It was a cold February evening last year, and our 12-year-old son, Nickolas, had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Driving back from the hospital, my husband and I were in shock, and Nick's eyes were red from crying. We were about to pick up our 8-year-old son, Andrew, from his grandparents' house. Confused and in disbelief, we had no idea how to explain any of this to Andrew, and so we kept silent.
I remember little about the rest of that night except for crying in bed after the boys were asleep. In the morning, we did our best to bring some normality into our day, but then Nick realized he had to have his blood sugar tested and an insulin shot before he ate.
As Nick protested, I saw our little boy watching. "Hey, Nick," Andrew quickly said, "I will have my finger poked, too." My raw emotions came flooding out, and I knew then that all our lives would never be the same.
In the days that followed, our No. 1 priority was trying to be strong for Nick, but we could not always hide the pain. I still think about what Andrew might have felt as he watched the tears roll down my face, heard my sobs in the shower, and saw the fear in my eyes.
Nick's world had completely changed, and his brother both witnessed and participated in the change. Andrew was growing up fast. We noticed how protective he became of his big brother. He would ask Nick if he'd had his blood sugar tested. He would remind him to take his diabetes kit whenever we left the house. He even learned how to carb count.
Yet, behind the brave face was a frightened little boy with questions that he was afraid to ask. I used one of the children's diabetes books the hospital had given us to invite Andrew into a conversation. We began to read the first book together so he could understand what diabetes is. Then he asked to read the second and the third. By the time we had finished the third book, Andrew had asked the questions that were in his heart and mind: "Mommy, why did this happen to Nick?" and "Will I get diabetes?"
I remember my answers were mostly along the lines of "We don't know, but there are people who are working very hard to find out." I told him that if he did get diabetes, we would take care of him just as we were taking care of Nick, and that he should never be afraid. Andrew's final question was: "Is Nick going to be OK?" Confidently, I said Nick was going to be more than OK. We were all going to be just fine.
Today, Nick is thriving on an insulin pump. He is in charge of his condition, and we feel honored to be his parents. Andrew continues to amaze us with his maturity. He knows more about type 1 diabetes than many adults.
I think about how close these two boys have always been. Nick and Andrew share not only a room but an interest in the same silly television shows. They exchange secret glances when a cute girl enters a room. They confide in each other. Now living with diabetes has brought brother and brother even closer.
Mariam Tsaturyan, PsyD,a licensed clinical psychologist, lives with her husband, Vatche Titoian, and their two sons in Glendale, Calif.