December 9th is an anniversary I don’t like to celebrate but it’s one I cannot forget. That's the day my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He was 4 1/2 at the time. If you ask most parents in the early years of dealing with diabetes they can tell you exactly when life changed for their family. Josh went to two birthday parties the weekend before he was diagnosed. My dear friend still gets teary when we remember Josh eating her son’s birthday cake (the last piece of cake we didn’t have to “think” about).
I knew very little about diabetes when Josh was diagnosed and I was haunted for weeks about “what I didn’t know I didn’t know”. (Read Mary Kate’s The First 48 hours if you are new to diabetes). Our wonderful medical team got us through those first weeks and we read everything we could. But with his diagnosis falling so close to the holidays we had to quickly figure out how to get life back to normal. My son taught me the most important thing about living with diabetes: holidays and celebrations will continue, life goes on and we would be okay.
Our family’s annual holiday party was scheduled for just five days after the diagnosis. Invitations had already been sent out, but I wanted to cancel it. How could we throw a party now? Luckily, my husband and I did not let our children see our despair. And Josh’s excitement for the party made us move forward. Our friends were extraordinary and quickly turned our party into a potluck. At that very vulnerable time, I reminded myself that of course we would still have parties, celebrate holidays and most importantly we truly needed our friends.
I wish I had know about Health Central’s CareCentral web site when Josh was diagnosed because it would have been easier to communicate what was going on with our family and it would have provided accurate information for friends who were craving information about Type 1 diabetes. (Check out the CareCentral and build you own community where the people closest to you can learn about diabetes). For us, help came in many forms: friends reached out to acquaintances to find families with diabetes for us to talk with; others did research on the web; one friend brought me office supplies and helped me organize all the articles and information I was printing out. I’m forever grateful for the play dates that were not cancelled and the friends who came over to watch the kids while I took a nap. And I continue to be touched by the donations that were made to the JDRF and ADA, not because we asked but because it was something people could do. (Check out Mary Kate’s article “How to Help a Friend”). I’m glad we didn’t go into hibernation with diabetes but instead reached out to our community of friends and family.
Diabetes changed a lot of things in our life but the really important things stayed the same. Diabetes will never take the joy out of our family. That's what my son taught me those first few weeks after his diagnoses, and that is what I try to remind myself every December 9th. On this anniversary I remember all those friends who showed up for that holiday party with fruit, salads, entrees and macaroni and cheese for the kids. They came with open hearts and lots of love for us that first holiday season with diabetes. I’m glad we let them in.
Published On: December 21, 2006