In honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to recognize my diabetic hero, my dad.
Growing up, all diabetes was to me was the fact that our house was always stocked with Diet Coke and hearing my mom always check with my dad to make sure he had “his stuff.” I never really knew what that meant but I knew my dad had diabetes and one time when I was in intermediate school we even did a walk to raise money for the American Diabetes Association.
I also remember reaching a point in my life where I started getting worried about what having diabetes meant and I even asked my dad if I would ever have diabetes. Being supportive, loving, and always protective dad he is, he assured me I had nothing to worry about.
Fast forward to February of my sophomore year of high school.
We were coming up on the end of a week long February vacation and I was scrambling to finish a project I had barely started. Over the past couple of weeks, I had started to become very thirsty. I was finishing off gallons of milk on my own and drinking two gatorades before my recreation basketball game even started.
I was going to the bathroom…all the time. But to me, I thought this was normal, I mean I was drinking so much so it only made sense I spent the rest of my time peeing it all out right? Then I started waking up in the morning feeling like I just chewed juicy fruit which was bizarre.
I shook it off and thought I probably forgot to brush my teeth the night before. It wasn’t until my vision started getting really blurry that I brought it up to my mom and she put all the pieces together. She had been dating my dad when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, so all the symptoms I was having reminded her of what he had gone through.
She told me to have him check my blood sugar when I got home but the stubborn teenager I was shook it off and figured she was exaggerating. Three days went by and I started feeling worse so I finally approached my dad and had him check my blood sugar. The reading was over 500. I looked at him and said, “Is that normal?” And I will never forget the look on his face as he told me it wasn’t.
As I’m sure you can guess in the next 48 hours my official diagnosis followed and my new life with diabetes began.
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t know much about diabetes because my dad never really talked about what it was like. He kept his life with diabetes very private and most people outside of our family didn’t even know he had it.
Everything he did was “normal” in my eyes growing up and diabetes was really just a word. When I was diagnosed, my dad was with me every single step of the way. When I was too afraid to give myself injections, my dad was there (even though I was 16 years old).
He’d drive to the house I was babysitting at, to my basketball practice, or a friend’s house I was sleeping over just to help me give myself my insulin. For the first two weeks, he made every single meal for me and for the first couple months helped me count the carbs for every single thing I ate.
He was there for me for my first real meltdown and “why me??” moment following my diagnosis and sat there and let me cry and be mad about it because he understood.
Every single day my dad shows me how to not only be an extraordinary person but how to live beyond my diagnosis.
He’s run a half marathon raising thousands of dollars for diabetes research in the process, he’s started a support group in our town for families affected by Type 1, become a mentor for newly diagnosed families, and volunteered with JDRF on numerous occasions.
He encourages me to do anything I want and supports me following all of my crazy dreams. Although our choice in managing our disease is different, the best part is he realizes that my diabetes is different than his.
Many people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes don’t even know anyone else that has it for months or even years following their initial diagnosis date. I feel so privileged to have my dad there for me through every single high and low and as a role model to never let diabetes get in the way.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s out there thriving with diabetes, raising strong diabetic warriors, and loving their diabetic partners/other family members and friends. I think I speak for all of us when I say we love you and we wouldn’t and couldn’t do it without you.