November is American Diabetes Month – a time when the American Diabetes Association and everyone else concerned about this life-altering disease will be talking about ways to live a healthy life despite a diagnosis of diabetes.
I have some experience with the disease. When my eldest son, Duncan, was eight years old, I slowly became aware, over a week or so, that he was getting up at night, to urinate – a lot. At first I chalked it up to his drinking lots of water because it was summertime and hot. Then, his appearance changed – he looked a bit gaunt and thin. I chalked that up to an eight-year-old’s growth spurt. Then I had a conversation with someone who’d recently discovered she had diabetes and when she described her symptoms, the fireworks went off in my head.
Within two days, Duncan was in the hands of a pediatric endocrinologist at the Sansum Clinic in our hometown of Santa Barbara, CA. A blood sugar reading in the 300’s (after two days of NO sugars and lots of fluids) put him into the hospital for several days – over my naïve objections!
What did he mean by putting my son in the hospital? Surely this was a little problem that could be handled by a shot or pill of something? This was America, in the 1990’s for heaven’s sake. Didn’t western medicine have a cure for this disease by now?
I spent the next several years learning, and helping my son learn, that being a pancreas is a dissatisfying job. You can never get an ‘A’ when you’re trying to be a pancreas– something tough for a couple of ‘A’ oriented people such as my son and me.
Nevertheless, my son is in his late twenties and has managed to accomplish some of his life dreams, like sailing the TransPac sailboat race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, despite living with Type 1 diabetes. It’s not easy, but he copes with the challenges, and is thriving.
A friend – also a mother with a son with diabetes – was fond of saying – “There is a cure for diabetes. It’s insulin.” I never quite agreed with her, because injected insulin still requires the brilliance of a pancreas to get things right – and we don’t have that yet. However, as I acknowledged back then in 1994, better diabetes than some other, more challenging disease.
This month, I salute everyone who lives with diabetes, everyone who supports or cares for or loves someone with diabetes, and everyone who works to improve the lives of people with diabetes. Thank you all.