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The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes

April 2010 -
The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes Newsletter

Staying Strong and Healthy for Our Kids

1. Find Your Pony

I learned to ride horses in my neighbor's yard when I was four and, although I never owned a horse, I have ridden my whole life. When Dan was diagnosed, I was driving an hour each way once a week to rent a horse and ride in the woods. It was my mental health break and it gave me peace, but with our new medical situation, I didn't have half a day and the money to spend.

A year later, plagued with dreams of reaching for horses I couldn't quite catch, I drove by a woman walking a pony down the busy street of my town. I admit to accosting her by the side of the road and begging to clean and walk the last pony in town. In the photo above, you will see one of the biggest reasons for my serenity.

For me it's horses, for my husband it is his weekly night at jujitsu. Find your passion and a way, no matter how small, to keep it alive in your life.

2. Put the Stones in First

A teacher stood in front of the class with a glass jar. He had a desk covered with stones of every size and a bag of sand. The first time, he added sand before dropping the various stones into the container. It quickly became clear that all the stones wouldn't fit.

The second time, he started with the large stones and followed with the smaller stones which settled down between the big ones. Last, he poured the sand which filled in the air pockets. All the objects fit easily.

Put the important, energizing, and sustaining items into your calendar first. Let the other tasks fill in around them.

3. Find your Community

In the beginning, I went to JDRF coffees and local diabetes play groups. I was with strangers who slowly became familiar and reassuring aquaintances. I could call them for advice and, as time went on, offer my support in return.

My friends and family were there too. They were worried and focused at first. I was grateful for meals and phone calls and diabetes books left at our door. But in truth, they didn't understand, and I was so afraid of straining our relationships, I stopped talking about insulin and broken sleep and carbohydrates.

Underneath my smile, no matter how many people I saw, I felt lonely. It was during the second or third year after diagnosis that I finally listened to some good advice. When someone asked me how I was, I told the truth. I talked about the deep changes in our family, both the positive and the negative, about having to create a new sense of normal and a new sense of healthy.

Some people's eyes glazed over, some people immediately started talking about themselves, but many of my dearest friends and some of my new ones listened deeply and my loneliness seeped away. Looking back, that honesty allowed me to find my community. It means being willing to let some people go and to open your heart to new friends, but as parents of kids with chronic illness, having loving, strong relationships is vital.

Laura Plunkett

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Our next newsletter will focus on helping kids make good choices. If you have a story to share about your family's  experiences, I’d love to hear from you at newsletter@challengeofdiabetes.com.

April 2010

Springing Forth
with Renewed Energy

Here in Massachusetts, after fifteen inches of record-breaking March rain, people are waking up to sunshine and the true stirrings of spring. It is the time of year for renewed energy, fresh beginnings and a collective sigh of relief in New England. Last night though, I dreamed that my sixteen year old son had been diagnosed with diabetes again (eight years after the first time) and our family had to move to Pennsylvania for his treatment. I sat in a doctor's office with my husband and son, a stack of insurance forms, housing information, and prescriptions on my lap. The doctor was talking cheerfully about all the steps we needed to take, but I couldn't hear him. I was distracted by my own repetitive thought, "What if I can't rally again? Where is the boost of energy going to come from this time?"

Sunshine and optimism warring with fear and exhaustion. Of course, I woke up to a new day with a son who is self-sufficient and a grown family which doesn't need me to be a hero anymore, but the memories are sharp this morning along with some clear ideas of what helped me through the early I-can't-do-this-anymore days.

So for you who are just starting out and those who are tired and in need of renewal, here is my best advice.

Laura Plunkett

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