Just My Type: Helping Others with Type One Diabetes
And Then There Were Two
The news hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.
A little girl in my daughter Noelle’s circle of friends had been fighting to recover from diabetic ketoacidosis at Baystate Medical Center recently, and now is an officially confirmed type 1 diabetic. The email from her parents came on a quiet Sunday morning in late September, just two days before we were to mark the third anniversary of Noelle’s type 1 diagnosis.
I was not prepared for this. While I had always wished for the support of another local diabetes family, I guess I always assumed it would come by someone moving into town, or meeting someone I hadn’t known before. I never in a million years thought about it coming in the form of a new diagnosis of another innocent little girl whom we already knew…
I cried on and off that entire Sunday – and some of Monday and Tuesday, too. Not only did I feel absolutely horrible for this family and the life they had just been sentenced to, I also started to remember all of the emotions of Noelle’s diagnosis, at a time when, because of her approaching anniversary, it was already on my mind anyway. I remembered the shock, the fear, the confusion and the anger like it was yesterday, not three years ago. I remembered being exactly like these parents are, overwhelmed but determined to figure it out and move forward as normally as possible, without really even knowing yet how this disease changes everything.
I cringe now when I think how we sent Noelle back to her morning preschool for three hours a day to loving but completely unqualified caregivers. Three years later, and I won’t even let Noelle go on a playdate without me for three hours. What was I thinking?
I know what I was thinking. Immediately following Noelle’s diagnosis, we had no idea the anxiety and heartbreak that accompanies this disease, the level of care really needed, the loss of control of your child’s health and well-being. That, unfortunately, comes with time, time spent worrying and crying and finally realizing that nothing actually is the same anymore, as much as we want it to be. I will be there for this family when that moment arrives for them.
Yes, I will be there for them, even though I was also not prepared for the role of supporter, when for three years I have been desperately seeking someone to support me. It has not been easy. These first couple weeks, I have been walking a very fine line. I do not want to terrify this new family, as they are in that same place I was three years ago when I didn’t quite realize the road that lays ahead. I do not want to overwhelm them with information and advice, but I do not want them to feel all alone, as I did three years ago. And even though this is a girl we know fairly well, I do not know her parents that well, and everyone handles a life-changing event in a different way. They seem to be holding up remarkably well, but I know the public smile can hide the private anguish.
Out of all of this, though, came a new determination to find a cure. We had been half-heartedly preparing to walk in this past Sunday’s JDRF Walk for a Cure at Six Flags New England. I say “half-heartedly” because fall is a really busy time in our lives and we were finding it difficult to focus on this event, even to the point of considering finding another regional walk held at a different time of the year.
But when I heard the news about this other little girl, I mobilized. As I cried for her and Noelle and all of the innocent kids dealing with this disease, I sent out even more emails to raise money. I solicited more business support. I engaged her classmates and teacher, asking them to walk with us or give a small donation. I was re-energized to do what I can to fight this disease so that someday these two little girls I care about won’t have to live with finger sticks and shots and highs and lows and worry and anxiety for the rest of their lives.
Out of this tragedy came a new hope, and that’s what I am clinging to right now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pittsfield native Rebecca Dravis is a former journalist who lives in north Berkshire County with her husband and daughter in Williamstown, MA. In Just My Type Rebecca shares her experiences as a parent raising a child with type one diabetes. – Check out Just My Type on the third Monday of every month.