My mother, Jane Fiffer, was a type 1 diabetes (T1D) parent and spouse. She was caring, generous and quite the advocate for those she loved. She passed February 2012 and life without her is just not the same.
In honor of her birthday, March 19, and Women’s History Month, I wanted to share a bit about what made her so unique.
T1D Was No Match for Mom
Let’s start with my diagnosis, I was 4.5 years old at the time. I was just about to enter kindergarten and my mom anticipated everything I would need for the school year.
When I say everything, I really do mean that.
She got me setup with a 504 plan, which included longer test times in case I went low, setup binders of paperwork, bags of snacks with carb counts and multiple meetings to educate my teachers. She did this year after year to make sure I was comfortable in class.
She had plans written for birthday parties, where there were many carbohydrates that needed to be accounted for. She didn’t want me to feel different or left out. She created a buddy system where classroom friends would get to go with me to the nurse’s office to test my blood sugar or inject insulin. It was so exciting for my friends and for me since it made me feel special and took the stigma out of everything. When I got older and going to the nurse was burdensome with my classwork, she petitioned for me to be allowed to administer in the classroom.
Mom was resilient and I know that without her I wouldn’t be who I am today. I like to think that when we are diagnosed with a difficult disease such as T1D, we are more independent as we have to navigate many things every second of the day that others just don’t have to even think about.
I’m talking about 180+ decisions each and every day of our lives with T1D. I was giving myself injections at 5 years old, and that’s to my mom’s credit for sure. She saw that I wanted to do things on my own, and she encouraged me.
She still wanted to learn how to give my insulin injections and she used many oranges in the hospital to do just that. Once I was older, I started to understand more about the disease and all the things I needed to do to manage it, including navigating insurance and all the supplies that I needed to order. She had a system for this too, and made sure to train me on how to handle it.
Our Family’s Protector
Not only did she help me, but she always helped my Dad, Lawrence Fiffer, who also lives with T1D.
“I remember telling Mom when we were dating that I had Type 1,” he said. “I was afraid that would end the relationship, but she said it was ok and we could work through it. She was always coming up with ideas to manage my diabetes, since it was ever-changing from day to day. When she saw that I was dissatisfied with my physician she recommended one her co-worker was using. I switched and I got much better care at the new doctor.”
My mom introduced me to JDRF. She found out about our Walks through her colleague. We went every year and she made sure to raise money, make posters and show how proud she was of my Dad and me. I know she would love that I am working at JDRF today. I sit on the Marketing and Communications team as a project manager. Of course, I got my attention-to-detail and organization skills from her, too.
Last year was my first year as a mom, and without her here to guide me, it’s been a journey. Before my son was born, I kept thinking about all my mom did to support me. Through pregnancy, I thought about all the things she would’ve done to help me prepare for baby boy’s’ arrival. Not just about the baby, but she would’ve had a heavy hand in my diabetes care to make sure I was ok, my blood sugars were under control since this would otherwise affect her precious grandson, too. I try to channel her daily. My son Jace is named after her so it’s a wonderful reminder of her beautiful presence in our lives. We miss her terribly, but now see her as no longer only my mom: she is our family’s protector.
Thanks to Arielle Cilaire, JDRF Design Project Manager, for writing this blog.