As many of you know, this is diabetes month. I haven’t written anything particular to honor the occasion. For as a poster declares outside of Central train station in Amsterdam, “For people with diabetes every day is diabetes day.”
But I came across this video and found I had to pay tribute this month to a group of unsung diabetes heroes — the parents of children with Type 1 diabetes.
Megan, mother of Lincoln and Leland, who each got diabetes two months apart at nearly a year old, created this video to help clear up the many misconceptions about Type 1 diabetes. “I wanted to make people aware. I hoped my twins were cute enough that people would watch,” said Megan. I hope so too.
My friend Tom Karlya devoted his professional career and life to diabetes after his daughter Kaitlyn got Type 1 at age 2. At 13 his son Rob was diagnosed.
“I knew a parent,” Tom told me, “whose child had cancer. “Tom,” she said, “my child is going to win or lose with her cancer. But I could not go to bed every night for the rest of my life thinking, even if it’s the smallest chance, that my child might not wake up the next day. I could not be the parent of a child with diabetes.”
Three months ago, a family friend of mine in California, heard her 8-year-old daughter has Type 1 diabetes. I felt her desperation, stumbling to learn, worry, anxiety and hope for a cure radiate across the country; she was a whirling dervish and stun-gunned at the same time.
Megan’s biggest concern echoes the sentiment of the woman whose child had cancer. “The worst part is I’m constantly worried I may miss one thing, like an overnight blood sugar check, and something terrible will happen.” This is the fabric of everyday life for a parent whose child has diabetes.
To all the mothers and fathers whose hearts haven’t beat quite the same since their child’s diagnosis, whose eyes haven’t closed through the night because of 2, 3 and 4 a.m. blood sugar checks, who have to sit on their 2-year-old to hold them down while pricking their toe to get blood or give them one of their six shots a day, who text their child 11 times when they go on a class trip to keep them healthy and alive, I pay homage.
It is these parents who created the preeminent research organization JDRF and Children With Diabetes. It is Leona Helmsley’s grandson who is using the charitable trust he inherited to fund clinical research, the innovative social media and research-gathering site, Glu, and a myriad of other projects looking for a cure for his daughter.
It is the father of a perfect and beautiful 17-year-old who did die overnight in her bed of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), who established the Stacy Joy Goodman Memorial Foundation that funds cure work by the renown Diabetes Research Institute.
Megan also made this video because she wanted to share hope with other parents. “I tell my boys,” Megan said, “you can do anything, and diabetes may be your way to change the world for the better.”
Some of us search our whole lives for purpose. Some of us have purpose thrust upon us. Any parent of a child with an illness finds life changed. It’s ironic while their empathy usually expands, we fail to even notice them.
If you have a child with Type 1 diabetes you didn’t cause it and there is no cure, but there’s a great deal of activity toward finding one.
For parents whose child is newly diagnosed, Megan offers to learn everything you can, meet other parents, get involved and know you and your child will come through this.
To all the Lincolns, Lelands, Kaitlyns, Robs, Danis, Stacys, Marissas and Morgans, to every child with diabetes, may you grow up to be healthy and happy, and as so many have told me, look back and see something beneficial diabetes has given you.
To the unsung heroes, parents of children with Type 1 diabetes, living unseen double lives, thank you.
For blogs written by parents of children with diabetes, click here.
Originally published in The Huffington Post.