Location: Paso Robles, Calif.
Sometimes difficult life events roll over us without previous warning. Sometimes the hints are subtle before you find yourself caught by them.
I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable person; I have two university degrees and experience in the medical field. Despite that, I interpreted the signs of my daughter’s type 1 diabetes as wrongly as I could. It could have cost her life.
About five years ago at age 14, Laura was eating a lot but losing weight. She was drinking water all the time and she showed me how thick her saliva was. I was busy between work, my two kids and my recent engagement to my now-husband. I thought she was swimming too much and just adjusting to the idea that we were coming to live in the United States.
It was my mom who insisted I take Laura to see a pediatrician, as something was just not right. In Brazil, where we are from, family members pay attention to each other. If my mother hadn’t done this, I probably would not have noticed what Laura really had until it got much, much worse.
The visit to the doctor and the diagnosis were heartbreaking. I couldn’t believe my ears, and my mind was blurry for days after it was all confirmed. I cried in the shower for many weeks.
Laura listened carefully to how her life would be from that day on. She was as gracious and as collected as anyone can be under these very disheartening circumstances. She insisted she would inject herself from the first day onward, saying that she needed to accept her “new” life.
We were blessed in many ways for having family and good friends around to support us, but also for the fact that we were not used to eating a lot of sugar in our diet. It has been a constant adapting and re-evaluating of things ever since.
We have lived in California since 2009. Laura, a college student now, exercises regularly, watches her diet very closely and is very hard on herself in many ways. Her A1C is 6.0, and she has cut back on basically all carbs in her diet, which is not ideal either. We have gone through a lot of question marks and different doctors and dietitians. More questions will likely arise as some answers are found.
We still wish there were more low-glycemic foods available and that the costs for health care for people with diabetes were lower. We surely wish that there was more being said and clarified about people who have type 1 diabetes—because people tend to link diabetes with obesity, type 2 being much more common.
As a parent, I can only say to all of you out there: Educate people around you every chance you have. When Laura asks for anything sugar-free or asks restaurant waiters about the sugar content in menu items, I make sure to comment that she has diabetes. Because she is so slim and pretty (she has been photographed as a model), I don’t want people to think she is only being vain.
May we all do something to pass the message forward. I once wrote to a local supermarket chain congratulating them for having sugar-free cookies. It could be meaningful. We just have to keep on trying.