national diabetes awareness month

Marian Parsonsa slice of life41 Comments

In case you weren’t aware, November is National Diabetes Awareness month.  Why am I dedicating an entire post to that?  My youngest son, Calvin, is a Type 1 Diabetic.

I want to share more about diabetes because 1.) people have asked me for updates and 2.) T1D is sneaky and knowing the symptoms can save someone’s life.  So, even if you don’t give a hoot about diabetes, just read the symptoms and store that away in the recesses of your brain.  Not to be dramatic, but it really might save the life of someone you know.  I am convinced that Calvin was diagnosed early, before he was in real trouble, because my mom knew the symptoms.

First of all a few details about T1D.  Most people are familiar with type 2 diabetes, since most people with diabetes have type 2.  Less than 10% of diabetics have type 1 and only 15% of those with T1D are children.  Almost all of the “diabetic-friendly” foods, recipe books, magazines, and general information is geared towards type 2, so there is a lot of misunderstanding about type 1.

Type 2 diabetes is when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or develops a resistance to it.  It sometimes needs to be treated with insulin injections, but can also be treated with oral medications and controlled diet.  Type 2 can, in most cases, be reversed with a change in diet and activity, along with weight loss.

T1D cannot be prevented and it cannot be reversed.  It is an auto-immune disease.  The body attacks and kills off the beta cells in the pancreas, which produce insulin, until the pancreas no longer has enough beta cells to produce insulin.  It’s a gradual process that starts happening long before symptoms manifest.

Right now there isn’t a cure, only 24/7 management.

(Calvin drew that picture shortly after his diagnosis.)

And, as a T1D mom, I can attest to the fact that it is 24/7.  One thing you don’t hear about often with type 1 diabetes is the loss of sleep.

When Calvin was first diagnosed and the nurse educator was explaining low blood sugars to me, I remember asking, “But what about when he sleeps?  What if he goes low and he doesn’t know it, because he’s sleeping, and I don’t know it, because I’m sleeping…?”  She gave a sympathetic frown and nodded, answering my question with the look on her face.  He could die.  

This led to about 8 months of restless sleep for me…  always setting alarms, running up the stairs a few times a night for blood sugar checks, and always holding my breath when I’d go into his room to wake him up in the morning.

We now have a continuous glucose monitor (a CGM) that monitors his blood sugar and sends a reading to our iPhones every 5 minutes.  That amazing piece of technology has saved his life countless times and has given me the freedom to sleep.  There are still nights, though, when it’s not working properly and I have to set alarms or stay awake, keeping an eye on him.  And the poor guy has to wake up often in the middle of the night for a finger stick or to eat some Smarties or drink a cup of milk to keep his blood sugar from dropping too low.

Just like when you have a newborn, you just get used to it.

And we’ve gotten used to everything else…

  • Testing his blood sugar about 3-6 times each day (that means sticking his little fingers)
  • Changing his pod (which delivers insulin) every three days (or more during the summer when the heat spoils the insulin or during the winter when static electricity shocks it.)
  • Changing his CGM sensor once a week
  • Carrying a bag of supplies with us everywhere we go
  • Checking his urine for ketones when his blood sugar is high or he’s sick
  • Counting the carbs for every single piece of food that goes in his mouth
  • Checking and caring for lumps of scar tissue and calluses caused by all of the needles
  • Constantly checking supplies, equipment, and batteries

But, in all of this, Calvin is a trooper.  He can tell you the carbs of all of the food he eats right off the top of his head and he’s become a pro at estimating new foods.  He knows how to give himself insulin and what he needs to do for highs and lows.

And, this may happen at some point, but I’ve never heard him use diabetes as an excuse.

Although, maybe sometimes he should, because my Calvin is a lot like another Calvin…

Just as funny and smart and lovable, but just as mischievous, too.  He wears the name well.

And, for the most important information, here are the symptoms of T1D…

  • Extreme thirst  (Calvin, as a five year old, was drinking huge glasses of water one right after the other.  I’ve heard of toddlers being so thirsty, they will drink out of the dog bowl.)
  • Frequent urination (Wetting the bed, also.)
  • Drowsiness and lethargy
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Increased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Fruity, sweet, or wine-like odor on breath
  • Heavy, labored breathing
  • Stupor or unconsciousness

One tricky thing about T1D is the symptoms can sometimes be confused for other things.  They can also be masked if the person is sick, which can be even more dangerous.

If ever there is any doubt or question or hunch or instinct or anything, just ask your doctor for a urine test.  Even if it feels silly or like it’s overkill.  Insist on one.  It’s painless, cheap, and could save a life.

If you want to read Calvin’s diagnosis story, you can do that HERE.

If you’d like to support finding a cure for T1D (there are some very promising treatments in the works), visit the JDRF website and/or participate in a local JDRF One Walk.

national diabetes awareness month

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41 Comments on “national diabetes awareness month”

  1. So very sorry, my youngest son was diagnosed with T1D at 18 yrs old and it has been overwhelming at times, I cannot imagine if he had been 5 yrs old or younger. My son has the omni pod and the glucose monitor and they both have been God sent. Just to encourage your son , my son has gone on to become a firefighter and EMT. He has often used his knowledge of diabetes to know just the right questions to ask of people and has often found they were diabetics in crisis long before other emergency medical personel knew what was going on. Praying for a cure!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing and helping to raise awareness Marian. My eldest was diagnosed with T1D at the age of 4 – he’s now 18 1/2. It’s been an interesting journey (mid teens and hormones were a bit of a trial for us). Now he’s nearing adulthood and I am just hoping we’ve done everything we can to prepare him for being responsible and keeping on top of things. The CGM definitely helped to give us peace of mind and I’ll be hoping he lets me stay connected for a while yet.

  3. My husband became a type 1 diabetic at the age of 45 while working in Iraq. He got sick and over night he became a type 1. What a shock! Much like how you felt about Calvin. God is good! Wade survived and made it home and now is healthy. He also uses a CGM. A fantastic device! Thank you for bringing awareness to this disease. Most people lump all diabetics together and have no understanding of the differences! Research is the key and we hope there is a cure in Calvins lifetime!

  4. It is a constant amazement to me what people endure in their lives while still moving forward and doing all the things that need to get done to raise a family and run a home and/or business. You are a wonder…and your son…wow. Thank you for educating me about this condition as I, like probably most people where unaware.

  5. Thank you for educating us to the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes. My dad and sister have type 2 but I never knew what the symptoms or maintenance was for someone with Type 1. You are an amazing mother to handle all that you do on a daily basis.

  6. I’m sorry Calvin has this disease but really proud of him for managing his care so well. And proud of you for the great care you give him, and the endurance of sleepless nights. When my friend’s son was dx’d with T1D as a teen, I was really afraid for him when it was time to go off to college. But he’s set to graduate this coming spring and has done well. Great encouragement there! Thanks for sharing the link, I’m going there now.

  7. So much good information and you and your family have done remarkably well. Calvin seems like a normal kid, with a great personality and the ability to understand at an early age exactly what he needs to do and when. Good luck in the future and wishing you all the best for the Holidays!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this. I was diagnosed at 6 and have now been diabetic for 53 years. It’s a struggle for sure but Calvin’s spirit and determination will take him far — and show the world courage and faith — both in needed supply these days. All my best to you and your family as you deal with this condition with grace. BTW, spent yesterday at a day-long antique show trudging through the country primitive/cottage pieces I love — checking my sugars along the way. Your work is such an inspiration! Be well, Wendy

  9. THANK YOU THANK YOU!! our son was in his first year of college when he went T1,12 years ago. life changing for all of us to say the least. when he lived alone he called us everyday or else we had to go to his apartment and more than once had to rush him to the ER dehydrated. I’ve seen the inside of every hospital in our county. he wears the pod and sometimes the CGM. only another T1or T1 parent can fully understand how involved and dangerous this disease is. no one ever wants to hear us say, he could die…but that’s the honest reality. thanks again for educating your readers about the differences between T1 & T2 because sometimes it’s like…”c’mon people!”

  10. My sympathies and admiration to both you and your son. My great nephew was diagnosed with T1 at 2 (!) and I know what a challenge it’s been. Luckily, (not really,) in his case his father was diagnosed as a child so they went looking for it early.

  11. C: I am so proud of you. You are a real trooper. Will miss seeing you and Marshall for Thanksgiving but I know you will have a great time. Keep building bridges and bomb shelters with your physics game. There is a new one out called Slashes/Dots. Love you both/PPa

    P.S. We are going to Myrtle Beach to have fish and calabash turkey. Glub, Glub, Gobble Gobble

  12. The love of your mother heart touches me deeply. Calvin is so fortunate to have YOU!!! Thanks for the informative details about TID.

    Diney on Camano

  13. You were good to update us on how Calvin is doing. I’m glad he is more than holding his own.

    It sounds like you and Jeff have given him the support, information and encouragement he needs to take responsibility for managing his own symptoms. That should serve him well. Studies show that a patient who takes an active role in treating his illness tends to be healthier than patients who just “do what the doctor says.”

    Best wishes for continued health for Calvin.

  14. I’m just starting my T1D journey, diagnosed a few months ago at the age of 53 after a virus attacked my pancreas. So much to learn.

  15. My husband is a Type 2 Diabetic, but I had no understanding of how difficult & involved Type 1 is. Bless your son on being so informed about his disease…very mature for a young boy of that age. And it’s amazing to read what all you have to do as his mom. You are amazing with all that you do. Blessings to you and your family this holiday season!

  16. As a school nurse to the youngest and most medically fragile students in our district I say: “Thank you”. Thank you to you and your husband for getting your son competent medical care. Thank you for giving your son competent loving care-medical and otherwise- 24/7. Thank you for teaching him to “own” his diagnosis, because in doing so YOU have saved his life starting from day one and continue to do so. I join you and others in praying for a cure; but in the meantime–Thank You. Calvin is very blessed to have you, your husband and his big brother fighting the fight and running the race with him. Someday, we will win.

  17. My trial baby (niece, little love of my life) was diagnosed two years ago at age 4. Before her diagnoses I never even heard of type 1 and honestly thought it was caused by unhealthy life style which I know now is far from the truth. So thank you for sharing your story and educating people because it is not well known and is extremely serious. Put it simply, shit sucks! Thank you again!

  18. Marian,
    Thank you for the update. You and I exchanged emails about a month ago after we found out my oldest granddaughter is T1D. Since that time, the 11-year-old has owned her diagnosis and my daughter has certainly adapted as well. My granddaughter performs her own blood sugar checks, calculates her insulin need based upon the food she eats, and administers her own insulin injections. She is thrilled to have gained 15 pounds in the past couple of months (after not gaining any weight for a year but growing lots in height) and is certainly looking like a more healthy young lady. I think one of the most impressive things is that she also makes wise decisions. For example, when she wanted a snack, recently, she asked her mother about it and was told that mealtime was 20-30 minutes away. She could have the snack but if she waited, she would only need one shot. Wait she did! Yet, on another day, when there was a pizza party at school, it was worth it to take the shot and eat pizza with her friends! Just like you and Calvin, she and her mother have learned loads (and so have I) and they are continuing to learn and adapt, making this a simple, normal-for-them part of life. Just knowing that others are succeeding at monitoring and managing gives us comfort and I am glad that you and your young fellow are doing well. Thanks, again for sharing your story and for sharing to develop more awareness.

  19. my husband was in a MVA and that is how we found out about his type 1. But, we use the dex com patch just approved in May 2017. It is a patch, no need for finger sticks and sends me and him on his i phone real time blood sugar readings. BCBS just approved in 9/ 2017 the product. So now dex com is covered by them

  20. Marion, I am glad to hear how well you all are coping with all of this—praise the Lord! He provides all we need!
    I was wondering what Calvin does while at school. Does the nurse see him at specific times? Good job to Calvin for taking control of caring for himself!

  21. Marian, I always say, when it comes to being a mom to children with various issues, “You get used to your circumstances.” But I also wanted to share that I just yesterday saw a commercial for Libre, the new CGM, in case you hadn’t heard about that specific one. I’m a diabetic (Type 2) and my endocrinologist had me try it and we found the information it provided to be extremely helpful in looking at the pattern of my fluctuations in blood glucose. Well, Godspeed to you and Calvin and Happy Thanksgiving in your new wonderful home!

  22. Great post! Thank you for sharing! With six grand kids and 1 on the way. I always feel knowledge is important. Again, thank you

  23. a – he’s a trooper, that’s for sure – b – you’re a great mom 🙂 praying for a cure and continued good health for the little darling

  24. I am so very sorry that you, too, are on the T1D train. Thank you for sharing this info with others. My son was dx’d when he was 4 and I still remember the doctor coming into the room saying those words that forever change our lives, “He has diabetes.” Zach is 25 now and doing well. We are sooooo thankful for all the advances in technology as they are life-saving. And give you a little bit of sanity and sleep as well 😄 Zach really wants a diabetic s therapy dog and we are seriously considering itfor him.
    I will keep y’all in my prayers. God bless.

  25. Thank you for sharing this! My daughter was diagnosed 10 years ago at the age of 9. She does a fantastic job managing it! I remember getting up at 2:00 a.m. to check her BS. We almost bought stock in the company that made Smarties because she ate so many. Now she carries Capri Suns everywhere she goes. We’ve told her from the beginning that Type1 doesn’t define her. She can do whatever she wants to do. She’s now a college freshman and living her life to the fullest!

  26. Like so many other commenters, I thank you for this post. Type 1 diabetes is so misunderstood, it’s nice anytime someone with a wide-reaching audience sheds some light on it. I have been a Type1D mom for a little over two years(my son was diagnosed at age 10), and one thing I don’t think people can ever understand unless they are a type 1 or care for someone with it, is how drastically it changes your life. Literally overnight you are dealing with a LIFELONG, LIFE-THREATENING illness. But children are pretty amazing, and my son has taken it completely in stride. Like Calvin, Jacob knows the carb content of just about every food, checks his sugar regularly, gives himself insulin through his pump, and does it all without complaining. It’s such a scary illness, so it helps whenever we hear about someone else who is going through the same struggles. Best wishes to you, Calvin, and the rest of your family, and here’s hoping for a cure soon !

  27. My friend recently made an awareness post, as both of her boys, ages 18 and 8, have T1D. I believe people are unaware of how much sleep is interrupted by testing. It’s like having a newborn. She said her youngest thanks her every time she gives him an insulin injection because he knows it saves his life 😢

  28. Sigh… wow. That is just so much. My sister’s husband unexpectedly developed it in his 40’s and now her daughter who is in her 20’s has it. I truly believe that there will be a cure in the next 5-15 years with all the research with stem cells. They will surely be able to grow a compatible new pancreas out of a persons own cells. So i often say to my worried sister, just hang on, a cure is on the way. I can only hope that life saving treatments will be made financially available to all who have diabetes.

    Cindy

  29. Thank you for your story. My daughter, was diagnosed with Type 1, on January 1, 2000. Whenever we think we have the upper hand , we realize, even after all these years, there is much to learn. Michaela was 13 months old when she was diagnosed. There have been many good days, and some not so good days. She is so strong and smart. I am proud of her every day.

    Thanks for letting me share our story , and to let others, they are not alone.

  30. Our oldest daughter had just finished her first year of college when her symptoms began. Such a shock to get the diagnosis of Type 1. It certainly took time to adjust to this new situation. As a criminal justice major she was concerned if she could the be a police officer with this diagnosis. But she kept moving forward and graduated and has been a police officer for over 10 years. She is very fit and really loves a challenge. What was hardest to me was to see her living alone with no one to check on her in an emergency. But the Lord provided a little shelter puppy who instinctively understood her situation. Many times Char would wake my daughter up in the night. She would not stop fussing at my girl till she was awake enough to care for her diabetes. A big blessing in a little package! Thank you for sharing your little boys journey, I believe it will be an encouragement to someone else in this situation.

  31. One of my very best friends was diagnosed at age 9 with T1D. She is now 70! Has she had some scares? Of course. And it has led to other health issues later in her life. But the point is: she has led a full life and has not let it define her. I’m sure Calvin will do the same!

  32. Thank you for sharing my husband is type 1 but his so far has been controlled by medication..Thankful and hopefully will continue to be. He is bedridden due to other illness and COPD.. God bless your son and the family. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family hope it is blessed

  33. Thank you for this post! I have been a type 1 diabetic for 33 years, I was diagnosed at 13 months old so it’s all I know. I’ve run marathons & just had my first baby, so as long as you learn how to live with it, you can life a happy, healthy life. I appreciate all my parents did for me & continue to do, as I’m sure your sweet son will also. Keep up the great work!

  34. Thank you for sharing! It’s always good to hear another T1 mom’s story to know we are not alone, even though that’s what it feels like sometimes. My youngest son was diagnosed with T1D about a year and a half ago. Talk about your world being turned upside down! He’s been doing insulin shots but we are getting trained for an omni pod after Christmas. Excited but nervous for yet another change….hopefully it will be for the better. Diabetes has been as much of an emotional and psychological adjustment as a physical one for him. He’s still so sensitive about others knowing he has it, I think because so many people just don’t understand what T1 is. Again, thanks for raising awareness:)

  35. I admire you a lot. You are so clear to explain this subject as you are everytime with everything.
    I admire you because I have been following your fantastic blog since many years ago and your work and your effort have not changed since this your little son was diagnosed. I really think you are a very clever person, very creative and especially so persistant and I want you to know you are such a great inspiration in many aspects of life for me.
    As always, sorry por my poor English… I’m from Argentina.
    A big hug,
    Silvina (from Tazas y Cuentos)

  36. My daughter was diagnosed at age eight. What saved me was my sister who was diagnosed at 5 and was doing so well. Of course , I did not appreciate my mom at the time – all the days and nights of worrying, the diet, the checking, the highs, the lows and those glass syringes that had to be boiled, until my little girl was diagnosed. By then 37 years had gone by . The syringes were disposable, blood-sugar readings became more accurate and,eventually, the pump made everything easier but the worry is always there because I’m her mom. My daughter is now 37 and is doing well . My sister is 66 and is such an inspiration. No diabetic related problems ever! She’s on the pump, walks or rides her bike everyday and has always paid attention to diet. When she was graduating high school, she wrote that she aspired to live to be 100. Good chance she will!

  37. I’m hoping there is a cure soon for your sweet son and everyone else out there who has T1D or any other autoimmune disease. My husband was diagnosed with an autoimmune kidney disease and had a transplant 4 years later. He’s always having to monitor creatinin, blood levels and will be on immuno suppresion drugs the rest of his life, but he still flies airplanes, runs, works 12 hour days and enjoys life to the fullest. He works with people in the biotech industry. They believe through gene manipulation, there may soon be a cure for some of these diseases. I’m hopeful!

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