To the Ends of the Earth…

Isa and Aunt Shelly

Isabella and her Aunt Shelly during the 2014 JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes

**Thank you to Isabella’s Aunt Shelly for being our special guest blogger this week! We hope you enjoy her post below.

Over the weekend we kept the trio on Saturday night so Greg and Kristina could enjoy a night out to themselves. I swear that the cousins can never get enough of each other and would really prefer to just move in together.

Within about 2 hours of us getting back to our house and having dinner Isa’s blood sugar was high….220 to be exact. She ate dinner and it was just hitting her. I texted Greg to ask him a question about her insulin on board (IOB) and to verify that I should not adjust her insulin at this time and to give her insulin time to work. He verified that was the right thing to do. See?  I’m getting pretty good at handling this stuff by now.

The rest of the night was uneventful. The kids ran around for a little bit until we settled them down for a movie and put them to bed. They were all pretty tired and went right to sleep. We’re pretty good at that as well….7 kids in the house and all go right to sleep…no problem.

Within 30 minutes of bedtime Isa’s continuous glucose monitor (CGM) started beeping telling me she was low. I checked her and she was definitely low….56 to be exact. That’s pretty low if you’re wondering. I gave her some juice and her number came up to 80 within about an hour.

Unfortunately she hovered around that 80 all night which meant a constant beeping CGM and more juice throughout the night. Trying to get a 4-year-old to drink juice in the middle of the night when she really doesn’t want it isn’t an easy task for sure. By 4am I put my husband on that duty and he finally got her to drink the rest of what was left of what we were trying to give her.

What I remember distinctly from that night is that I sat in my bed and do what I do best: I prayed. I prayed for Greg and Kristina first. I prayed for their guidance and for their support through this as I know this cannot be easy day in and day out on a parent. Mostly, I know it cannot be easy watching their little girl knowing she’s not going to wake up better the next day. Then I prayed for Isa…like I do so often. I prayed for her strength. I prayed for there to be a cure one day. I prayed for the doctors taking care of her. I prayed that as she gets older she is able to take care of this on her own and doesn’t rebel. I prayed that she be ok in the morning…..this was my biggest prayer in that moment, and I’m sure one that Greg and Kristina worry every night when they go to bed.

The next day Greg told me how to temporarily turn off Isa’s basal insulin on her pump so she stops getting it…which is probably what needed to occur the night we had her so her numbers could come back up. That’s the thing with this disease: there is no simple answer. A lot of it is trial and error and seeing what works best for you or what works best in the moment. Type 1 Diabetes is manageable, but the scary part is that you just never know. One wrong move and the person dealing with this disease could be in a coma or not wake up.

I am always in awe of Greg and Kristina’s willingness to let us keep their little girl without a second thought. I never, not one time, have felt like they worry about Isa when she’s with us. I second guess myself sometimes about what I could have done differently and I would go to the ends of the Earth for my niece. I love her like I love my own children. Kristina and Greg are educating so many through their guidance, their love and their patience with this disease. They are giving Isa the tools to one day, when she’s older, be able to go out on her own and conquer the world. Hopefully when that happens they will not worry about her quite as much because she’s been trained so well. I am in awe, as always.

~Shelly

Guilt

laughterTears. Lots of tears.

Arms flailing, screams echoing through the house. A chorus of doors slamming and feet stomping rattle the walls.

Dr. Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde.

So often people tell us that Isabella seems so happy, always full of smiles. We share photos of her with her silly grin, stretching from ear to ear, proud of this and happy about that. To the outsider she seems like a toddler full of so much joy, conquering each daily challenge with a hop in her step and a shine in her eyes.

But not today.

Today she is losing…and so are we.

One of the many challenges of type 1 diabetes is that its affects can vary person by person. Some can feel their lows coming, getting tired and shaky. Others, like Isabella, show no sign that their blood sugar is falling to a dangerous level. In fact, Isabella is almost always giddy and laughing when she is low.

As difficult as it is to tell her lows, her highs are hard to miss. The happy, goofy 4-year-old disappears and an anger-filled stranger takes her place and, as has become routine, she is exiled to her room until she calms down…usually falling asleep, exhausted from screaming and crying.

And I feel guilty.

I feel guilty because I know her body is playing a mean game of “Perfection”…just waiting for the sand timer to run out while trying everything to get her blood sugar back in range before scattering all of the pieces to the ground. No matter how hard we try, it always seems like the sand is faster than the insulin running through her body and we lose…a lot.

But there she is, sent to her room to cry it out and sleep it off. Kept home from a classmate’s birthday party because of her diabetes-assisted tantrum. Punishment for a disease she didn’t choose and for effects she can’t control.

And I feel guilty.

We get home from the party and prepare for bath time. I’m still angry at Isabella for her earlier fit, and even more frustrated that she doesn’t understand why she couldn’t go with her brother and sister. As she steps into the tub a mix of emotions hit me as I catch a glimpse of the technology keeping her alive. An insulin pod attached to her arm and her continuous glucose monitor embedded in her lower back…my robotic daughter.

And I feel guilty. And I am mad. Mad at this disease and mad at what it does to my beautiful little girl. Mad that I can only control so much and mad that I feel guilty for trying to parent the best way that I can.

And tomorrow we’ll flip the sand timer again…

Cheers to Changing the World~
Kristina

Here we go again…

I have always loved Halloween. I love dressing up and I love the excitement leading up to it. It’s probably no secret to those that know me well that I start planning costumes months in advance…and we don’t disappoint!For most kids, though, Halloween is about much more than choosing costumes.

It’s about the candy. C-A-N-D-Y.

Most people would expect that, as parents of a kid with type 1 diabetes, Halloween would be the holiday we dread the most.

And they would be right…but not for the reasons you would assume.

THIS is why I dread Halloween:

Halloween Diabetes
And this:
halloween diabetes 2
A year ago before Halloween I wrote a post in response to someone else’s blog entitled 10 Halloween Candy Alternatives That Won’t Give Your Kids Diabeetus. I realized then that there will always be people who choose to perpetuate stereotypes about this disease, simply because they don’t KNOW what it is. I also realized that there are people who back up jokes like these with the claim of “I was actually referring to TYPE 2 diabetes!”…as if that makes it ok. How about making a joke about cancer and saying “Oh! I didn’t mean breast cancer, I meant prostate cancer, silly!” Nope. Not ok. Another person’s illness or disease is not a joke…no matter what it’s called.This year I’ve decided that instead of being mad about these things, I’m going to channel my inner spirit fingers and let them help recharge my motivation (“Gimme a C-U-R-E!”). I know that our efforts to raise awareness and educate people about type 1 diabetes are helping someone…or many someones. I just know it.

I also know (ok, I just looked it up) that the word “ignorance” comes from the Latin ignorantia meaning “want of knowledge”. So you know what? We’re going to help the folks who continue to perpetuate the stereotypes about “diabeetus” (which, by the way, was only funny when it was said by Wilford Brimley) and keep supplying them with LOTS of knowledge.

You want it? You got it.
bees

Happy Halloween!

Bring it On…and Let’s Change the World~
Kristina

 

Now, we wait.

trioChecking…

Checking…

We stared intently at the meter, seemingly taking forever to provide a blood sugar reading.

Checking…

Checking…

84.

And with that we released a sigh of relief. Today would not be the day we had another child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Nope, not today.

This wouldn’t be the first time we’d checked one of the other kid’s blood sugar…and it probably won’t be the last.

Since Isabella’s diagnosis almost two years ago it’s become commonplace for people we meet to express their surprise that just one of our trio has T1D.

“She’s the only one? Hmmm, that’s so interesting.”

“Are you worried about the other two ‘getting it’?”

“Well, you know the warning signs so you’ll be prepared if it does happen.”

“At least you know how to manage it already.”

Truth…but a painful one to think about.

During the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life Conference in 2013 we learned about TrialNet – a two-part clinical study being conducted by “an international network of researchers who are exploring ways to prevent, delay and reverse the progression of type 1 diabetes.” We stopped by the TrialNet table during the conference and spoke with someone about our family participating in the screening that checks for autoantibodies that are predictors of type 1 diabetes development.

We left the table with a stack of forms to complete so that Isabella’s brother and sister, as well as Greg and I, could be tested during the conference. As we packed our bags four days later I remember tossing the papers into the hotel room trash can. We couldn’t do it.

There are many schools of thought on whether it’s better to know that something bad is inevitable, or to live life as it is and just take what is handed to you as it comes. Would we do anything differently if we knew, with a good amount of certainty, that one or both of Isabella’s siblings would also develop type 1? Would it change the way we are living our life today? Would we just be in a static state of paranoia – checking their blood sugar regularly to see if ‘today is the day’?

The answer is: I don’t know.

You never know how you’ll react to news you don’t want to hear. You never know if you’ll be able to hold it together so that your kids don’t see the breaking of the Hoover Dam that is bound to happen behind your eyes. You never know if you’ll wait…and wait…and wait…for nothing to ever happen.

And you never know how strong you are until that’s the only option you have.

Two weeks ago during this year’s Friends for Life Conference our TrialNet paperwork made its way to the scientists. We all held out our arms for the blood draw that will ultimately let us know if anyone else in our house has the autoantibodies that predict type 1 diabetes. Two weeks ago we made a decision that we wanted to help advance the research into this disease and that, by participating in this study, we would be helping scientists understand more about T1D and move towards finding a cure.

Sitting at the hotel pool later that day I met a woman who told me her non-type 1 child had participated in TrialNet the year before. She told me, with tears forming behind her sunglasses, that the day they got the phone call with the results was harder than the day her type 1 child was diagnosed. The test had come back positive for the autoantibodies. Now, she told me, they just live in a state of limbo since, technically, her other child hasn’t been diagnosed. A state of limbo waiting for the excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss…waiting for the day they “officially” become a family with two kids with type 1 diabetes.

So now we wait. But we wait knowing that, regardless of the call we might receive in a few months when our results are ready, we are part of a bigger picture. A picture of hope that one day two mothers can sit on the poolside watching their children play – no medical devices attached to their bodies keeping them alive – like kids should do…without a care in the world.

Now, we wait.

Cheers to Changing the World~
Kristina

A Reflection on Linens

 

Scarred fingertips: the shared badge of those with T1D...even at age 3.

Scarred fingertips: The badge Isabella shares with others with Type 1 Diabetes.

I pull the matching pink quilts out of the dryer and head upstairs to do what I always tell Greg is my least favorite house-cleaning task: changing sheets. Before dropping off each quilt in the girl’s rooms I hold them up to determine whose is whose. Two years ago these quilts were identical in every way.

But today they are different.

One still has the bright pink glow that got me to succumb to purchasing a non-sale item from Pottery Barn Kids.

The other is faded from too-frequent washings.

One is always placed on the bed with the corner tags tickling the footboard.

The other gets rotated each time so as to distribute evenly the tiny stains of blood drops that, despite our best efforts to wipe clean little fingers after middle-of-the-night blood sugar checks, have accumulated over the past year and a half.

And so I place the quilts on the girls beds…and continue my dislike of changing sheets.

Because today they are different.

Cheers to Changing the World (and linens)~
Kristina

What I Signed Up For

Trio

“I’m so sorry…I know you were just here.”

“It’s fine. It’s what I signed up for.”

I jump in my car, still warm from my return trip picking up a sick son just 30 minutes earlier, and head to the preschool to tend to an insulin pump that is screaming its head off…the 6th insulin pod in a box of 10 to bite the dust before the 3-day window closed.

But, this is what I signed up for.

Last month I made a quick stop at Macy’s and, as has become customary since our trio arrived, I spent the entire time flipping through the clearance rack in the kid’s department.

I stepped up to the checkout counter, my arms filled with Dora jammies and Hello Kitty flair, proud of my deal-seeking skills.

 

“Wow! Do the girls you are buying for know that they’re getting some cute new things?”

“Actually, these are for my daughters.”

“Oh, you have twin girls?”

“Well, I have triplets…two girls and a boy.”

“Holy cow! What did you do when you found out you were having TRIPLETS?!? I would have hung myself.”

And…scene.

The sad truth is that this isn’t the first time someone has said something like this to me. In fact most people I meet who learn that we not only have triplets, but that one of them also has type 1 diabetes, express their sympathy to me in varying forms.

But, this is what I signed up for.

When I was young I used to say that I didn’t know if I wanted to have children…I knew I had a selfish side. I wanted to be successful professionally. I wanted to travel. I wanted to have the freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted.

And then things changed. I wanted to be a mom.

But it wasn’t that easy. Not easy at all. Like, 5 years not easy.

It’s not until you realize that there’s a possibility… a real possibility…that you can’t have kids that you realize whether or not you are meant to be a parent. I realized I had been wrong.

I wanted someone to call me “Mommy”. I wanted someone to ask me to tuck them in at night and assure them that there were no monsters in the closet. I wanted someone to ask me why the moon goes to sleep during the day and why Donald Duck doesn’t wear pants.

That is what I signed up for.

When people ask me “How do you do it?” the answer is actually pretty simple…how could I not? I don’t know any different.

When you become a parent you are making a commitment to one thing: to love your children…no matter what. We don’t get to choose what challenges come with parenthood. We don’t get to decide what we can handle and what we can’t…that’s done for us. What we do get to play a role in is HOW we parent and HOW we show our children that we love them.  Did I sign up for diabetes? Of course not.  But I did sign up for being a mom…diabetes or not.

I am constantly amazed by the number of friends we have whose children are facing challenges including type 1 diabetes, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Apraxia, severe food allergies, and many more. Did any of us know or envision our children’s lives being consumed by these challenges? No way. Did any of us know we would soon become advocates, fundraisers, and educators about these diseases/disorders? Not a clue.

But, we have…because that’s what we signed up for.

Cheers to Changing the World~

Kristina

 

Why It’s Not Funny

 

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 11.12.21 PM

I get it.  I really do.  I get it because I was once just as unfamiliar with diabetes. I get it because at some point in my life I’m sure I’ve made some joke that undoubtedly served as a face-slap to an entire subset of the population who have been affected by whatever it is I thought was hilarious.  I get it.

But here’s why it’s not funny.

Someone shared this blog post on a Facebook group we belong to for parents of kids with type 1. They shared it with the hope that the T1D community would comment on the post and explain to the author how her title just perpetuates the stereotype that diabetes is caused by eating too much candy.  Many parents, rightfully hurt and some outraged, commented on the post with stories of their young children, some diagnosed with type 1 even before eating solid foods, let alone candy. Others shared their frustration about the lack of distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes; while others offered words of support for both T1’s and T2’s.

And you know what happened? The author added this disclaimer:

Now, I know that you can’t “GIVE” your child Type I Diabetes. Type I Diabetes, in children isn’t caused by a high amount of sugar in the diet. However, Type II Diabetes is another story. Fifteen years ago, type 2 diabetes in children was almost unheard of. A 2007 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that there are about 3,700 new cases of type 2 diabetes a year among youth in the United States.

And she missed the point.

Yes, many parents of kids with type 1 were upset by her original post, myself included.  However, the responses she received were not intended to simply make sure her readers were aware of the difference between Type 1 and Type 2.  The responses were intended to let her know one thing: our children’s livelihood is not a joke.  Regardless of whether someone has Type 1 or Type 2, this blog’s title is hurtful and just perpetuates a stereotype about what is a very serious disease.

The reality is that we have a lot of educating to do…not only about diabetes, but about kindness and respect. It’s easy to make assumptions about things we know nothing about.  It’s easy, and I get it.  I’ve done it, too.  What makes the difference, though, is owning up to it and making the commitment to educate yourself about what you don’t know.

However, there is one thing I do know: our Halloween is gonna be awesome…candy and all.

Tricks and Cheers to Changing the World~
Kristina

 

 

It’s About More Than Us…

05.08.13-Daily-Inspirational-Quotes-as-ifYesterday we were excited to see Isabella’s story on the front page of our local newspaper, the Nordonia News Leader. We’ve been blessed to have had our story shared via several media outlets over the past few weeks and are grateful for the many family and friends who’ve supported us as we move into our second year of life with type 1 diabetes.

However, no matter how much exposure our story gets, or how many times Isabella’s adorable face is featured in an article or website, the truth is that she is just one of hundreds of thousands of people affected by this disease.  JDRF estimates that the rate of T1D in children under 14 will continue to increase by 3% each year.  Though more and more children will continue to be diagnosed,  two things remain the same:

1) There is no defined cause and

2) There is no cure.

 

After our story ran in the newspaper yesterday I received the following message from a local mom:

“Hello, I just read your inspiring story about Isabella. Thank you for raising awareness about this condition. My son is also a type 1 diabetic. It’s amazing how far he has come with this over the years. When my son was first diagnosed there were 16 children in our district with this condition.We have come a long way since then. I know how you feel. I really do. I’m a single Mom so many days can be hard. I thought my son’s condition would limit him but I have been so wrong. Last year he was on the football team and in band. Your daughter is beautiful. I so hope and pray for a cure soon.Thank you for sharing your story. It really makes people also feel like they are not alone.”

And this, friends, is why we are doing what we are doing.

Cheers to Changing the World,
Kristina