Diabetes affects the whole family, whether you’re a parent, sibling, child, grandchild, spouse or friend. This week on the blog, we’ll be featuring stories about loving and caring for someone with diabetes.
When I met my fiancée, Ericka, I had no idea she had type 1 diabetes—until one night on a date when she pulled out a syringe. When I asked what she was doing, she said, “I have diabetes. I’m sure I’ve told you.” She hadn’t, but it didn’t matter.
Ericka was diagnosed at four years old on Christmas Day 1996. As I watched her inject herself with insulin and explain how certain foods affect her blood glucose, I knew I needed to learn as much as possible about diabetes. Because of that I have become a true partner with Ericka in her fight against diabetes.
Several months later, we found out she was pregnant. That was a scary moment, as both Ericka’s mother and endocrinologist had warned her she could lose her life and the baby’s if she conceived. Both of them were wrong. Madison Leigh was born on Oct. 19, 2012. She was and still is a happy and healthy baby.
In the past, managing her diabetes was not one of Ericka’s priorities. After I proposed, I told her she needed to take better care of herself—if not for herself, then for me. Soon after, I started seeing an immediate difference in her blood glucose numbers. I still constantly reminded her to check her numbers, questioned her food choices depending on her readings and made sure she would not get too high or low at any given time. She started telling people my persistence regarding her health was making a difference in her life and that she was committed to doing better.
Stress is an area we’ve struggled to control, though. We’ve run the gamut of emotions and have faced many health challenges. Anxiety has significantly raised Ericka’s blood glucose and caused even more health problems at times, including dehydration that required more than one trip to the emergency room.
Right now, Ericka is a stay-at-home mom. After a couple of scares due to dangerously high and low blood glucose levels, I now insist on maintaining regular communication with her while I’m at work. Some might say she can take care of herself, but I feel it’s my responsibility as her caregiver to make sure she isn’t ignoring symptoms that could endanger her life.
Our lifestyles have changed drastically since Ericka’s engagement. I’ve faced fears of losing her, especially during a night in June when she nearly slipped into a coma. I’ve had to cope with insurance difficulties, multiple doctor appointments each month and making sincere efforts to learn and understand as much as I can about type 1 diabetes. Having said that, I have made a new commitment to live a healthy lifestyle myself, including a meal plan, daily exercise and a mental renewal to show Ericka I am there for her. We are in this together. We are a family, and anything good or bad that happens to her happens to me. Not to mention that we have a daughter now; Ericka not only lives for me, but also for Madison.
Your whole heart has to be in it while taking care of someone with diabetes. You truly have to care about your partner or loved one and be dedicated to learning about the disease. I tell other diabetes caregivers this: Be real in your journey. Give yourself to your loved one in their fight, and be prepared to make sacrifices.
Ericka has changed my life, and not just because of diabetes. The disease has made me a better man, but it does not define my fiancée and it does not define me.
Diabetes is a large part of our lives, though, and we accept it. We begin a new journey together on March 23, our wedding day.