By Kelly Mandryk
When I found out I was pregnant with my second son, I was excited to complete my young family. I looked forward to spending the months ahead preparing our house for a new baby and my older son for life with a little sibling. Instead, I was thrown for a loop when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes following a series of alarming blood test results in my second trimester. I worried that my two main priorities – my young children and my health — would be in a constant battle for my attention. And while those first few months of learning to live with diabetes while raising two kids were not easy, over time I learned that the skills I was gaining as a parent would help me get through my toughest days with diabetes.
The importance of routine
Anyone who’s taken a cranky toddler to the grocery store knows the value of maintaining a consistent nap schedule. As a first-time parent, I wanted to do it all: keep a clean house, maintain a social life, and raise a toddler. But each time I pushed a mealtime or a nap time forward, I ended up spending more time later that day getting my son back into his schedule while handling his moodiness. When life brought me a second son and diabetes at the same time, I had to keep both sons in a schedule while doing the things I needed to keep myself healthy enough to parent them.
Type 1 diabetes is chronic disease where your body attacks its own pancreas, leaving you insulin-dependent for life. I wear an insulin pump to administer my insulin and a Continuous Glucose Monitor to measure my blood sugar. Both devices have improved my quality of life and helped me better control blood sugar, but they both have several components that must be maintained and replaced regularly. When I was learning to use these devices, they would alarm or require my attention at all hours of the day and night.
In the end, I set about building a routine for my kids and my disease management that works for both of us. This routine of setting up my medical devices and managing my medications that has significantly reduced unexpected interruptions throughout my day.
Using distraction to change your mindset
My son loves Christmas. He loves Christmas so much that he can’t settle himself enough to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. One year, after reading several bedtime stories, I told him to close his eyes and think about his five favourite Christmas memories and to tell me about them in the morning. After a few minutes of quiet chatter, he fell asleep. I had given him something to think about that took his mind away from his excitement and allowed him to fall asleep.
After that, I started using this technique to push myself through the sometimes-painful process of inserting a new infusion set for my insulin pump. Sometimes I list my favourite Buffy the Vampire characters in order of appearance. Other times I try to name all the kids in my Grade 2 class. It sounds silly but steering my focus away from the self-management activities I must do every day makes me feel more normal and less like a patient.
“Use your words”
Job Description “Use your words” is a phrase parents often say to their young children when they are overcome with frustration or anger. Despite working with my treatment team to be prevent large swings in my blood sugars, this disease is unpredictable and mishaps like mistaking a regular pop for a diet pop or catching the office head cold can send my blood sugars skyrocketing. I am fiercely independent, but my kids have taught me that sometimes, you just need to ask for help.
Accept what you can’t control
When I was first pregnant, I remember the panic that would set in the moment I thought I couldn’t feel the baby kick. When I had one of these scares at work, a colleague who has two teenagers re-assured me that all the worrying mothers do in pregnancy is just training for the worrying that takes place after our children are born. Although I’ve been guilty of waking my infant son up in the middle of the night just to assure myself he was still breathing, after a while, I learned to manage my fears and to accept what I can’t control. There is no use in worrying about my sons getting into a car accident while they are still too young to drive.
Just as pregnancy was a training ground for parenthood, learning to manage fears about my children’s health and safety has helped me cope with the overwhelming amount of information about my disease and what could happen to me. I’m often reminded that years of uncontrolled diabetes can cause complications such as heart attacks, strokes, amputations, or blindness, but these are not burdens I carry around with me every day. As I focus on making sure my sons have a healthy breakfast each morning, I focus on taking the right amount of insulin for what I eat. If I take a small amount of time throughout the day to take care of myself, I know that I am doing my best regardless of what the future may hold for me.
Clinical Trial Hero would like to thank Kelly for taking the time to share her story.
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