The Best Advocate
Nobody cares as much about my diabetes as my parents do. Since I was diagnosed at 13, nobody has worried more about complications, worked harder to keep up with medical research, or pinned more of their hopes on a cure than they have. I'm now a 35-year-old adult with a family and life of my own, and still my parents make my diabetes a priority in their lives. My mother reads every diabetes magazine cover to cover, tearing out articles and leaving them in a stack on her kitchen counter for me to pick up. Even today, my parents attend all the local conferences where doctors and researchers discuss their work, usually in terms my nonscientist parents don't understand. They want nothing more than for my life to be happy, healthy, and "normal."
When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 13, I thought my diabetes affected no one but me. I never stopped to consider what it felt like for my parents. I didn't think about what it was like for them to watch their vibrant and athletic daughter stick herself with needles and test blood glucose four times a day. Or what it was like to worry about things they had never before considered: severe low blood glucose, or the risk for complications like kidney failure, blindness, or amputation. Their world changed on that day. That's the day they became the best diabetes advocates I know.
Now that I'm a parent, I know what my parents felt that day I was diagnosed. I know because I experienced it twice: first on the day my oldest son, Braedan, was diagnosed with severe allergies that required us to tear our home apart, and again when my second son, Austin, was diagnosed with cancer, tearing our entire world apart.
Austin was found to have cancer in both kidneys at the age of 10 months. The same children's hospital that had treated me so many years before quickly became our second home. We spent 49 nights there, filled with the worry, disbelief, and fear that my own parents had felt, multiplied by a thousand. My entire life changed.
Today, I know all about poring over research. I know about waiting and hoping for good test results, for a cure, and for a better life. I know the pride and awe my parents felt watching me run a marathon and have children. At age 13, I believed I could do anything, diabetes or not, and I was right. And at age 2, my son believes he can do anything, cancer or not. Watching him run and jump around our backyard with no thought of disease, I know: He's right, he can.
Krissy Dietrich Gallagher lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, with her husband and sons, and blogs at www.krissygallagher.wordpress.com.