A Dad’s Letter to Type One
Dear Type 1 diabetes,
You came into our life quickly and unexpectedly a few years ago when Isabella, our then 2-year-old daughter, was rushed to the hospital. As you know, she spent four days in the hospital getting poked and prodded and pumped full of insulin. My wife and I sat there with tears in our eyes, our hearts aching with sadness and our minds filled with worry of what our future would look like once we left that hospital room.
Before that trip to the hospital, we knew absolutely nothing about you. We also didn’t know that you had probably been around for awhile. The signs we noticed in the weeks leading up to that life-changing hospital visit—extreme thirst, constant urination, weight loss—were surely completely normal for a growing and healthy 2-year-old girl. But, we learned that those symptoms were the result of your hard work to destroy our daughter’s pancreas.
We were scared and, truthfully, we despised you. We wanted to completely erase our memories of you. How could you do this to our daughter? Why us? Why now?
We realized those questions would unfortunately never be answered. We immediately made a very conscious decision to accept our new reality. We made that decision while sitting right there in that dimly lit hospital room, filled with beeping machines, nurses and doctors. As hard as it was, we accepted that you would now be around every minute of every day for the rest of our daughter’s life. And we also accepted that there was nothing we could do to change that. Letting go was not easy but, completely necessary. That decision meant that we had to accept our new reality, which now included you as the sixth member of our already very busy household.
And that was the beginning of our new life with you. Our lives will never be the same. We now count every carb that Isabella eats. We prick her finger to check her blood sugar level up to 10 times per day. We’ve learned to give her precise amounts of insulin in an attempt to keep her blood glucose in the proper range—a constant battle that has fortunately ended in only one emergency visit to the hospital.
As much as I try not to, I spend a good portion of my time thinking about you. You are one of the very first things I think of when I wake up in the morning and usually the very last thing I think of when I go to sleep at night. I’m often awake multiple times in the middle of the night due to high or low blood glucose levels. I actually can’t remember the last night I slept through the entire night.
My wife and I have learned to operate on very little sleep, although she has certainly mastered this skill much better than I have. The truth is I’m extremely tired most days, thanks to you. As a result, my patience is low and my stress level is high.
I hate that since you came into our lives, my 4-year-old daughter has to be connected to all of these medical devices and throws completely out of character temper tantrums for no apparent reason other than the fact you decided to screw with her emotions.
It makes me both angry and sad that Isa has had to deal with so much at such a young age. And as she gets older, I am scared that other kids will make fun of her for being “different” and she’ll come home crying. I know this day will come and I hope and pray that I can say the right things to make her smile and make everything better, even if only for that one moment.
It may seem that you have won. It may appear that you have beaten me down into despair. You may be reading this with a sinister grin on your face as you envision me spending my days crying and living in fear of what may happen next.
I can assure you that couldn’t be further from the truth. My family learned how to successfully deal with challenges long before you came along. And we always overcome….always. You have not won and trust me when I say that I won’t let you win.
While I wish we’d never met you, our lives are perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing. My family laughs and smiles every single day, even with you lurking in the dark shadows. We have learned to roll with the punches and adapt to whatever is thrown our way. We are extremely resilient.
I am so proud of how Isa deals with all of these obstacles and does so with a smile on her beautiful little face. I am in awe of her strength and courage. Isabella is one of the strongest and most courageous people I know. I’m so proud that she inspires others with her story (even though she may not even know it!).
When Isabella was diagnosed, we decided to accept you and let go of what we can’t change. But, we also decided that we would fight for Isabella and all those living with type 1 diabetes! So, for the past two and a half years, we have done exactly that. We do everything we can to raise awareness (including sharing Isabella’s story with anyone that will listen!) and raise funds to support diabetes research. And we won’t stop.
While we still wish we never heard of you, we also want to thank you. You must have come into our lives for a reason. In some strange way, you inspired us to make a difference and play a small role in changing the world.