I’m used to sending my sixteen year old daughter Kate off into the world. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes five years ago, and we’ve made sure diabetes doesn’t stop her from doing anything. Whether it’s field trips, overnight class trips, or sleepovers, diabetes is not a reason to miss out. Still, I have always been home, ready and waiting, in case Kate needed me. So I felt uneasy when she said, “Mom, I just realized that when I am in Memphis for Latin Convention, you won’t even be in Tennessee [our home state]… that’s weird.”
I’m pretty sure what feels weird to her feels even weirder to me. Not only will I not be home when Kate is six hours away on her school trip, I will be in another state, another time zone. I will be all the way across the country in California.
Suddenly, upon refection, I realized that although I hadn’t let diabetes stop Kate, I had very much let it stop me. Although I’m naturally a homebody, at the time Kate was diagnosed, my husband and I were just beginning to feel the freedom that comes with parenting teens and preteens. The freedom to go out to dinner without getting a babysitter. The freedom to go to movies we wanted to see instead of family movies. Just as we were emerging from the intensity of caring for young children, BAM! Diabetes became part of our lives, and my need to be at home became stronger than ever.
But a few weeks ago, as I was walking into a restaurant with my family, I got an invitation to attend an upcoming diabetes advocacy conference. I knew right away that I wanted to go, but still I hesitated. I responded that I needed to check with my family. My oldest is in college and my husband is out of town during the week. Who would be on diabetes duty? My brain was racing, trying to figure out how I could make this trip happen, and not feel like I was somehow being negligent.
“I have a chance to go to a diabetes conference in California,” the words spilled out of me as soon as the waitress left our table.
I looked around at my family. They were all smiling, and telling me what a great opportunity it was. Not a bit of hesitation from them. Right then and there we started working on a plan that would enable me to travel without diabetes-related guilt.
Ultimately, we decided to reach out to our “village”. We asked a friend if Kate could stay with her the night before her trip to Memphis. And the answer was, “Of course she can.”
Then I kicked into organization/planning mode. I got Kate insulin pens to take with her in case of pump failure. I created an in case of emergency file for my husband and mother that contains all our medical information, upcoming doctors’ appointments, insurance cards, etc. I put all the knowledge that’s in my head and on my messy desk into something anyone could use. I have stressed adequately. But I’ve also had fun buying new clothes for the trip, and planning to squeeze in a brief visit with a dear friend. I am nervous, but also excited. I am excited to learn more about what’s on the horizon in terms of diabetes management tools, and to meet more people who are passionate about making the lives of those living with diabetes even better. I am excited about sharing what I learn with you all.
I keep reminding myself that Kate is 16 now. She will be getting her driver’s license soon. Next year, she will begin the college search process. She will be following her dreams, which is exactly what I want her to do.
After five years of being tied to diabetes 24/7, I realize it is time for me to give myself permission to follow my own dreams again. If I don’t let diabetes be an excuse for Kate, I shouldn’t let it be an excuse for me.