Before and After

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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.

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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 very same day the man who saved hers was born. Without insulin, our after would look much different. Allie Lou would not be alive today. Type 1 would have robbed us of our daughter. Considering this, I would say our after looks pretty darn good. We all know insulin is not a cure, and quite frankly it can be lethal with even the smallest miscalculation. But there is no denying it is keeping our loved ones with Type 1 diabetes alive. Instead of celebrating Allie Lou’s “Diaversary” on November 14th, we honor and celebrate Dr. Banting’s birthday. If Dr. Banting were alive today, I would throw him a birthday party like no other. I am pretty sure I would have hundreds of thousands of parents who would want to be on the party-planning committee.
Dr Banting and Dr. Best
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.

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Allie Lou Curran, 2015

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.

Written by, Sara Williams Curran
  • Terry Palmer

    Thank you for sharing your before and after story with us. Your daughter is a brave little girl that deserves to live a life free of pokes and injections .. and I pray that she will have that opportunity before too long. We have a slightly different “before and after” story. Ours is an “Adult” one. It’s rare ..but it happens sometimes and of course my husband had to be the exception to the rule. Dan was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 36 years old.. he went from no symptoms one week – to not being able to see clearly, being unreasonable, in other words..being a someone I didn’t recognize .. his demeanor and temperament were way out of whack. I told him I was making an appointment for him to see a doctor and he reluctantly agreed. Our before day was Valentines day 1982…and he slept most of that day as he wasn’t feeling well.. our “after” day was February 15th 1982. I drove him to the doctors office for an exam .. the doctor did a cursory exam then told him he was making an appointment for an eye exam as he didn’t see any obvious problems…. My husband went a bit nuts .. and told him he had “white outs” and didn’t think it was anything to do with his eyes.. he asked the doctor to check his blood for something else…. and reluctantly the doctor had his nurse do a blood draw and told us he’d let us know the results the next day and to go home… a few hours later the doctor called me in a panic.. “get him to the hospital NOW!” he said..apparently they didn’t think they did the test right but wanted to be sure.. as his blood sugar was well over 800…the doctor said if the test was right Dan might go into a coma – he needed insulin right away…. the rest is history. I need to mention here that my husband Dan has trypanophobia in other words he is “needlephobic” and always has been.. he fainted when they went to take blood for our marriage licence back in 1966… so for the 1st few years I had to give him all his shots! He still sweats at the sight of needles..but has of course stopped fainting. It’s been 35 years now, and Dan’s approaching 70…he has a state of the art Insulin pump and is careful about what he eats. He ALWAYS wears shoes…but has all his limbs and digits. He has lost the feeling in both feet and some of his right leg, has peripheral neuropathy pain, and a few other side effects…but still walks unassisted, travels extensively, and participates fully in life. Our life has been a bit of a roller coaster as far as his diabetes goes.. but his spirit is strong and his will to “live life fully” has given us our appreciation of our family, our lives, and of the gift of modern medical advances. We hope to live long enough for a permanent cure to be found. So our “before” was Dan’s 1st 36 years of life without diabetes and our “After” has been the last 33 years with it. Life has been good to us after all. I will pray for your little girl and for a cure to be found soon.

    • Sara

      Hi Terry, Thank you for sharing your story with us. What an inspiration you and Dan are to others. I am so sorry to hear he is suffering long term complications from T1D, but I am full of hope and admiration knowing he continues living a robust life. He is so fortunate to have you for his caretaker. Love is stronger than Type 1 diabetes!! :)

    • Kathie Cannon

      Terry, this is Kathie Cannon. Are you Terry, formerly with IBM? If so, my email is kscannon@hotmail.com. would love to be in touch with you.
      :-)

  • Jen Tom

    Fell in love with Allie Lou all over again reading this. You’re an amazing mom raising an amazing little girl. Someday, you two will move mountains. 🌄

    • Sara

      Hi Jen, Wow. I am so touched by your comment. I sure hope we can move mountains. It is the support we receive from people just like you that keep us feeling strong and powerful. Thank you- you just made my day! Love, Sara

  • Huong Tong Khawja

    Sara…Im so grateful for your blogs(read the back to school one as well). Thank you for putting into words everything I feel on a daily basis about t1d. You and Allie Lou are in inspiration!!! Seriously wish we had some leaf and love here with us in Vietnam:)

    • Sara

      Hi Huong! Thank you so much for your kind words. :) So exciting you DID it—you are in Vietnam! Wow! Hope homeschooling, T1D and life in Vietnam is amazing. We will have Leaf & Love waiting for you upon your return. 😉 Lots of love to you and your family~ Sara