Just My Type: Finding Normalcy During Holiday Meals

Chew On This

My six year old daughter, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes less than 2 years ago, was thrilled when an antipasto platter was served at a recent holiday meal. She absolutely loves cheese! And since her diagnoses, I love for her to eat cheese, too. Why? There are no carbs in cheese! So I say. “Eat up, kiddo!”

This past Thanksgiving, the cheese bit back.

In our home, Thanksgiving has been a holiday that focuses on the three Fs: family, football — and food. Because of that, it is the second of the five late fall/early winter obstacles our family must hurdle while raising a child with type one diabetes.

The first is Halloween, which probably goes without saying (Just how many carbs ARE in a fun-size candy bar?). The second is Thanksgiving, with its all-day noshing of carb-laden food. The third is my daughter Noelle’s birthday in mid-December, which not only presents nutritional challenges but also social ones, as it is so hard to pull the birthday girl aside to prick her finger for a blood sugar test in the middle of fun and games. The fourth is Christmas (see Thanksgiving). And the fifth is New Year’s Day, which was, long before Noelle came along, a day my husband and I dubbed the “Day of Decadence,” where we sit around in our PJs all day, watch football and eat food we make ourselves in our deep frier. — ‘Tis the season!

We survived this past Halloween. Somehow we made it through her birthday party, mostly because she doesn’t like cake, though she doesn’t like to admit she doesn’t like cake because she feels like she’s the only kid in the world who doesn’t like cake (I have to admit that that makes me sad, because I think the reason she doesn’t like cake is because it’s extremely difficult to correctly match insulin to cake and frosting carbs and thus having cake usually leaves her with a high-blood-sugar tummy ache.). And Christmas and New Year’s Day this year promise to be a little more laid back than usual thanks to a family vacation that will leave us traveling on those holidays.

So that leaves Thanksgiving, where Noelle was thrilled when an antipasto platter arrived on the table that day. She absolutely loves cheese! And since she was diagnosed with diabetes, I love for her to eat cheese, too. Why? There are no carbs in cheese! So I say: Eat up, kiddo, no need to stop to bolus insulin. You might get a little … “bound,” to put it delicately, if you eat too much, but have at it!

I watched her select a piece of cheese and eagerly pop it into her mouth. Despite the food issues that diabetes presents, Noelle is always a really good sport at trying new or unfamiliar food, something I admire about her. She scampered off, but within a few seconds she was standing in the hallway with tears in her eyes motioning for me to come to her.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her. She was crying. “I didn’t like this cheese,” she said. “OK, you don’t have to eat any more of it,” I said. “But it’s still in my mouth!” she wailed around the lump in her mouth.

Good grief. I ran back to the dining room, grabbed a napkin and instructed her to spit it out. Which she did, along with a little bile.

“I usually love cheese,” she sobbed. “What WAS that?”

As I found a garbage can in which to dispose of the offensive cheese, I experienced a flash of normalcy. For once since she was diagnosed two years ago, a food issue had nothing to do with portion-controlling and carbohydrate-counting and insulin-matching. This time, it was normal, healthy almost-7-year-old behavior, and as repulsive as the half-chewed cheese in the napkin was, I loved it.


Rebecca Dravis

Pittsfield native Rebecca Dravis is a former journalist who lives in north Berkshire County with her husband and daughter in Williamstown, MA. This is the debut of a monthly column where Rebecca will share her experiences as a parent raising a child with type one diabetes. – Check out Just My Type on the third Monday of every month.

What is Type 1 Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called beta cells. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D, and-at present-nothing you can do to get rid of it. [Source: JDRF]

[Photo credit: (ccl) Gust

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