This is Where You Come In

Every single day is a new struggle. . .

It’s been almost six years since Kelsey was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, also known as Juvenile Diabetes, or T1D for short. June 29, 2009. We’ve learned a lot in the past six years, plenty of things I wish we never had to learn.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish, or another parent that has a child with T1D doesn’t wish, that it could be me. Instead of your beautiful baby. You can wrap yourself up in asking “Why?”, “What did she do to deserve this?”, “When is it going to get easier?” I struggle constantly with those questions, even so many years later.

I also struggle with, and frequently get overwhelmed by, how little I seem to know about this disease and how to treat it. Many days, I’ll treat a high or low or ketones and second-guess myself – maybe I should have waited longer to give more carbs, maybe I should have given a different kind of carbs, maybe I gave too much insulin, I should’ve rechecked her blood sugar sooner, or later . . . After this long, shouldn’t we be experts? Shouldn’t we have it all down?

But, T1D doesn’t work that way. It’s not a one-size-fits-all disease. There are so many variables at play at any given moment that some days it seems like too much for anyone to comprehend. Kelsey’s case seems this way more so than many others. You see, in addition to being diagnosed with T1D when she was nine, she was also born without a spleen (congenital asplenia) and a heart murmur (that closed the Christmas after her first birthday), and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland) when she was in kindergarten.

Even with all these health issues, I strongly believe we can overcome this; we can fit diabetes around our lives and not the other way around. (BTW, I read a fantastic article about just this topic the other day. It’s a must-read for all families living with T1D.) This past week, though, has challenged me and our family, and my thought process.

We pushed Kelsey at the end of last year, along with the high school band instructor, to join marching band for the fall. Kelsey has been very reluctant for several reasons: 1) She is not athletic, and actually very clumsy, 2) She is really out of shape and worried about the physical demands (a whole other tangent I could go off on here!), and 3) She worries about her diabetes getting in the way – because she is out of shape and not athletic, exercise of any sort tends to stress her out, which leads to high blood sugars and ketones, and it’s a vicious cycle.

As predicted, all these worries have been realized and Kelsey has not participated in a complete practice since the term began and she has only performed in half a parade and no competitions. She has, and her fellow bandmates have, stressed herself out so much that she has fallen, tripped, been hit in the head, had extremely high blood sugars, ketones, and all the side effects – headaches, nausea, dizziness – and then we’ve dealt with the after-exercise low blood sugars that won’t come up no matter how much sugar we’ve shoved down her throat and how low we’ve turned her basal down.

A lot of it, I’m sure is self-fulfilling prophecy. She really didn’t want to take up marching band in the first place, she felt forced and cajoled – which she was. But we were hoping that, at some point, her fiery will and stubbornness would kick into overdrive and she would say “I’m going to get through this, I’m going to do my best, no matter what!” After all, to live with this disease, to really enjoy a long, healthy, and happy life, that is going to have to happen – she is going to have to show her diabetes that she is the boss, that it will not get in her way. So far, her fiery will and stubbornness have only served to make the situation as bad as it can possibly be – she didn’t want to do it and, by God, she’s not going to do it.

I’m at a loss. We’re at a loss. How can we help her get through this? And, maybe it’s not the marching band thing because I think we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that she needs to be fair to her bandmates and instructor and if she isn’t going to participate, she needs to quit (Oooo, that word makes my blood boil!) so the band can move on. But, we have to help her realize that she is stronger than this disease and she cannot use it as an excuse to avoid life. She has to fight.

And This Is Where You Come In. . . Part of the reason I started this blog is to reach out to other parents to say “This is what we’re going through – how did you handle it?” and “This is what we did when this happen and it worked. We hope it helps you.” So, have you gone through this? What worked for you? What didn’t? Please share your advice in the comments & thanx!


This Is Where We Introduce Ourselves

Hello, My Name Is. . .

Lee K. Vandenberg. I am a 47-year-old wife and mother of two beautiful, polite, respectful girls.

My husband, Chuck, and I have been married for 22 years. Most times I’m sure the credit for that goes to him. He’s put up with a lot from this fiery, red-headed Italian-Cherokee mutt.

Our girls are now 22 and 15. I feel pretty confident that my “mom”┬áskills are extremely superior to my “wife”┬áskills. I’m so proud of the young women they’ve turned out to be and the relationship I am able to have with them.

We’re a pretty average family living in rural Iowa. We work hard, eat dinner together, play board games, go to the movies, all that jazz.

Things are rarely as they seem, though. For all the good we have in our little family, the universe had to put the smackdown somewhere to balance things out.

That came in the form of constant health struggles. Chuck has had anxiety issues and some episodes of atrial fib; Taylor inherited his anxious nature and battled anxiety attacks for a few years, although she’s gotten a pretty good handle on them; and I’ve lived with asthma, migraines, and hypothyroidism since childhood.

As long as our list seems, it pales in comparison to Kelsey’s. She has definitely drawn the short straw: born with a heart murmur (which, thankfully, closed the Christmas after her first birthday) which led to the discovery of congenital asplenia [she was born without a spleen (more on that later)], hypothyroidism hit during kindergarten, and then, the summer before her 10th birthday, the granddaddy of them all – she was diagnosed with Type 1 (Juvenile) Diabetes.

It has been a long six years, full of worrying, long nights, high blood sugars, low blood sugars, ketones, sick days, doctor visits, . . . It can all be so extremely overwhelming.

And that is what has brought me to WordPress – the hope that sharing what we’ve learned, what we’ve experienced, what we’re still learning, can help other families living with T1D; and the hope to connect to others and learn from them, as well – until a cure is found.