I Love Someone with Diabetes: Shawn Towsley

Diabetes affects the whole family, whether you’re a parent, sibling, child, grandchild or spouse. This week on the blog, we’ll be featuring stories about loving and caring for someone with diabetes.


shawn family in tour de cure

The family finishing up the Michigan Tour de Cure in 2013. Grandma Shawn and Charlotte-Elizabeth (Red Rider!) are in the foreground.

Name: Shawn Towsley
Location: Michigan

I have always been part of my granddaughter’s life (I was in the delivery room) and we have always had a close relationship. Charlotte-Elizabeth was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on Sept. 7, 2012. She was seven years old, and her baby sister had just been born a week before.

Charlotte had been sick during the summer and her mom had taken her to the doctor a couple of times. They tested her for many things. Looking back, we can see she had all the symptoms of diabetes. But we have no one in our family with diabetes and didn’t recognize them. We dismissed so many of the signs: she drank a lot (she was active and it was a hot summer), she peed A LOT (she was drinking a lot), she was tired (again, she was active).

Then, while staying with me when her mom went to have the baby, Charlotte started vomiting. Mom had scheduled a one-week check-up for the baby but asked to bring Charlotte in too, as she was really sick. The doctor knew what was wrong immediately and sent her to the hospital by ambulance. Her blood glucose (BG) level was above what the doctor could measure (500+ mg/dl). She was a very sick little girl.

I can’t describe how I felt when I received the phone call and when I first saw Charlotte after her diagnosis. I know I did a lot of praying, and so did many others. She was this tiny little girl in a big bed in ICU with so many tubes in her.

Once Charlotte came home, I was overwhelmed with the amount of time it took to care for her. By the time we weighed and measured her food, checked her BG and calculated her insulin dosages, her food would be cold. To say the diabetes controlled our lives would be an understatement.

Since then, I have been at every doctor’s appointment and all the education classes. I have always been petrified of needles—in fact, I chose not to go into nursing because I didn’t think I could ever give someone a shot. So a highlight in our journey was when Charlotte first allowed me to give her an injection. Before this, it was something only her mommy and daddy had been “allowed” to do. After it was done, I asked if I had hurt her. She said no, but that I could use some more practice!

We still have a great bond, and diabetes can’t take that away. Her mom leaves early for work, so I care for her each morning and get her to school with all her supplies. I also walk her home from school almost every day. We play games together and this gives her an opportunity to talk to Grandma about things.

Charlotte has so many people who love and care about her. Her teacher and classmates learned about diabetes and then set up an education booth at parent-teacher conferences to help educate others. They also made bookmarks and other items to sell, raising over $500 for diabetes awareness. Her Uncle Logan won $1,000 at work and donated it to the American Diabetes Association. We are a family of bike riders and rode in our first Tour de Cure last year, raising over $1,000.

Things have changed so much over the past year. Diabetes is just part of our routine now. Charlotte lives an active life and diabetes is just part of it. We have been biking, camping and swimming, and she has started back into gymnastics. We are currently preparing to return to Disney World.

Diabetes no longer controls our lives.

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