There is one question I get asked more than any other, most often by families with a newly diagnosed child. “Does it get easier?”. While I like to remain positive, I also like to be as honest as possible. Here is my answer: It doesn’t get easier. you get better. Let me explain
I am a runner. I try to run 5 times a week, and most of the time with 2 labs attached to my hip. I get asked the same question about running. And the truth is, no it doesn’t. As you get better, your runs get harder. You go farther or faster or both. When you first start out, it might take you 30 minutes to go 1.5 miles, a year later, you might be doing 3.5 miles in the same amount of time. It isn’t any easier, you’ve just gotten better. More experienced. More efficient. Found some better tools along the way, better shoes, a GPS watch, a dog that wants to move. You have improved. Your goals have changed. But it isn’t easier. You’ve gotten better.
And so it goes with type 1 diabetes and your child. It doesn’t get easier. You get better. You gain experience at carb counting and exercise adjustments and knowing how to bolus for Orange Chicken from Panda Express. You get tools along the way that make things a little easier, pumps, CGM’s, maybe an amazingly awesome DAD. You learn patterns, you’ll know that every morning at 1:15, regardless of what you do, her BS is going to start going up. And then things change. Lifestyle changes, new school year or a new school, maybe a new house or a new city, things like puberty, competing in sports, a big math test, dating, all these things will present new challenges and make you feel like you are starting over. Like you are a rookie.
Our experience no longer looks like that top image. And for that I am truly thankful. But none of the fears have gone away. John Wayne said: Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway. We still have the bags under the eyes. The exhaustion. The worry. And oh the worry. Every time a new experience presents itself, there is worry. With more independence comes more worry.
It’s kind of funny as I sit here thinking about it. It almost seems completely opposite, as hindsight is 20/20. When we were first diagnosed, knowing as little as we did, and operating strictly on Dr’s orders, and of course still honeymooning, things were easier. Simpler. We weren’t in control, we were just being told what to do. How to do it. We didn’t even really know the why’s or the how’s.
With experience and knowledge have come more responsibilities. With more tools comes more data. With more data comes more opportunities to get better. And with more… well, you see where this is going.
And a funny thing happens along the way. You learn that your child is getting better too. Stronger. More amazing everyday. Your very own superhero. Someone that you can look up to, learn from, they will make you want to be better too. And you know you aren’t in this alone. You have to be strong now, brave now, so they can do it later. And for the rest of their lives.
So the answer to the question “does it get easier?’ really is “no, no it doesn’t”. You see, she is still my daughter. And diabetes is still a nasty, often unpredictable disease. But we have gotten better. More experienced. More knowledge. More opportunities to screw things up, figure out what our mistakes were, and learn from them. We have learned that on an almost daily basis, we will see 200’s and 50’s. They are just numbers. We no longer dwell on them. We fix them, analyze what happened, and move on. Again, they are just numbers. Are we jaded? Disillusioned? No. But we still have lives to lead, jobs to work, and other family to also care for. Eventually, you will get to a place where you realize that life isn’t all about type 1, all though everything you do will have a diabetic component to it.
But the biggest thing we have learned? The one piece of advice I would like to pass on? Don’t EVER get complacent. Don’t EVER get comfortable. Shake off that false sense of security. As things seem to even out a little, maybe almost seem like they are routine, that’s when this awful disease will strike out and bite you. Always keep 1 eye open.