Rocky Lang: Father of Nikki
Rocky Lang, 55, and Nikki, 21
Rocky Lang is a firm believer in the power of positive thinking. It's what got him through his then 10-year-old daughter's type 1 diabetes diagnosis. He just didn't see the point in wasting time with what-ifs. "We're given this great life and we get the cards we're dealt, and you have to deal with it," he says.
Instead, he has made it his fatherly duty to put a positive spin on what both he and his daughter Nikki know is a serious disease. "[My ex-wife and I] said, 'Here's the deal: Diabetes is very serious, but there's no reason you can't fulfill your dreams,' " he says. " 'But there's one thing you need to do. You need to manage your diabetes and the world is yours.' "
Though Lang purposefully tries not to make diabetes the center of his family's life, he admits it always looms in the background. "No matter what you know, no matter what you do, diabetes is a threat 24-7, and at any time something can go wrong," he says. "The fear is always: Is my daughter going to have DKA [diabetic ketoacidosis, which occurs when an insulin-deprived body breaks down fat instead of glucose, leading to a toxic buildup of ketones in the blood that can be fatal] or a seizure? Is she going to go low during the night?"
|Resources for Dads and Moms|
Those fears have changed as Nikki, now 21, has grown. When she was in elementary school, Lang worried about her management during the day (one of his solutions: pack all food in plastic bags with the number of carbohydrate grams taped to the front). The teenage years brought additional worries: What if she drove with low blood glucose? What if she drank alcohol at a party, didn't dose insulin correctly, and failed to notice a low? "Those are the kinds of conversations that you need to have," he says. "Nikki lives in her apartment alone. Do I like that? No. Have I had the conversation with her? Yes."
In a way, caring for Nikki's diabetes has given meaning to Lang's life. He even wrote a children's book about diabetes (see "Resources for Dads and Moms"). "Through my daughter's diagnosis, I found this forced purpose in my life," he says. "I found this way into the advocacy area. My goal is to make it easier for children."
Now that Nikki is an adult, Lang doesn't play an active role in her diabetes care, though the two are still close, and Lang currently manages his daughter's burgeoning music career as a singer/songwriter. He hopes that seeing Nikki realize her dreams will inspire other kids with diabetes. "They can make a full life. They can have children. They can go to college. They can do anything. It's all there as long as they manage [their diabetes]." To parents, he says: "Be vigilant, be patient, and always be supportive."
Read More about Rocky's daughter Nikki Lang at forecast.diabetes.org/lang-oct2012.