Introduction to
"The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes"

I cried in the supermarket during my first post-diagnosis shopping trip. Meals were filled with stress. I wondered how other parents dealt with their confusion and fear, food issues, holidays, and parties. I questioned how others coped with the strain of learning how to make medical decisions, give shots, and do blood tests.

I wanted to know how the diagnosed child and his or her siblings felt and how their feelings changed over time. I wanted to be reassured that we would somehow survive the pressure the illness placed on our family and specifically my relationship with my husband.

In those first months, I read every book I could lay my hands on, but I could not find one that described a family's long-term adjustment. I found many how-to books that gave valuable, practical advice, none of which spoke to the ache in my heart or showed how a family could recover its sense of stability, comfort, and hope for the future.

Since then we have found our own way. Through trial and error, our family made sense of overwhelming and often conflicting advice about nutrition. We developed a kid-friendly whole-foods diet that keeps Danny's blood sugar levels from spiking or dropping too quickly and keeps all of us healthy, energized, and at an optimum weight. We found many ways to enjoy exercising with Danny, which helps keep his numbers low.

We also incorporated complementary medicines such as acupuncture and acupressure as a way to support Danny's endocrine system, with very beneficial results. We kept searching until we found a medical team that fit our family and, ultimately, helped us make the transition from injections to the insulin pump.

Making decisions based on what fit our family has paid off. Danny's honeymoon lasted almost two years, and his insulin needs continue to be lower than normal for his age and weight. While the average child with juvenile diabetes has a Hemoglobin A1c number (representing the average of blood sugar levels of the previous three months) of 8.5, and one-third of American children are above 9.5, in the past nine months, Danny's numbers have been 6.2 and 6.3. This is important because the American Diabetes Association and the American Academy of Endocrinologists recommend staying under 7.0 and 6.5, respectively, to avoid or minimize long-term complications.

Danny is now stronger physically, at an ideal weight, more consistently rested, and more vibrantly alive than he has ever been. At this point, Danny takes part in sports, goes on sleepovers, and is happy and successful at school. Despite my worst fears, he has never gone into a coma or awakened throwing up.

He doesn't seem sorry for himself, nor is he self-destructive, passive-aggressive, teased, or excluded from activities by other children. Although initially an incredibly picky eater whose main diet consisted of pasta, white bread, juice, and desserts, he now enjoys a wider range of the healthy foods that make up our relatively low-carbohydrate diet.

It took two years before our family reached a point where I felt we had constructed a way of life that felt not only manageable but also hopeful and happy. I want to share what we finally distilled from our experience, to describe our accomplishments and our blunders so that the learning curve for others would be easier than the one we faced.

In an effort to include more perspectives, my mother, Linda, added her own entries and interviewed my husband, Brian, my son, Danny, my daughter, Jess, and my father, Jack.

I offer this book so that in three hours you can read what we as a family learned in three years. In addition, by giving it to your friends and family, your child’s babysitters and teachers, you can bridge the gap between your life and theirs.

I hope that my book offers you the perspective you are looking for and that it supports your efforts to raise the healthiest child possible.

Laura Plunkett