Why have I become so involved in promoting awareness about type 1 diabetes? The answer is pretty obvious. I have a child with type 1 diabetes. But that’s just the short answer.
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I haven’t always had a child with diabetes. I was a lucky mom, giving birth to two healthy, beautiful babies with no issues whatsoever. They both grew and developed normally, breast fed like little pros and to this day are incredibly bright little people bubbling with personality. My husband and I have provided a clean living environment with fresh, healthy, often organic, home-cooked meals for them daily. Generally speaking, they have had a pretty darn good start in life. And for the first two years of Jenna’s life things cruised along smoothly...until sometime shortly after her second birthday when the symptoms began to manifest.
The first thing I noticed was the increased wetting. Jenna was still wearing diapers but had begun the potty training process. She was at the stage where she would awaken dry some mornings and if I caught her in time I could sit her on the potty and she would go. But the increased wetting made the mornings of her waking with a dry diaper grow less frequent. Then it escalated to the point where her toddler pull-up nighttime diaper couldn’t hold the amount of urine and I was often having to change wet crib sheets. I became mildly concerned at this point but thought it was likely just a growth spurt. Her bladder was just holding more urine and she wasn’t adapting quickly enough.
The next symptom was the thirst. This is no ordinary thirst. At first I rationalized that she was getting over a virus and was naturally replacing fluids. But this thirst was the kind that would cause her to awaken in the middle of the night and cry out in desperation, Mommy! Water! I would go into her room and hand her a sippy of water which she would promptly down. I instinctively knew not to restrict her water intake. I knew she needed it even though she hadn’t yet been diagnosed. But being a nurse I also knew these tell-tale symptoms. I suspected at this point that she had diabetes. But I went through a short phase of denial. I couldn’t believe a child of mine could develop type 1 diabetes. It didn’t run in our family. I didn’t want to be a paranoid mother.
The clincher was when Jenna’s energy level became markedly reduced. This was also the most heartbreaking symptom for me precipitating a moment of gut-wrenching realization. I remember watching my girls play in the living room one day while I cleaned up the breakfast dishes. Jaz was wanting Jenna to skip with her around the couch which sits in the middle of our open concept great room. I watched Jenna’s face as she tried to will her little body to skip with her big sister. I watched as Jenna quickly became defeated and exhausted. She no longer had the strength to play and run with her sister. I new I had to take her in to see a doctor to rule out diabetes. I so badly wanted to RULE IT OUT. I didn’t want her to have it. But I knew she did.
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I’ve become increasingly aware of the fact that this autoimmune disease is on the rise. Lately I've noticed that by chance in my daily life I am encountering more people than ever before who have been personally affected by type 1 diabetes, whether they have it themselves or they are the parents or grandparents of a diabetic child. It is estimated that by 2020 the incidence of type 1 diabetes in children under the age of 5 will double. DOUBLE! This is a staggering projection that makes my heart ache and my eyes well up. Something must be done.
So back to my original question: Why have I become so involved in promoting awareness? It is because I must believe that Jenna's future is a bright one. I must believe that just as I am working tirelessly, day and night to manage Jenna's blood sugars, there are smart, caring people out there working tirelessly for improved treatments or better yet a cure for my baby and every other child with type 1 diabetes. I must believe that the only thing standing between my daughter and her cure is a lack of money. And I will believe that until a cure is found or I breath my last breath.
I have no choice.