Saturday, November 14th is World Diabetes Day and we’ve partnered with the amazing new organization, Beyond Type 1. Beyond Type 1 seeks to bring a new level of respect, understanding and support for those living with type 1 diabetes. Their goal is to highlight the brilliance of those fighting this disease every day while always working toward ensuring a cure is on its way.
In honor of World Diabetes Day, Leaf & Love® co-founder Sara Williams Curran shares with Beyond Type 1 how her daughter’s diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes has changed her life forever. Read the post on their website or below.
Before and After
Life is often measured by “before and after” moments: weight loss, marriage, kitchen remodels. Usually the “after” is better than the “before.” So what happens in the “after” of a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis?
For me, our after began on November 14, 2012- the day my then three-year-old daughter, Allie Lou, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I remember being in the hospital madly Googling Type 1 Diabetes and I kept reading that it was World Diabetes Day. I was confused…could it really be that she was diagnosed on the one day out of the year dedicated to diabetes awareness? I had no idea what a “Diaversary” was and that hers would fall on World Diabetes Day for the rest of her life. What a strange fate.
I yearned for our life before diabetes took hold of our family on November 14. I look at photos taken before Allie Lou’s diagnosis and pine for those days. I get teary thinking how innocent she was and how pure and untouched her skin was. No pricks, no shots, no blood draws, no tears. Food was easy: never measured and calculated. In our after I know there is a real risk that each day our daughter could end up in the ICU from this disease or worse: she could die. In our before we all simply tucked ourselves into bed at night to greet the morning sun. In our after, my husband and I are usually up around-the-clock checking blood sugar, giving insulin or glucose. A full night’s rest is definitely not in our after. Our life before was carefree and spontaneous.
I have one particular photo taken the day before Allie Lou was sent to Children’s Hospital Oakland. She is swinging in our local park, full of life and I can see her baby brother’s leg dangling from the swing next to her. I can still hear her squeals of excitement and her rosy cheeks blushed from the crisp fall air. For a long time I would study the picture. Look at her silky curls, her scrunched up nose. Wondering what her blood sugar was at the time I took that photo. Looking for signs of the disease that had already invaded her little body. It still seems unbelievable to me that she would be in an ambulance the very next day. That photograph haunts me. In fact, I tucked it away because I couldn’t bear to look at it. It made me thirst for our life before.
Fast forward three years, and here we are. November 14, 2015. I cannot lie. I still long for our before, but on most days I feel like our life has gotten closer to normal. My heart still aches that Allie Lou is poked and prodded daily and that she has two medical devises inserted on her tender body. Her food must be calculated and she simply cannot live one day without careful planning to combat the short and long term risks associated with Type 1 diabetes. But our “new normal” has settled in and we have moved forward with our lives.
Recently we went to pick up her friend to carpool to a birthday party. Upon leaving our home, I changed Allie Lou’s pump, packed up all of our medical gear and snacks. I felt proud that we were ready to conquer the birthday party and all that it would entail. Upon arriving to pick up her friend, it felt like I was struck by a boulder when her friend simply skipped down her front steps. No medical bags. No devices on her body. And no special snacks. It reminded me that our “new normal” is not so normal, after all.
Although I cannot say our after is better than our before, I have found our after has taught me some of life’s greatest lessons. Our after forces me to slow down. I have a deep sense of gratitude for my own health and wish to preserve it now more than ever. I have become stronger and more responsible for my actions. My husband and I have become a unified team as we work together through the long nights, adjusting her insulin, giving her glucose, and changing sites. In our after I have learned more about health and nutrition. In our after I have met some of the strongest and bravest T1D kids and parents. We have an immediate unspoken language and bond. We understand each other in a way no one else can. As we know, Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease not caused by diet. However, the moment we came home from the hospital I made it my mission to learn as much as I could about health and wellness and to provide my family with a robust and clean diet. In our before, meal preparation often felt like a chore. Since my daughter was diagnosed I have fallen in love with cooking and baking healthy food for my family. In my after my friendships have changed. I want to cut to the chase to learn about other people’s triumphs and heartaches. Instead of just small-talk, I want to understand their human condition and the realities of their lives, just as I hope they’ll understand mine.
I am finally ready to look at the before picture of Allie Lou taken on November 13, 2012. I feel honored to share this treasured photo with you. I am sure I will still study her face and try to see if there were any clues how our life would change the next day. But I will also feel gratitude that she did not die from this disease. My heart is full of love for Dr. Fredrick Banting and Dr. Charles Best who discovered insulin in 1921. In fact, World Diabetes Day is celebrated on November 14th because it was Dr. Banting’s birthday. What once felt like a strange fate, now feels serendipitous that Allie Lou was given her life back on the
I will never know who Allie Lou would have been without Type 1 diabetes, but in our after I see before me a girl whose compassion, maturity and courage are light years ahead of her tender age of six. I think our after photograph perfectly captures Allie Lou’s spirit and strength.
My greatest wish in life is that we can have another “before” and “after” in our lifetime. It would be “before” there was a cure for Type 1 diabetes and “after” we were freed from this awful disease. Until then, I will live in our “after” with hope, purpose, and gratitude.