Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Diabetes: A Family Affair

Diabetes is without a doubt a family disease. It affects us all. And lately it has become necessary for me to examine what impact its presence has had on my oldest, non-diabetic daughter.

Jazmine has had a multitude of somatic complaints lately and has, indeed, been rather preoccupied with her physical well-being. Usually I'm quite rational and can weed out the serious complaints from the innocuous grumbling. But certain specific complaints have been repeated enough times that I felt it warranted a visit to the doc to rule out any problems.

The doctor that saw her was the same one that was somewhat dismissive of my concerns about Jenna's symptoms almost a year ago. He downplayed my fears that Jenna was displaying signs of type 1 diabetes and reluctantly wrote a requisition for blood work, telling me during a late Friday afternoon appointment that there was no rush and I could wait until the following Monday to have it done. He also denied my request to have Jenna checked in his office with a glucometer, stating he "...didn't want her to hate him." After a very long weekend of waiting, it was discovered that Jenna's blood sugar was in the mid 40's and we were in the emergency department that following Monday night with a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

So in light of our unfortunate history with this otherwise kind and attentive physician, it isn't surprising that he aired on the side of caution this time and ordered a visit to an opthamologist when Jazmine reported vision problems; specifically, she stated that "...things look far away." When I questioned her at home about this she would be vague and unable to elaborate. She had no headaches, nor trouble seeing clearly (I conducted my own little visual acuity test to discern this) and her peripheral vision seemed fine. My mommy gut told me it was nothing to be concerned about and I wasn't even going to mention it during this visit. My focus was on her complaints of tummy aches upon drinking milk which had me thinking she had a legitimate intolerance to lactose. But while Jazmine had the medical spotlight she took the opportunity to itemize her entire list of perceived deficiencies.

Today was her opthamologist appointment. Jazmine was almost giddy with excitement when we drove into the parking lot, running up the walkway ahead of me and entering the building without a moment's hesitation. I was told she would have to have dilating drops instilled in her eyes during this exam. From my own experience I know these drops are stingers. And the temporary visual disturbance that follows is mildly unpleasant. If Jazmine was merely seeking the same attention she sees her little sister getting in relation to her diabetes management, I couldn't help but wonder if this experience would quell that desire in the future. Jazmine did find the drops painful and was not at all happy with the resulting blurry vision. She even vocalized her regret over being excited about the appointment. And as for Jenna, she was only too happy to be a bystander this time instead of the focus of attention.

As I suspected, Jazmine's eyes are fine. I had a little talk with the opthamologist about the possibility that Jazmine may be going through a coping stage with regards to her younger sister's chronic condition. He agreed that that was a strong possibility and is, in fact quite common among siblings in similar situations.

I realize children have different perspectives and the way they perceive and cope can be difficult for adults to relate to given that we are so far removed from that stage of our lives. I also understand that witnessing what Jenna has had to endure this past year must have been difficult for Jazmine. She is incredibly sensitive and when she feels a feeling, she really FEELS it. I used to be very accommodating and understanding of Jazmine's sensitivity, back when I still had time to be. But life for me is much different now. As much as I strive to be organized and prepared I, nevertheless, find the demands of daily life to be overwhelming at times. I often barely have time to attend to my most basic of needs in a timely fashion. So it was a challenge for me to be patient and understanding with this whole process of allowing Jazmine her need for attention. I had numerous short-tempered moments throughout the course of the day today. I struggled to remain calm while I attempted to corral two lively and excited little girls in a waiting room full of elderly people. And when, while we were waiting to be seen by the doctor, my girls suddenly decided they had to satisfy their curiosity and visit the bathroom only to announce once we had all paraded into said bathroom that neither of them had to go after all... well... suffice to say those elderly people in the waiting room may have been a reluctant audience to my rather loud lecture about not enjoying being in a public restroom for no good reason. This was all a big, exciting adventure for my girls. But for me, it meant having to take time out of an already busy day to humour a little girl's desire for attention.

I have always worked at being sensitive to Jazmine's needs in relation to the attention Jenna requires for proper management of her diabetes. And I have worked hard at avoiding focusing too much on Jenna's diabetes. I never refer to Jenna as being "sick" because she's not; quite the opposite. I never use her diabetes as an excuse for Jenna receiving special treatment and I try to be careful not to blame the reason for Jazmine being denied something she wants on Jenna having diabetes. But in spite of these efforts, I think Jazmine is still working through some emotions related to having a sibling with greater than average needs.

Jazmine has been taking enzyme tablets with each serving of milk as a result of her initial doctor's appointment which appears to be helping ease the gastric distress she was having. She seems to be enjoying having a medical requirement prior to meals, much like Jenna has with requiring blood sugar checks. And even though at times I discretely roll my eyes when she makes big production of bringing it to my attention if her lactose enzyme pill doesn't accompany her glass of milk at meal times...

"Oh NO! My pill! Mom, you forgot my pill!"

"Oh that's right. Hold on... there you go. Now you can drink your milk."

"Thanks Mom."

...I respect her need to have a little special treatment of her own.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Travel Trepidation

I'm a homebody. I like my routine, my bed, my kitchen, my way of cooking... and in eight weeks I'll be packing enough personal "stuff" for myself and my girls for ten days away from home, boarding a plane (not a fan of flying... AT ALL) and flying 5 hours to Ontario for a long overdue visit with my family. And I'm fighting the anxiety that is increasing almost exponentially with each passing day.

The thing that really has me in knots is the fear of forgetting something crucial in relation to Jenna's diabetes management. This disease requires lots of paraphernalia to stay on top of things and I'm fearful that I'll be on that plane as it taxis down the runway moments away from becoming airborne and suddenly have the sickening realization that I've forgotten something HUGE! It's a bit silly, mind you, because anyone who knows me knows I'm the queen of organization and I'm not at all above employing an arsenal of safe-guards in an effort to prevent just such a disaster. But I'm also playing the "what if" game. What if she gets sick? What if the travel causes her numbers to do something CRAZY? What if I drop and break her only bottle of insulin? What if... what if... what if...

I am working at trying to relax about it all by reminding myself that I seldom get to see my family and all this worrying is going to detract from my enjoyment of the occasion. But in my defense, I have spent nearly a year working constantly at trying to maintain control over a disease that never sleeps and is determined not to be controlled and having to continue that battle while adding even MORE variables to the mix (as if there aren't enough already), i.e. new routine and surroundings, time change, possible exposure to pathogens, new diet, etc. scares the crap out of me!

I sincerely hope I can come to terms with this and not let it cast a dark shadow over the whole experience. Because that will effect how my girls perceive things and I want them to have a positive, fun visit with my side of our family; the side they hardly know.

My own Mom hasn't even met Jenna yet! And that's just wrong.

Friday, May 1, 2009

My Junior Gardeners

OK. So I've been gardening my ass off these past few weeks and I'm more addicted than ever to playing in dirt! If it weren't for my horrible allergies this year, I'd be in a state of nirvana, I'm sure. My goal is to turn my girls on to vegetables the same way I was; by getting them involved in the growing of vegetables, then enjoying the fruits (or vegetables) of their labour mere moments after the veggies have been picked... and I'm optimistic that it's going to work. I grew up in a more rural setting and worked on farms from a young age, picking tomatoes, peppers, beans, etc. It was hard work but I developed a taste for ultra fresh, raw vegetables, as a result of some routine, necessary quality control testing that I conducted while toiling away in the fields (*wink*.) You'd be hard pressed to find a vegetable I don't like.

Jaz and Jenna aren't huge fans of cooked vegetables. But let me place a plate of raw, assorted gems like cherry tomatoes, crisp, sweet carrots, even broccoli and cauliflower in front of them and they just light up. Finger foods are almost always a hit with little people. So if it's raw veggies they want, raw veggies is what they'll get! And since all these veggies are in essence free foods, I can let Jenna fill her boots. It's such a win-win situation.

So I'm out there everyday checking our veggie patch to see what is emerging from the soil and I make sure my girls are right there beside me to watch the magic happen. They seem to be loving the whole experience! However, the curiosity and lack of patience that a three and five year old possess is making it necessary for me to explain almost everyday why they can't pull up a radish or carrot just yet since the earth isn't finished making it. I'm just hoping we have something to harvest this summer before curiosity gets the better of them!