Not long ago, I saw a Facebook post written by the parent of a diabetic. As a fellow parent of a diabetic, I am extremely interested in these things. So, I read the whole post right down to the author’s name. That author turned out to be you. Just over two years ago, your teenage son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I’m guessing some people don’t know that. They are probably more familiar with your books, “One Thousand Gifts” and “The Greatest Gift.” When I read about your son’s diagnosis, I knew two things immediately. One, God answered my prayer. And two, you don’t need this.
Your story is already marked by pain and mourning even from your earliest memories. In light of what you’ve already lived through, more suffering is superfluous. I do not believe that you need type 1 diabetes in your life to grow in your faith or stay close to God. You are already there.
You don’t need the stress of filling prescriptions, counting carbs, and packing a pharmacy every time you go on a trip. You definitely don’t need the extra doctor’s appointments, when you’ve got seven kids who will all need to see the doctor for other reasons. I am horrified that this has happened to you. But I feel partly responsible.
A few years ago, I prayed that people with influence would have children with type 1 diabetes. The reason I prayed such an awful thing is that most people know almost nothing about this disease. For them there is little or no distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. If their granny has type 2, they think we are dealing with the same thing. They kindly recommend sugar free recipes and offer us bags of candy made with Splenda. And they are under the impression that this is manageable.
This misconception is widely believed. When our son was first diagnosed with type 1, our insurance company wanted to restrict him to three test strips per day. While it is common for a type 2 diabetic to test blood sugar three times a day or less, it is very dangerous for a type 1 diabetic to test so infrequently. On top of having to take care of our son, we had to fight for the supplies he needed because our insurance company (people who should know about medical issues) didn’t recognize the difference between these two completely different diseases!
Type 2 diabetes is usually brought on by a poor diet and lack of exercise. For many people, it is manageable and sometimes even reversible. Shortly after my son was diagnosed, a well-meaning woman (bless her heart) told me very proudly, “I control my diabetes with diet and exercise.” I knew immediately that we were not dealing with the same disease, but she didn’t.
Type 1 diabetes—the murderer—is thought to require nothing more than a lifestyle change to keep it in check. That’s like saying a serial killer can be rehabilitated with a bit of cardio, some kale, and a couple shots a day. But we know better. Even with a healthy lifestyle, meticulous carb counting, and correct insulin dosage this disease is poised to kill from day one. That’s because every little thing affects blood sugar—viruses, hormones, anxiety, excitement, temperature, and even the fat you consume. Our son’s blood sugar rises and falls to dangerous levels throughout the night, even though his insulin is stable, and he is consuming no carbs while he sleeps.
I am grateful that God answered my prayer through you. Because of type 1 diabetes, both our sons have a one in twenty chance of dying from a low blood sugar they won’t even feel. I could shout about this from my rooftop and be ignored, but you can whisper it into your pillow and people will listen. Thank you for whispering about this disease. I’m so glad you have a voice that carries. And I’m so sorry.
Type 1 Mama,