The Face of Type 1

JuiceboxThis past weekend, at a 5-year-old birthday party for one of my daughters friends, I had the privilege of providing unexpected education.

As I sat, calculating the amount of carbohydrates in a cupcake, then checked my son’s blood and prepared the insulin to dose him, I had mothers watching me, horrified.   At first I didn’t think anything of it, most often when you pull out a needle and a vial of insulin people begin staring.  I have learned to ignore and not become effected by these glares.

One mother finally spoke up and asked me if I was going to be giving my diabetic son sugar.  The other mothers glared on, almost with bated breath hinged on my response.  I responded I was and began my advocate speech that I know so well.  How diabetics can eat sugar, how it is the carbohydrates that get converted into sugar within the body that we need to calculate for and cover with insulin.

It was then that one mother bravely spoke up, in her mind on behalf of all the others who were in attendance, and nothing short of accused me of giving my son diabetes because of allowing too much sugar in his diet to begin with.

Resisting the urge to dart the needle into her flesh was exhausting, yet I took a deep breath, and as calmly as I could, explained what auto immune diseases do.  How a person with Type 1 Diabetes suffers from an auto immune disease which has attacked the part of their pancreas that produces insulin.   Due to this, Carter would be insulin dependent for the rest of his life, as his islet cells within his pancreas do not make insulin anymore.

I explained how, for Type 1 Diabetics, sugar has never been the enemy or cause for the pancreas to give up the insulin making powers it once had, and went into great detail as to what Carter was responsible for completing just to be able to take a bite of a cupcake.  Beyond the lengthy explanation, I let this woman know, among the now growing crowd of party goers, that I can appreciate her uneducated question as I too was unaware of what Type 1 Diabetes entailed prior to my son being diagnosed.  I made clear, however, that where I could forgive such a blunder, most children effected by the life Type 1 Diabetes delivers to them would easily take offense to such accusations.

The woman apologized, which I was appreciative of, but when looking back I was glad to have been there to educate those who had never been around, face to face with a Type 1 Diabetic and were given the opportunity to learn about the care involved in keeping a diabetic alive.

Where some people would rather shield their children from such careless comments, I believe it’s important to have your children be aware of the opposition they may face daily.  Along with the glares and uncomfortable stares, there are many who are completely misguided when it comes to the care for and maintenance of Type 1 Diabetes.  It’s our job as parents, and diabetics themselves to unveil the true nature of living a life with diabetes and educate those in order to perpetuate a cure.

At the end of the party, all the parents came by one by one and spoke about how grateful they were to know what having Type 1 Diabetes really means, as well as commend me for my efforts in caring for my son.  I appreciated the accolades, yet found a deeper understanding of my purpose.  It’s not just to keep my son alive, it’s to be the voice for those who are unable to push for a cure that we so desperately need, or who are too shy or embarrassed by this condition to openly educate and advocate.

When looking at the statistics of the depression that Type 1 Diabetics can face, I will help spread awareness of Type 1 Diabetes in an effort to educate those who don’t know, with the hope that the diabetic community would be embraced by anyone and everyone who sees them prick their fingers, or measure insulin.

Creating a less judgmental environment is the first step to opening a dialogue when it pertains to life with Type 1 Diabetes, and raising awareness is the first step to funding a cure.

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