Today is World Diabetes Day. There are a lot of “holidays” that float around on the internet, most created in the US and North America, such as National Donut Day and things of the like. But this one was created in 1991 by the World Health Organization and holds a different theme every year. It is observed on November 14th to coincide with Dr. Frederick Banting’s birthday. For you non-Diabetics who may not know, Dr. Banting is the man who co-created insulin alongside Charles Best.
This year’s theme is The Family and Diabetes. I still remember when I was diagnosed with Diabetes, all the way back in 1982. I recall my parents being visibly emotional and overwhelmed. I don’t remember much about how I reacted, except that I felt my parents would make everything okay. I was very wrong.
Over the years that followed, everything was most certainly NOT okay. I suffered from insulin resistance, Diabetic comas, ketoacidosis and score of other Diabetes-related complications. Carb-counting was not a generally known aspect of Diabetes control at the time, and I often suffered severe highs from that lack knowledge. My mother would often say things like “If you’re hungry, have a slice of bread with peanut butter” or “If you’re thirsty, have some milk”, as my mother assumed these things had no “sugar” in them and should be fine for me. All the while, I was being pumped full of carbohydrates and my insulin couldn’t keep up.
Once I got older and began taking control of my treatment and nutrition, things became exponentially better. After all, it’s much easier treating yourself than relying on others. Especially since you can feel symptoms and issues you may be suffering through much better than family members could. Obviously, I don’t hold my parents accountable for the difficulties I faced as a child. I was the first Type 1 Diabetic in my family and they did the best they could with the information they had at the time.
But family is important; not only for the treatment aspect but also for the support aspect. There were a lot of times as a child where I was denied certain privileges like spending weekends away at scout camps and having cake at birthday parties and such. It made my childhood difficult on top of all the medical concerns I faced. And let’s not forget the half dozen times that I likely would have died in my sleep, had my older brother not recognized that I was having a Diabetic seizure and woke my parents.
Family continues to play an important role in my life. When my wife and I started dating, I’m sure she wondered what the hell she’d gotten herself into after seeing me experience a severe low for the first time. Drenched in sweat and practically eating myself out of house and home, I can only imagine at what thoughts may have been floating through her mind. But these days, she’ll be the first to take one look at me and ask if I’m having a low. She’ll remind me to bolus based on the meal’s carb count and she keeps an eye on me.
Family is an important cornerstone in helping one properly control Type-1 Diabetes. They can give you focus and keep you on the straight and narrow, especially when things get rough. They are taking the journey with you, despite not having Diabetes themselves. As you observe World Diabetes Day, take time to include your family. They deal with it, same as you do. Every high, every low and every mood swing. ☯