By Brooke Gibson
Part 1: My Diagnosis and Childhood
I have been living with type one diabetes for 33 years. I am the founder of the Type 1 Diabetic Sugar Mommas group (@t1dsugarmommas) and the proud mom to four beautiful children. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) on February 17, 1985. I remember I’d just gone to the pharmacy and I was walking up and down the isles with a thermos in my arm because of my insatiable thirst. I walked upstairs in my house when I got home, and my mother told me that I had to go to the hospital. I just remember sobbing on the floor because I didn’t want to go and I didn’t understand why I had to go. I didn’t know or understand that my father had been living with T1D since he was 25 years old. I also didn’t know that his dad, my grandfather, had also lived with T1D since his diagnosis at the age of 29. My grandfather passed before I was born so it’s probably one of the reasons I didn’t know.
My parents checked me into the hospital and I remember not looking forward to every morning because they would come in and do a big blood draw on my arms. But then my aunt brought me a Cabbage Patch kid doll and I practiced giving injections on the doll not really understanding why quite yet. The rest is a bit of a blur but all I remember after that was my mother telling me if I wanted to spend the night at a friends house I had to learn to do it on my own. Within two weeks I was testing my own blood sugars and giving myself my own injections after my mother would measure the insulin. And I got to go spend the night at my best friends house!
So many years later, now that I am a mother myself, I know what strength it took for my mom to let me go to my friends house and trust that I would be OK. These are things you don’t think about until you have children of your own. I am one of four children to my parents but the only one living with T1D.
I was a competitive ice skater for 13 years. I really feel that that help me keep my blood sugar in great control. But there were definitely times it wasn’t perfect and my mom was up at 2 AM testing my blood sugar. I remember the smiles on my mother‘s face when my blood sugar was in range. And it made me feel really bad to see her frustrated and upset when it wasn’t. Back when I was diagnosed meters took 60 seconds to test your blood sugar and you had to pull out the strip and blot the blood sample part of the way through. Since I knew it made my parents happy to see good blood sugars I figured out a way to cheat the meter and if I blotted it early it would have a lower blood sugar reading. It was great and my parents were super happy until I got my A1C back and it was over 12! “But how could that be because I have her log book right here and everything looks perfect!?” said my mom. Finally, she caught me doing the “early blot” and figured out what I was up to. Boy did I get in trouble! In the end I know she was mad at my actions but also more concerned that my blood sugars weren’t where they were supposed to be for my health. Eventually we were able to get everything under control. There might have been a time or two after that I was sneaking some glucose tabs because they tasted really good but let’s just say I got caught with that too and got over it very quickly!
The remainder of my youth living with T1D was just routine. School every day and then ice-skating. When I was eight I went to Camp de Los Ninos for the first time! That was an eye-opener for me because it was the first time I had been around other children living with type 1 diabetes. Even when we went to the diabetes training at UCSF when I was younger, there weren’t any other children as young as I was. It was the first time for me to see severe insulin reactions, glucagon being used and people who had to struggle with giving themselves their own care. But it was a great to be a part of the community and have the experience. I walked away with the “little Miss Manners“ award! All of these experiences guided me into adolescence and young adulthood.
Brooke Appelblom Gibson is the founder of the Type 1 Diabetic Sugar Mommas, a wife, and mother to four beautiful children. She has been living with T1D for 33 years. She and her husband Kevin reside with their family in the San Francisco Bay Area. Brooke is proud to be involved in the T1D community.