I would never wish a diabetes diagnosis on anyone, especially a young child. However, my son was diagnosed with the disease at age 6, and if it was going to happen, there were some upsides to it.
My husband was diagnosed at age 25. The adjustment was really difficult for both of us. When our son was diagnosed, we were shocked and saddened, but we probably werenÂt as frightened as most parents would have been because we had been living with it for several years. Our sonÂs comment was that he thought he would be at least 10 before it happened. Was this a rite of passage for the men in our family?
The hospital stay was kind of fun Â he got to watch lots of TV and play Super Mario games, neither of which we had at home. We were lucky that we werenÂt afraid of the shots or blood tests, and neither was our son Â he actually came home from the hospital doing his own tests and shots. I think he thought it was cool to be the only one of our three kids who could do what his daddy did.
Middle-of-the-night snacks (treatment for middle-of-the-night low blood sugars) turned into a special one-on-one time with mama or daddy, and low blood-sugar treatment (15-gram sandwich cookies) was pretty yummy, especially for a kid raised without sweets.
A new Halloween tradition, the Candy Fairy, was even more fun than candy. If, after a great night of trick or treating, you gave the Candy Fairy all of your candy except for three pieces, she would give you a very special gift Â and a letter and new toothbrush from the Tooth Fairy.
His science fair projects for several years consisted of a balance scale with food, insulin and exercise weights to demonstrate the careful balancing required for blood-sugar control. Each school year, each scout year, etc., began with a presentation about diabetes and a demonstration of blood tests and injections. His friends thought he was way cool.
Of course, there are multitudes of reasons that a diabetes diagnosis at any age, and especially as a child, is just awful. And we were lucky because we all already knew a lot about diabetes when our son was diagnosed. But what IÂm saying is that Â regardless of your starting point Â there are ways to adjust attitudes and lifestyles, and that there are unique opportunities to take advantage of that can turn some of those negatives into special times and memories for you, your child, and your family.
One of the biggest challenges of raising a young child with diabetes is to not get so caught up in managing the disease, controlling the numbers, and dealing with all of the diabetes issues that you forget to have fun and enjoy each other. You really can use some of the Âdiabetes momentsÂ to your advantage.
Lydia P. Abdullah is the chairwoman on the People CentreÂd on Diabetes board of directors.