First, let me set the record straight. I hate diabetes. I hate that it has chosen my child to infect with it’s viciousness. I wish it was me and not her. And I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
But let’s get real for a second.My daughter has Type 1 Diabetes. The reality is that currently there is no cure. She will have it for the rest of her life. We have had to come to terms with that. SHE WILL HAVE THIS FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE. We hope for a cure, and we will rejoice when one is found. But in the mean time, we need to live with it and care for her the best we can. As such, I can’t live my life in a state of hate and resentment. For my own mental health, I have to set aside the negatives, and I need to embrace the positives. Diabetes infiltrates every aspect of life. At times it seems all consuming. Every decision that is made throughout the day requires some consideration be given to it. So what’s so good about that?
First off, the people that I have met through our mutual association with diabetes are amazing, and many of them are now family to me. Through our DAD organization Canine Hope for Diabetics, we have met amazing families that we see on a very regular basis. The people that I have met on Facebook in the DOC (diabetic on-line community) are truly people that I care about, and several of them I have never met, but we follow up with each other religiously. And we are meeting more and more people through our local chapter of JDRF, having a monthly parent coffee session that I look forward to.
Secondly, the changes that have come about in my daughter. As an example, prior to her diagnosis, she seemed to try things once, and if it couldn’t be mastered that one time, she gave up pretty quickly. Since her diagnosis, she doesn’t give up on anything. From learning to ride her bike, to rock climbing, to triathlons, once she decides she wants to do it, she doesn’t let anything get in her way. There is no “whoa is me” or “why me?” with her. She was the first in our family to accept that life as we know it changed. I was kicking and screaming. She is my hero, the bravest little girl I know, and is just this loud, boisterous, ferocious little powder keg of life that never lets diabetes slow her down. She embodies the spirit of a diabadass. Whenever I feel like I can’t get through something, I think of her. She pulls me through every time.
Third, our whole family is healthier today than we used to be. We never ate poorly, my wife has always made sure that we eat healthy, well balanced food. But now we spend more time reading labels, and we are more involved and active in the food decisions we make. And as for exercise, well, I smoked for close to thirty years. I tried quitting thousands of times. I even had a heart attack at 38. Angioplasty for me! But it wasn’t until 2 years after that, when my daughter was diagnosed that I finally got serious. As we were leaving the hospital from her diagnosis, she was crying. We kind of assumed she was feeling sorry for herself. My wife asked her what was wrong, and she looked at her and said “I don’t want daddy to go back to the hospital”. It was at that moment that I realized what happened to my daughter was no fault of her own, but what I was doing to myself was all self inflicted. A few months later, on 12/31/10, I smoked my last cigarette. On 1/1/11, I laced up my first pair of running shoes, and ran a block. 4 months later I ran a 1/2 marathon, and 5 months after that I ran a marathon. I am now training for my 5th marathon. I owe my life to my daughter and her type 1 diabetes. It sounds strange, but for that, I am thankful.
And what about these amazing dogs? One of the best things about our particular diabetes experience has been Major and Raven. These dogs amaze me, thrill me, and entertain me to no end. They are my daughter’s life savers, her guardian angels, her confidants, her compadres. For me, they are my running buddies, my drill sergeants, and for my wife and I, they are our back-up plan, our redundancy, our contingency plan, and our alarm clocks. And for most of you, they are the reason you are here. Again, for that I am thankful. If you ask my daughter what good things come from diabetes, she will tell you 2 things. The dogs, and the Disneyland pass.
Beyond that, I start to run out of optimism. I go back to hating this awful disease. But for brief moments of clarity, I have seen the good. I cherish the good. And I hope for a cure.