Diabetes is a disease that affects the whole family, especially when a child is diagnosed. Parents of children diagnosed with diabetes face overwhelming, and sometimes frightening, questions like: How can I strike the balance between caring and hovering? Will my child be able to eat sweets again? How will I ever be able to let him go out on his own?
All week long, we will present stories from parents of children with diabetes, illustrating the emotions, challenges and successes each family faced upon diagnosis.
First, we’ll hear from Shannon, a mother whose courageous daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2011.
Name: Shannon Winston, mother of Naima, age 4, diagnosed at age 3
Location: Baltimore, Md.
I still remember it like it was yesterday. I pinch myself, and the pain reminds me that I’m not dreaming. This is real life. My daughter has type 1 diabetes. She was diagnosed in the late summer of 2011 at age three.
It all began with Naima having accidents and having to use the restroom frequently with extreme thirst later on. I knew something was wrong. A doctor’s visit revealed something far worse than I expected: type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes has affected our family tremendously since her diagnosis. No longer can we live life carefree and in the moment. Every activity has to be meticulously planned for, to take account for meal times and injections. Eating out at restaurants was very hard in the beginning because you can’t always find carbohydrate info on websites. Now, I can pretty much look at a serving of food and estimate the carbs in it and the insulin needed for it.
Birthday parties are a pain. Naima and I have come to an agreement that she can have a cake or cupcake, but she always has to remove the frosting. It was either that or not have it at all. In the beginning, we fought about it, but now I don’t even have to tell her—she knows to take it off. Sleepovers are nonexistent because no one feels comfortable about having to stick someone else’s child with a needle. Babysitters are pretty much out the window as well. There are only three people in my life who are capable of watching her: my mom, my sister and my boyfriend.
Daycare was also an issue. I had to remove her from the center she was in when she was diagnosed because it was too big and she wasn’t able to get the attention she needed. They also ate a lot of junk food for snacks, and she felt like an outcast because she could only snack on veggies and dip. She is now at a home-based daycare where all meals are vegan and all snacks consist of fruit or veggies, so she isn’t singled out.
Naima’s diabetes isn’t a big issue with her friends. They don’t see her as “different,”; they just know she has to take shots, and sometimes they like to watch and ask questions. She is very good at explaining what diabetes is and means. I’ve always been very candid with her about everything, so she understands what’s going on in her body.
I tried to find support groups when she was first diagnosed but there are none my area. It would be nice for Naima to have at least one friend with diabetes so she will know she isn’t alone. She did participate in the Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes last year to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association.
Since day one, Naima has handled her diagnosis better than I could have ever imagined. She never cries about the needles. The hardest part on her is not being able to eat what she wants and when she wants. Even healthy foods like fruit have to be reserved for meal times when she gets her insulin. She loves having low blood glucose because that means she can have a snack.
At her age, she doesn’t quite understand the finality of her condition. She thinks she is just sick and will get better and not have to always take her insulin. I understand this may never happen, but I believe in the power of prayer and supernatural healing, so I allow us to keep that glimmer of hope. Hope is a beautiful thing and I don’t want to kill it for Naima. Miracles happen every day.
Diabetes is a pain and an inconvenience, but I just want to say that through it all, we are blessed