That Special Sibling Bond in T1D Families

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There’s no doubt that a type 1 diabetes (T1D) diagnosis changes an individual’s life, but it almost always has a ripple effect that can be felt throughout an entire support network of family and friends.

While parents and guardians play the leading role in the care of children who live with T1D, the bond that forms between children living with T1D and their siblings is truly something special – unconditional, inspirational, and supportive.

As we wrap up National Diabetes Awareness Month (NDAM), three sibling pairs shared how they’ve experienced the strength and influence of their unique sibling bond.

Abby and Jack, Twin Teenagers

ABBY (sibling):

What is it like having a sibling with T1D?

“Having a brother with T1D is sometimes scary and stressful, but it makes him unique and it has taught him to be responsible in ways our peers don’t always understand. Jack is so good at taking care of himself, but I get scared sometimes because having T1D throws curve balls even with good management. Learning about T1D and the management of diabetes makes me feel closer to him and helps me understand his struggles and his ‘wins.’”

What would you like others who just had a sibling diagnosed with T1D to know?

“I would encourage them to stay calm and always take a deep breath before responding. In that moment, you will be reminded that the sibling with T1D cannot always control their mental or physical responses due to their swinging blood sugar. Your sibling doesn’t choose to feel this way and you have the chance to make them feel supported and loved.”

How would you describe Jack in one word and why?

“Fearless, or fighter. Jack has to make health decisions every minute of every day and he does so without pause. I look up to Jack every day and wish I could be as fearless as him. He rarely complains and he confronts everything with a smile. He makes me so proud to be his sister and I am appreciative that I can do life beside Jack, with or without the struggles of T1D.”

JACK (lives with T1D):

How does Abby support you in your T1D journey?

“Abby is a huge part of my support system. She makes sure that I have my supplies with me and always looks out for me when my blood sugar isn’t cooperating. In these moments when I just don’t feel well or clear-headed, Abby quietly gets me what I need or reminds me what I need to do. If I am having a bad day, just knowing she is right there thinking about me, makes me feel supported and having this support system has allowed me to really never feel bad about having T1D.”

How would you describe Abby in one word and why?

“Amazing! She never fails to help me through my hardest moments and is always there for me, even when I may not have been the greatest brother to her. She knows how to put a smile on my face and I know she will always have my back, no matter what. Abby will drop what she is doing if she sees me having a hard time and when I am having a good day or week with my blood sugars, she is right there with me enjoying a sweet treat.”

Shaina Hatchell and Dom Minyard, Delware 

SHAINA (sibling):

How do you help Dom get through tough times, as well as celebrate the “wins” in his T1D journey?

“I have lived separate from my brother since 2009. No matter the distance, I have always wanted to make sure that he knows we’re in this life thing together. When life sent storms, we weathered them together, from near or far. When life sends wins, I make sure I affirm how proud I am of him. I have even sent him medals in the mail to celebrate his successful management over these now many years. Today, when I am providing new onset diabetes education to families, I ALWAYS brag about my brother as a way to keep affirming how proud of him I am (even when he does not hear me) and provide hope for those families who are just beginning their journey.”

How has Dom’s management of his T1D diagnosis inspired/influenced you?

“My brother is my daily inspiration. I am a diabetes educator because of him. I wrote the children’s book ‘Shia Learns About Insulin’ because of what he has taught me over the years and how he continues to inspire me. I can never complain about my life because he literally never does about his.”

DOM (lives with T1D):

How does Shaina support you in your T1D journey?

“Shay does an awful lot for my journey. She’s a nurse with a focus in diabetes, she’s devoted a great portion of her life studying to know more about what I go through on a daily basis. Proactively, she even attended a weeklong camp to help her understand what children with T1D experience (and believe me, she hates the woods). My sister has done everything to help in my T1D journey – given me insulin checked my blood sugars, dealt with highs, lows, and all the mood swings in between. The book she created spreads awareness and helps me and everyone with diabetes, so maybe one day we don’t have to tell people that yes, we can eat that cake at birthday parties!”

How has having such strong support system impacted you as you navigate your T1D journey?

“Having my sister along for the journey is not something she or anyone else signed up for, so to have her along for the ride for the good and the bad makes it a whole lot easier for me. Even the little things like the occasional ‘Did you take your insulin?’ or the late-night text message ‘Hey, your Dexcom says you’re going low. Are you okay?’ are important and can help save my life.”

Marc and Len Teitelbaum, Hoboken, NJ

MARC (sibling):

What is it like having a sibling with T1D?
“Having a sibling with T1D means always keeping your guard up. My mom taught every one of my brothers, at an extremely young age, what to do in case of an emergency when Len’s blood sugar ran low. Len and I played youth sports together and observing what he had to do to take care of himself before and after soccer games ignited a passion to help him and millions of others that suffer this debilitating disease.”

How has Len’s management of their T1D diagnosis inspired/influenced you?
“It definitely inspired me significantly. I’m currently pursuing a PhD in biomedical sciences, which I think had a lot to do with my exposure to his medications and disease at a young age. Len is unbelievably diligent, working out two hours a day, waking up early and going to bed early. Seeing how he has taken this disease and spun it into his superpower is empowering, not just for me but for others, too. In order to combat T1D, you need to manage the symptoms and lifestyle meticulously, which he does 24/7, 365 days a year.”

LEN (lives with T1D):

How has having such strong support system impacted you as you navigate your T1D journey?

“It gives me the ability to lean on someone when I’m going through a difficult period. I’m a pretty strong-headed individual and having Marc helps me to reset myself and get back to neutral because he is able to “check” me. If I’m struggling and Marc is around, I know that help is always available and that allows me to move a bit more at ease through this thing we call life with T1D. If it isn’t Marc, then it’s one of my other 3 brothers, or my parents, or my friends who are always there to provide a helping hand for support. The ability for someone within my close circle to just ask “Is everything okay?” allows me to work on my T1D with less pressure knowing I have support whenever I need it.”

What would you like others who just had a sibling diagnosed with T1D to know?

“Your family is there to support you in all aspects of life, not look down on you because of this condition. It’s a tough road, but if you are diligent and smart, there is no need to fret. Diabetes is a tough condition, but it also makes you want to work harder on yourself, to become a better and stronger person, physically and mentally.”

 


 

Thank you to all of the amazing sibling T1D Champions out there – you are making a difference! If you have or know a sibling of someone living with T1D, reach out and tell them how much their support is appreciated.