Thursday, November 20, 2014

Broken Dreams but now BETTER Dreams

When my son was diagnosed with type 1 at age 11,  his dream was to one day be in the Air Force, possibly attend the Air Force Academy, and also fly jets.  My husband, being a private pilot, knew from the start that our son's dreams would go unfulfilled.  Of course, when people (even type 1 diabetics) hear that your son has type 1 diabetes, they tell you he can do anything.  While this is almost completely true, my son was interested in two of the maybe five things total that are off limits to a type 1 diabetic.

None of the branches of the military currently accept type 1 diabetics.  However, I believe there is a silver lining to this rain cloud.  Although I want my children's dreams to come true, what if my oldest had joined the Air Force and then was later seriously injured or killed while on duty?  Maybe his diagnosis was one way to steer him away from that danger?  In terms of flying, he could become a private pilot (with strict medical requirements that could be evoked for life if he were to have one unconscious event at any time, even when not flying) but he cannot fly commercially or fly large jets.

My son went through a period of time when he did not seem interested in planes anymore, but his interest has resumed.  He still studies military plane encyclopedias and aircraft mechanic manuals.  However, he now has a new interest - robotics - and he has a gift for it!  Maybe he would not have known about his talent for the subject had he not been diagnosed.  Although it is difficult to grieve the loss of a dream, sometimes it leads to a BETTER dream!

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 14th was World Diabetes Day

Happy World Diabetes Day!  Why do I say "Happy" World Diabetes Day? Well, thanks to Michele Quigley's thought provoking post and the approaching Thanksgiving holiday I, too, wanted to write from a perspective of gratitude.  I do plan to write often about the challenges of type 1 diabetes, but I also do not want my posts to be just about doom and gloom.

We are very blessed to be living in this time period when insulin is readily available.  Just a hundred years ago, children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes did not survive.  Whenever I am feeling sad, I try to remember that fact.  Today we have disposable, thinner needles - just decades ago, type 1 diabetes had to boil their much thicker needles in anticipation of the next injection.  We have blood glucose meters, continuous glucose monitors, and even an artificial pancreas being developed which make it easier to keep BGs in the proper range.  Years ago, diabetics used urine strips to approximate BGs - I can't imagine that method being very accurate.  And don't forget the insulin pump - they are getting smaller and smaller and can do fabulous calculations based on how many carbs you have just eaten, what your last BG was, and how long it has been since your last bolus.

A few years ago, there was a story published about a 90 year old man who has had type 1 diabetes for 85 years!  He is still active and going strong.  I think in the coming years, we will hear about more and more people living long lives with type 1 diabetes.

I know that diabetes is not fun, can be challenging, and some parents never stop getting teary eyed at times, but in a lot of ways, it is Happy World Diabetes Day!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Anointing of the Sick

A year or two ago, our parish priest announced at Sunday Mass that there would be an Anointing of the Sick service.   After Mass, I asked one of the deacons if my son could take part.  Once he heard that he has diabetes, he told me to definitely bring him.

My son was the youngest person at the service.  Most of the attendees (as one would expect) were elderly or older adults.  I think it was a positive experience for him, and I hope it helped him grow closer to God.  However, he was a little disappointed that he was not miraculously healed from diabetes.  I must admit that I even watched his BGs closely the next few days to see if his insulin requirements were changing.  I think I had that same hope that he would be physically healed.  Maybe someday in the future, he will be healed.  I do believe he received graces from the sacrament and possibly spiritual healing.  Really, that is the type of healing that is most important for us as we journey home to heaven.

Why are some people healthy and others have chronic, life-long illnesses?  Does God allow illness so that the sufferers and caregivers need to rely more on God?  Maybe it really isn't so much the burden that we think it is, but a help to grow in the spiritual life? Or maybe God just allows disease because we live in a fallen world?  He then gives us grace to work through it. Hopefully all these questions will be answered in heaven one day.  I will probably keep pondering these things my whole life as I ask God to carry me and my son when I am feeling sad or burdened.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Homeschooling Journey: Illness, a Baby Girl, and a Move Towards More Relaxed Homeschooling

I wrote this essay several years ago and it is currently posted on a Catholic homeschooling blog.  It gives a little bit of background on the year of my son's diagnosis, so I wanted to share it:

On a Tuesday morning, my oldest son slept on and off for hours at a time.  This was unusual for him.  Around noon he asked me to make him a grilled cheese sandwich.  Before I finished preparing it, he fell asleep once again.

That afternoon my four boys and I climbed into the minivan and drove to the medical center.  My son needed a physical for summer camp and since he appeared to have the flu or maybe something worse, I scheduled an appointment for him.  The pediatrician checked his vital signs and talked to him and seemed satisfied that he was healthy.  I sensed that was not true.  He actually needed to sit down for a couple minute break on the walk into our pediatrician's office from the car.  I asked her to test his urine, because my husband and I were suspecting diabetes.  She agreed it was a good idea to check.  A few minutes later she came back to the room with the grim news that he did indeed have type 1 diabetes and started the procedures for admitting him into the ICU.

That was a sad, sad day.  Our journey with this illness has been challenging and heart times.  However, one small thing stands out in my mind after the fact: my educational philosophy throughout this crisis.

I am embarrassed to admit that while my son lay ill in bed those few days before that dreadful Tuesday afternoon, I sat with him and read his lessons to him so that all three boys would stay on schedule.  No one else remembers this or finds this fact significant.  But I do.  It is one of those decisions I will always regret and also the decision I will always be glad led me to where I am today - on the path to becoming a more relaxed homeschooler.

It didn't even occur to me right away, not until the next fall.  I designed the new school year's schedule with my old educational philosophy in the forefront of my mind.  I bounced from one son to the next all day long, each day, until dinnertime, checking off all the items on our lists.

Then one day I thought to myself, "How am I going to keep up this crazy pace with a new baby come next January or February?" I reread Suzie Andres' book "Homeschooling with Gentleness" and read for the first time her book "A Little Way Of Homeschooling." The Holy Spirit inspired me to make many changes to our daily learning routine.  I followed the lead of one of the ladies I knew online to create a focus for each day.  I bought my oldest son a fun math program to keep his interest in this area alive.  I  also found a gentle writing program through the recommendation of other Catholic homeschoolers.  Learning did become more joyful.

In January, our baby girl arrived.  I believe God sent us her as a gift to help us move past my oldest son's diagnosis.  Up until that time my life was overwhelmingly focused on checking blood sugars, counting carbs, giving insulin shots, testing for ketones, and wondering if I would walk into a room
and find my son unconscious (those ADA DVDs for type 1 diabetics are more upsetting than helpful).  Preparing for and taking care of a baby actually eased the stress of taking care of my son.

I am still on my homeschooling journey.  However, I hope by trusting God, I will gently guide my children to a lifestyle of loving God and loving learning - my goals from the beginning.