Diabetes Forecast

Perfect Doesn't Exist With Diabetes

By Portia Westin, EdD , ,

Portia (P.K.) Weston, EdD

I will always know exactly how long my daughter has lived with type 1 diabetes. She was diagnosed at age 5, on my 30th birthday. I knew absolutely nothing about diabetes, except that my child was sick and I would find a way to protect her. I went after the diabetes dragon with every ounce of warrior strength I had. I learned all there was to know, I kept meticulous records, and I made graphs. If I could be the perfect mother, then all would be well and my child would be safe—or so I thought.  

I am now 66, and my daughter is 41. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things: Life is not graphable; records don’t guarantee perfect glucose; and being afraid is a waste of time.

All parents worry about their children. Will they stay away from drugs? Will they drive safely? Will they choose people to love who won’t hurt them? Parents of children with diabetes—or any chronic disease—have these concerns, too. But we have one more: the disease. And nothing seems more threatening than that.

A decade after my daughter’s diagnosis, my teenage son was also diagnosed with type 1. Yet the closest I’ve come to losing a child was when another son, now a physician and triathlete, developed a pulmonary embolism. Clearly, life is unpredictable. In spite of our best efforts to plan for the future, life has its way with us and we end up in places we never imagined.

Understanding life’s unpredictable nature can be a gift: If we can accept it, we can relax a bit. We can let go of over-vigilance and put in its place a reasonable caution. We can allow for the facts that humans are fallible and that diabetes, even when we do everything “right,” will have its setbacks. And we can realize that the goal is well-managed diabetes—not perfect glucose numbers.

After three decades as a parent of type 1 children, I’ve also learned the importance of being more than only a diabetes warrior. I will do my best to be the person my children—and, now, grandchildren—are glad to be around. I will put down my warrior weapons and shield. I will seek the joy that each day has to offer. And I will give up perfection altogether.

Portia (P.K.) Weston, EdD, is a professor living in Pittsburgh who loves traveling and spending time with her husband, grown children, and eight grandchildren. She’s also an active volunteer with the downtown Pittsburgh Rotary Club and Cleveland-based Golden Retrievers in Need Rescue.

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