Taking Care of My Diabetes and My Family

I was extremely honoured to be asked to speak about "Looking after my family and my diabetes" at the Diabetes Ireland National Diabetes workshops and exhibition last November. I was one of three speakers who were asked to talk about their lives with Type 1 Diabetes.

Brian spoke about his love of running which has developed into a love of Triathlons. Brian was diagnosed 4 years ago and only took up running as a way to help manage his type 1 diabetes.

Niamh spoke about her recent inter railing trip across Europe and how she planned for it and managed her type 1 diabetes during it.

Both speakers did a fantastic job.

This was my presentation;

I have lived 22 years with Type 1 diabetes. And in those 22 years, I have been lucky enough to meet my soul mate and marry him. In 2002, we moved abroad, where I went back to college as a mature student. While a student I had my first child who is now 11. 

In 2005, we moved back home to Ireland and I had my second child now 8. This is when I became a stay at home mum.

Both of my children are now in primary school, and I dabble a little bit in freelance graphic design as well as volunteering with Diabetes Ireland as much as I can.

Looking after my family means looking after me first.
I believe that I need to look after my diabetes before anything, or anyone else, first. I feel I need to do it this way otherwise I won’t be able to look after my family. My family is more important to me than life itself and that's why I put them second.

That's probably not what I'm supposed to say and It probably sounds selfish that my family, especially my children, are not an absolute first, but let me explain.

I had this realisation one day when I was having a hypo while I was feeding Ciara, who was an infant, at the time, I realised that I didn't have any glucose handy. So, I had to put her lunch on pause for which she was not happy about and go find some glucose in the kitchen. I realised then that all our lives would be so much easier if I was more organised with my diabetes first and baby second. Once through "Itsy, Bitsy Spider" is all I would need to grab my glucose meter and a glass of juice before I sat down to feed her.

Another time, she was screaming for her next meal and I knew I needed to test my blood sugars because I was feeling a bit low. My options were that I could pick her up and try to test while holding her, which was going to be tricky if she continued to scream and wriggle. Or, I could let her cry for less than 2 minutes longer, test quicker but feed sooner.
Awful photo of me. But I was just out of
hospital & malnourished.

It was very difficult not to pick up my screaming hungry baby. But I felt I was safer not to, and so was she. What if I did pick her up and then collapsed on top of her?

Putting me and my diabetes first has gotten easier as my children have grown. Now,at least, I can explain to them what’s happening and they understand that sometimes the fun has to go on pause while I check my blood sugars just like it does when they have to go to the bathroom.

They also ask me questions about my diabetes and we talk about why we all eat healthy foods in our home.

It takes a village to raise a child!

But I don’t take care of me or my family all by myself. There are other people in my life who help me do all that I need to do to take care of us.

I have a good medical team. I moved around a bit over the years and so have had a number of healthcare teams. And I know now, that the health care professionals I am most successful with are the people who ask how I'm doing before we launch into the medical stuff. The people that I don't mind showing warts and all to. Meaning that when I'm struggling with my diabetes or just life in general, that I don’t mind admitting to it and asking for help. The people who actually consider me to be part of my team and my input valuable.
And "No!" we are not
always that sickening.

I have a great team mate. My hubby is the best parenting team mate I could have ever asked for. I couldn't do either family life or diabetes management well without him. He recognises the times of chaos in our house and steps up to ease that chaos. He often has a look at my record book to help me figure out patterns. And he wants to know as much about diabetes management as I do. It may be my diabetes but my whole family lives with it, especially Phil. Whatever happens to me affects him hugely. And, I look forward to grand parenting with him, should I be lucky enough to be a grandparent.

I have MASSIVE Peer support. Peer support, for me, is one of the most important ways of how I try to manage my diabetes well. I attend a type 1 diabetes support group and subscribe to a number of diabetes Facebook groups because I need to have other people around me, who understand what it’s like to live with type 1 diabetes.

I recently watched a video of Kim Vlasnik from a blog called Texting my Pancreas. In the video she says "Peer to peer support fosters resilience and confidence. It turns our shared vulnerability into empowerment and we can gain strength from the place we normally feel weak”.

I definitely gain strength from my type 1 support group, I always leave those meetings feeling like it is possible to manage my diabetes well and that I'm not the only one who struggles with staying on top of it. There is definitely strength in numbers and the more people I know with diabetes the stronger I feel.

Because I'm worth it!

Taking care of my diabetes first, means my diabetes very seldom gets a chance to interfere with my family life and that my family has a wife and mother for as long as possible.
I take care of my diabetes because I feel that I deserve the right to not miss a second of it.