But then during an exchange with a friend on Twitter I was reminded of an incredibly important aspect of being the sibling of a child with diabetes: they are just as much in need of support and understanding as their brothers and sisters with diabetes, particularly in the weeks and months following diagnosis.
Jazmine was only four when Jenna was diagnosed at the age of two. That’s the same age as Jenna is now. When Jenna came home after a four day stay in hospital Jazmine witnessed her sister having to endure finger sticks 6 to 8 times a day and insulin injections 3 to 4 times a day. Not surprisingly, Jenna was fearful of each needle stick and would cry. While I concentrated on helping Jenna endure these relentless physical trials, Jazmine was going through an emotional trial of her own. It was frightening for her too.
Numerous times Jazmine would run into her room crying, unable to cope with her sister’s distress. I recall feeling so torn at times. Jazmine would often have to go without my hugs and words of comfort for longer than I would have liked while I assisted Jenna.
On one occasion, when I was finally able to attend to Jazmine’s needs I explained to her that Jenna needed us to be brave to help her find her bravery. I told Jazmine that she could help Jenna cope by offering her encouragement. Jazmine needed to be involved. She needed to be a part of it all in some capacity. And really, Jenna needed her to be a part of it too. I told Jazmine that she could be so helpful if she could find a way to cheer Jenna on.
And that’s just what my then four year old little girl did. From that day on, Jazmine conquered her own fears and found her bravery to help her little sister find hers. Jazmine found it in herself to stay by Jenna’s side when Jenna became fearful. She offered comfort and reassurance and was always ready with praise when Jenna endured a frightening procedure. Such a selfless act by a child so young is truly incredible.
My point is that it is too easy to overlook the needs of our non-diabetic children. We get immersed in the daily management of diabetes, especially in the weeks after diagnosis. We can forget that they too are scared and need support, education, involvement, encouragement, comfort...
It’s been said many times before but it’s worth repeating here: Diabetes affects the whole family, not just the pancreatically challenged. Often the siblings are young children who need to be shown how they fit in to this whole diabetes business. If we can include them, everyone benefits.
So in honour of Jazmine, we are going to do something we rarely do but always enjoy when we do it; we are going to the movies. We are going to buy massive quantities of overpriced popcorn and watch the 3-D version of that new Disney animated movie - Tangled.
When I told Jazmine our plans for the day her eyes lit up and her jaw dropped! She couldn’t wait to go tell her sister - her best friend. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate and honour Jazmine than doing something fun together, as a family.
After all, that’s what it’s all about - Family. And nothing is more important than that.