As a mother of three children who have type 1 diabetes, I am often asked, "how do you cope?"
For me and my husband, it's been a process. When our daughter was first diagnosed at just 2 1/2 years old, our world fell apart. There was so much to learn, and so much worry—we basically became overwhelmed with all that was involved.
Our world for a while revolved entirely around our daughter, who needed the most care. Our two sons were also growing, and even though they didn't have diabetes, they still needed time with their mom and dad, too. We found that we really had to make it a point to share time with our sons, apart from the craziness of their sister's diabetes.
One way I did that was through special dates with my younger son. I'd take Patrick to the movies and out to eat, just the two of us. We still to this day like to have our "date night."
We were getting ready for one of our dates on a Sunday morning in fall of 2003 when I walked into Patrick's room. There were about 10 empty water bottles and 10 empty drink boxes lined up on his windowsill—he had drank them all. I dreaded what this might have meant—turned out, I was right. Patrick also had diabetes. Our next lunch date at Johnny Rockets was different than the ones we had enjoyed before—this time, Patrick had to give himself an insulin shot.
My oldest son had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just four months before Patrick, on a family trip to Florida. He took his diagnosis in stride, and at 14 years old, he immediately showed real maturity in living with his diabetes. So how do we cope? Over the years I have come to the conclusion that we don't feel like we are coping with diabetes; we look at it as living with diabetes. We still do everything we can to live our lives to the fullest. We just have to work around the numbers.
As I look at our children and the families that surround ours, I see that most families are living with something they'd rather not be. Maybe it's not diabetes. They could be living with a divorce, an aging grandparent, a sick sibling, or a new family. Like them, we have found strength and support in each other. That's how we're able to cope—no, live—with diabetes.
Julie DeFruscio is the mother of three kids with type 1 diabetes, and the founder of Pump Wear Inc., which sells insulin pump cases and other diabetes gear.