On This Day, Memories of Life Before Diabetes

Facebook’s On This Day feature certainly knows how to yank my chain. Up it pops to say, On this day nine years ago…and presents a child with impossibly rosy cheeks (my own son) gnawing on a chocolate Easter bunny. I can remember this day, and those cozy fleece pajamas with navy and red stripes. I hazily recall a time before I knew how many g CHO per Cadbury Mini Egg (two), when jelly beans were a candy, not yet a life-saving medicine. On This Day perpetually catches me off guard. I imagine this is true for most parents of our generation, those who’ve been indiscriminately posting to Facebook for ten or so years, anyway. For those of us whose kids have diabetes, this effect is heightened. Juxtapositions between then and now can be jarring.

On This Day years ago, I had different hair and clothes, and an adorable cherub clasped to my hip. But now, I have this hair and these clothes, and I’m riding shotgun with an annoyed teen driver (cherub) on his way to frisbee practice, an unwanted but necessary passenger: his learner’s permit requires the presence of a licensed adult. As such, I’m trying to be helpful, while not cluttering the air with comments about when to start braking and also holding in things like: do you still have that bag of dried mango in your backpack, did you see the new bag of dried mango I left on the counter, is your phone charged, your pump charged, how much insulin is in your pump, is your Dexcom working OK, do you have your brick, is your brick charged, do you want me to charge it now while we’re in the car and oh shit, I’m supposed to make sure he checks his blood glucose before he drives and I should have mentioned that bit before the key went in the ignition, but I was trying so hard to not say everything I was thinking that I repressed this one legit question along with the useless, obsessive ones about things like mango inventory. So now I am glancing at the Follow app, a once-cool trick that has become more of a tic. Less a source of actionable information, more an attempt to relieve my anxiety about blood sugar levels and everything else in the world. I peek at Follow: not low. I do not take a picture. This moment will not become an On This Day for future me to relish or regret.

Also On This Day years ago, my blonde third grader took a break from running around to perch on a big playground rock, lancing device in hand, glucose meter kit resting on his knee. Today, his hair is more brownish, and for fun, he’s hammering boards to build a raft with a friend. He’s also freebasing Sour Patch Kids, and sees me see him doing this as I walk by and says Mom, I’ve got this. I feel low and I don’t want to stop building right now. I keep walking. I think it’s a kindness that he notices me at all when he’s busy with a friend. Out of sight, I open the Follow app. While I wait for the data to upload, I squint and think what could it even say that would make me feel better? 107. 98. 81. Sometimes the predictions I make while waiting for the numbers to appear come true. What was I thinking On This Day, years ago, at the playground? I remember feeling afraid my son would collapse, somewhere out of sight, and I’d not notice until he had died. On This Day, I was scared. Today, I’m not afraid, but I am annoyed. But not annoyed like when a woodpecker is pecking the side of the house when directly adjacent to the house, there’s a whole slew of trees it could peck instead. I mean deeply annoyed, like a when poorly trained squirrel is clambering up my neck and spreading itchy glitter—in a color I don’t like, maybe a dank maroon—in my hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, while emitting atonal screeches, and also pooping. Follow shows 317, with two arrows up.

On This Day additionally shows a photo of a lunchbox note, decorated with a sticker of a mustachioed cupcake, neatly listing the carb count for a PB&J, carrot sticks, cheese stick, Lara bar, milk, and three Hershey’s Kisses. Today’s lunch memories, were I moved to formally make them, would include a sadly familiar Dexcom tracing that zings up over 300 mg/dL after a cafeteria meal (composed exclusively of Baked Lay’s potato chips and bottled water), and a notification from MySchoolBucks that my child’s funds are low. Today also includes this useless brain jumble: Should I firmly suggest different lunch foods? Should I add money to MySchoolBucks even if the funds are used exclusively for Baked Lays and bottled water? It is completely ludicrous to fund the Baked Lays and water. It is equally ludicrous to try to control what a teenager eats at school. On This Day, on that long ago day of the lunchbox note, I remember worrying that the carrots so often came back home uneaten. (Cute!)

On This Day, I did not always have kids with diabetes. On This Day, I did not always have an app on my phone that provides the illusion I might attempt to control my children’s lives on a molecular level. On This Day, I did not always have any kids at all, full stop. What thoughts filled my head on those days, On This Day? I think that woman read a lot more books.

Katy Killilea
Katy Killilea

Katy Killilea lives in Rhode Island with her family. The younger of her sons was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2011 when he was 8 years old. Two years later she was diagnosed with Type 1 herself. Her older son is a test subject in an experimental trial for a drug that stops the progression of Type 1 diabetes. This son, her husband, and their dog remain (relatively) unaffected by diabetes. She writes the blog Bigfoot Child Have Diabetes.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
1 Comment
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
6 years ago

Yes. I often get a little melancholy when FB or Google pops up to remind us of our lives before diagnosis. It all seemed so simple back then. Now we lie awake at nights and permanently run on empty, comforting each other with “You got this” platitudes because there is no other option. We’re coming up to the one year “diaversary” for our 4yo son and realising how long the road ahead is for both us and him.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x