I was diagnosed with T1D shortly after my 6th birthday.
My family was sitting at the dinner table eating a broccoli/vegetable dish that I was less than thrilled about when the phone rang. It was my pediatrician. We had gone to see him earlier in the day because I had a cut that would not heal. Over the phone he told my mom to have me stop eating dinner and I was ecstatic. “No broccoli for me!” Soon enough, my dad and I were back at the clinic where my pediatrician did a finger prick. My blood sugar was high and my dad was told to take me to Lutheran General Hospital right away.
I remember only a few things from my hospital stay: my mom sitting in a chair next to my bed crying as she tried to figure out a way to tell my grandmother in a letter that I had type 1 diabetes – no one in our family had diabetes so no one knew what that meant – and my parents practicing saline shots on each other so that when it was time to give me insulin, they knew what to do.
I also remember going home from the hospital and my nine year old sister saying, “my sister went into that hospital and you came out.” She was indicating our lives had changed instantly overnight and at first her words stung, but looking back it’s understandable why she felt that way. Schedules and meals were planned around me and everyone changed their food preferences and habits because of T1D. My sister and I loathed eating cottage cheese, but it’s what was best for my diet.
My diagnosis took a huge emotional toll on my mother. She apologized constantly for causing me pain when she had to prick my fingers to check my sugars or stab me with needles to give me insulin. She would always say, “Neha, we love you.” As an adult, I now understand that the pain and discomfort from managing my T1D was more painful for my mother emotionally.
My dad tried his hardest to make it easier for me. Whenever I received an exceptionally painful shot or finger prick he would pick me up on his shoulders to give me piggyback rides and make me laugh. It did wonders to distract me and brought extreme comfort to the family.
Every morning throughout undergrad, my Master’s, and even now that I’m married, my mom calls me or I call her. Yes, every morning. My parents understand too well the potential consequences of T1D and are hardwired to check my safety.
My diabetes is now 31 years old, and it has been a constant in my life since I was 6. But the other constants in my life are my family and their love and support. I know T1D caused a lot of unnecessary guilt and worry for my parents and a cure would mean peace of mind for them and for parents everywhere.
T1D affects the whole family, no matter what age you are, and I am so thrilled that JDRF understands these intricacies. They provide support for today’s T1D families while they work to find a cure, as they did for us 31 years ago.