My daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was just five years old. Even though my husband had lived with the condition himself for over 30 years, and even though deep in the back of our minds we always knew it could happen to our children, it came as a complete shock. A diabetes diagnosis is life altering, and it affects the whole family. In our case, it brought our lives to a complete standstill at first.
I remember the day she was diagnosed. She had been sick for over a week and, after two doctor’s visits, we had been sent back home with a scarlet fever diagnosis and a prescription for antibiotics. She should have improved on the medication, but instead she was getting worse. She was in such a bad state that she could hardly stay awake and was curled up on the sofa with stomach pain and headaches. We rushed her to the ER, where she was diagnosed with diabetes after a simple finger-prick test.
When the doctor gave us the news, it was as if time just stopped. My first thought was, how had we not seen the symptoms? We were already practically experts on the subject of diabetes. How could we possibly not have seen this coming?
The following weeks and months were an emotional rollercoaster. Leaving the safety of the hospital and the support of its staff was hard. It felt like coming home with a newborn baby and no experience in how to care for it. I put everything in my life on hold, and I dedicated the next two months to understanding and learning everything I possibly could about her condition.
I was determined not to let this disease take over our lives. As my husband used to say, we were going to learn to manage the diabetes and not allow the diabetes to manage us.
A healthy diet, exercise, and good sleep are key to good diabetes management, whether that’s type 1 or type 2. Through both my husband and my daughter’s experiences, we found that the extra effort required in the beginning to create healthy lifestyle habits is the best thing you can do. My daughter is now nine and, at her young age, she already knows how to count carbs and how sports affects her blood sugars. I want her to grow up with a positive attitude towards her diabetes and to know that she can do anything that others can do — and even more. Her father is living proof of that.
I also want her — and anyone else living with diabetes in their family — to know that this is not something to be ashamed of or to hide. Being open and seeking support will make it easier. We have learned so much, met amazing people, and made many new friends on this journey.
Finally, I want to believe that living with diabetes makes you stronger and more resilient. As hard as it is in the beginning, learning to live well with this disease is entirely possible with a good attitude and the will to be your healthiest self.
Maria Monem is a Lifestyle Coach at Glucare Integrated Diabetes Center. Through her work, Maria helps transform the lives of people living with diabetes through remote health coaching. In her personal life, she has extensive experience with diabetes as both her husband and daughter have type 1 diabetes.