. Kim, your son and your family are such true testaments of what faith and love can overcome. Thanks for sharing, hope you didn’t mind my adding my own child’s lifelong struggles.

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    • Hello Dear Robin: I had no idea you battled cancer so soon before giving birth to your youngest child! Yes, she is a ‘miracle,’ and so are you! No, I don’t mind a bit to hear of your daughter’s trials or your bravery, Robin. We are all human with obstacles to bear. Thank God we have each other around the world for love and support. Raising a child is the most important job in the world. To raise a child living with a chronic illness is both a challenge and a blessing. Seeing the fruits of my labor in all of his ‘healthy, happy success’ is beyond my wildest dreams.

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    • Thank you, Dan. No ‘pity-party’ here, simply a part of life we must accept. Still, breaks my heart to hear of others newly diagnosed, having ‘been there, done that.’ Soooo difficult.

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  2. I can’t imagine what fear and angst you experienced. As the mother of a son with ADHD (I realize not the same and not life threatening as insulin dependent diabetes) some of it was realizing that my child is not perfect, is damaged in some way, is different from other children and what might I have done to cause it. I countered that by becoming a fierce advocate for him until he was able to advocate for himself. And he did not outgrow it. Good post.

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    • Noelle, many thanks to you for reading and understanding. Long ago, I wrote a children’s book on ADD/ADHD so I realize how very difficult the condition is for the child as well as their family. And you are right, for parents there seems to be that shadow of guilt lurking around (needlessly). Bravo to you Noelle, for becoming a fierce advocate which is often the best medicine! Thank you once again with all my best wishes to your son. 🙂

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  3. I feel for you and your family Kim. My son was born looking quite fit and healthy, and dare I say cute. At three months old we found out that his hip sockets hadn’t formed. So began three years of operations, plaster casts and the accusations of child abuse from the ignorant of the world. By the time he was 12 he’d had 7 major operations to give him a decent set of hip sockets. Then at 15 his spine twists and he’s diagnosed with Schurman’s Disease. He undergoes several ops to prepare him for major surgery to have his spine fitted with metal rods. At first the op appears to be successful, I monitored his wound and checked the drainage every day. I could smell something rotten. Our doctor said it’s normal. I didn’t think so. We took him back to the hospital and I requested that they test the discharge seeping from the wound. No, they said, it’s fine, go home and we’ll see you in a month. I replied that if they didn’t want their lovely reception room, desk etc destroyed they had better call the police or get a test done. They took him into the clinic and an hour later he was admitted to hospital with a golden staph infection. They removed the rods and used an ice cream scoop to dig out the pus that covered the length of his spine. He stayed in hospital for a week after he’d been fitted with a shunt straight into his heart, so that the five antibiotics he was on could be moved around his system better. They sent him home where he would be less likely to become reinfected and for a month a nurse came every day to see him. He was 19, looked 80 and would have died within weeks if nothing had been done. He recovered and when he received his clearance from the doctors he left home and went interstate. His mother (my ex wife) was devastated, after a few months he said I’m going to Canada. I know you want what’s best for your children but his leaving left us gobsmacked. We’d spent our whole marriage nursing him, then it’s a case of, ‘I’m off.’ I still don’t know whether he was running away from us or his life. Either way it didn’t turn out for him. He’s now living alone in a dingy flat in London. He’s had one hip replacement, and the hump on his back is getting worse. He can’t work and I don’t imagine he has a long future ahead of him. He’s basically cut everyone from his past out of his life. He blames my Vietnam service for his back, believing that Agent Orange is the cause of his dilemma. SO what can you do? No matter what I love him but it’s just so difficult to think about some days.
    Laurie.

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    • Oh. Laurie, first of all I thank you for such courage in sharing your personal story of a parent’s never ending love combined with anguish for their child. A parent knows their child even better than doctors do-you fought for your son, doing everything you could, Laurie. Tears to think what your family must have experienced, and now…sadness seeps through me for all you have lost in spite of the valiant efforts you put forth. There are things in this life we never do come to understand the reasoning of. I pray in my heart that one day soon your son will find happiness, learn to accept it and share it with the whole of his loving family. May God bless you always Laurie, and give you peace within. With love to you. Kim

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  4. Thank you for sharing your story,Kim. It’s sad and beautiful and full of love and strength, it’s life and it’s real. Though I have only known you a short time, and only through these little blogs of ours, I send all my love to you and your family. You will always have a special place in my heart and a constant prayer in my soul. We are stronger than we even know, as we do always have the blessing of God’s strength. You are right, trust and believe. It will all be ok!

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    • A beautiful blessing from you, Alisa that has taken my breath away. I had to stop for a good cry, something I haven’t done in a very long time. Notice, I said “good cry?” Perhaps true tears should be shed every so often? Memories return, but ‘feelings’ are stifled in order to protect. Thank you, Alisa for allowing me to ‘let go.’ Wishing I could give you a big hug of “Thanks.” Love, Kim

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  5. Thank you for writing of the story that has bought heartache into your families world.
    I never knew so much about this illness, particularly how it actually becomes part of your day, every day, forever.
    You have my deepest respect as a family, for coping with this dreadful illness.
    The whole family are heroes.

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