“Look mom, a good blood sugar number!”
I was standing, lost in thought, at the counter at the pharmacy waiting for the pharmacist to fill my T1 daughter’s prescription. My non-T1 daughter was standing beside me. When I announced earlier that I needed to make this trip, she wanted to come with me. And now her bright voice interrupted my thoughts and brought me back to reality.
I looked at the serious face of my 9-year-old daughter.
“I’m sorry darling, what?”
She was looking up at me with her finger pointing at something beneath the counter.
“Come look here, Mom. It is a good number,” she said impatiently.
“We don’t talk about ‘good’ numbers, remember.” I bent down to look at what she was pointing at. “We rather …”
“I know, but look!” she interrupted me.
It was then that I noticed the steel bracket supporting the countertop. There was a product code engraved on the support bracket. And just below the code there it was: “5.1.”
A steel bracket with an engraved code was all it took to route her mind to diabetes. For her the “5.1” naturally translated into 5.1mmol/L (92mg/dl).
My eyes found hers and I smiled.
“Yes darling, you’re right. It certainly is a very good blood sugar number.”
“Mom, we don’t talk about ‘good’ numbers, remember.”
I laughed. “Yeah.”
She was 8 years old when her eldest sister, who was 11 at the time, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2015. It has been almost two and half years since that fateful day — and just a little over a year since our moment in the pharmacy.
It is said that when a child is diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes it is like the whole family is “diagnosed” with T1D. How true that is. No one in our family of four has been shielded from the impact of this incurable, high maintenance, autoimmune disease. Even our non-T1 daughter did not escape the repercussions of diabetes.
She speaks a language stained with medical jargon.
She knows what the symptoms of low blood sugars look like.
She has fed her sleeping sister glucotabs during nighttime episodes of hypoglycemia.
She accurately educates about T1D whenever she is confronted with ignorance and misconceptions.
She has voluntarily accompanied her sister to countless endocrinologist appointments despite her admitting to being bored out of her mind when she’s there …
She is well experienced in how her own needs take a backseat for awhile when an episode of hypoglycemia shows its face.
She has heard the statement, “Your sister has Type 1 diabetes because she ate too much sugar,” multiple times over the past two and a half years. She continues to boldly slay that lie …
She knows what it is like to watch her sister devour sweets and juice but she is not having any.
She knows what mom and dad look like after a night of little sleep.
She knows how expensive this disease is.
She has experienced how life sometimes halts and stands still for a moment or two when diabetes throws us an unexpected curveball.
She is one of her sister’s biggest supporters. Every year on November 14, World Diabetes Day, she proudly wears her t-shirt with the following words on it: Keep calm, my sister rocks Type 1 Diabetes.
Despite her fear of needles (she can barely stand to look at needles let alone hold one in her hand) she has practiced with expired glucagon hypo kits and knows what to do in emergency situations. Her love for her sister, as well as her grasping of the seriousness of this disease, empowers her with bravery to face her fear of needles head on.
If you would ask her what her least favourite thing about T1D is she would tell you, without a moment’s hesitation, that it is when her sister’s blood sugars run high. She knows the altering effect high blood sugars have on moods and emotions, because she has had tons of experience in what it is like to be on the receiving end of hyper-caused-impatience, anger and bad moods …
The thing she finds most gross about this disease is when her sister licks the blood off her finger after she has checked her blood sugar.
She knows what it is like to desperately want to help her sister manage and control this disease, but can’t.
She has cried over diabetes.
She has experienced anger and frustration over T1D.
She understands that she doesn’t understand what her sister goes through on a daily basis.
She has been deeply affected by this disease on various levels.
She might only be the sister but her life changed, too, the day T1D waltzed into her older sister’s life. There is no denying that.
We will never truly know the impact T1D has had on her life, and how it has changed and shaped her. In the end it doesn’t matter really because it is what it is. Diabetes has been incorporated in her life and there is no escaping or running from it. It has enlarged her boundaries of empathy. It has made her grow up a little faster. It has introduced her to her advocating voice. It has made her stronger and braver, and more attentive to other’s needs.
I am so incredibly thankful to GOD for this daughter of ours. She truly is a blessing on so many levels.
She is the laugh and the giggle in our house. She is the funny one. She is the joy-giver and the hugger. She is a beautiful, vivacious and eccentric being. At the same time she is sensitive, caring and empathic. She is a paradox really! And our lives are greatly enriched and blessed because of who she is and who she is becoming.
She is the sibling of a T1 warrior. And then some.