Nov 022012

Did you know November is diabetes awareness month? My son, Caleb, has type 1 diabetes. In case you were wondering:

  • Depending on how you look at it, 5 to about 15 percent of people with diabetes have type 1.
  • Type 1 used to be called juvenile onset. Because adults are increasingly being diagnosed, that handle has been dropped.
  • We didn’t cause Caleb’s diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease. You can’t prevent it; you can’t cure it.
  • My son can eat anything you can eat. He just has to take insulin for every carb.
  • When a person with diabetes has a high blood sugar level, he or she feels irrational and may be very grumpy. They can’t help it; please don’t judge them.
  • Overnight low blood sugar can be fatal.
  • We know about natural remedies and supplements, miracle diets, and more. Caleb takes several supplements, including chromium and Vitamin D. We exercise, eat heaps of raw veggies, and hope it all helps.

Our diabetes journey has traversed hidden corners of suffering much worse than ours. In various waiting rooms, I have heard the roar of medical machines rudely interrupt the happy sounds of childhood. Tragic stories about disabilities and disease hit much closer to home now. Having a child with a lifelong, incurable, but manageable disease has given me empathy for those who can’t hope for a normal life for their children. I’m inexpressibly thankful for the discovery of insulin, which saved my son’s life decades before he was born. (You can read my gratitude post here.)


Type 1 diabetes doesn’t stop my son from pursuing his interests.

Caleb had a bout with double vision last academic year. This was not a serious, long-term complication of diabetes; he isn’t long-term enough. It was just an effect of his lenses struggling with fluctuating blood sugar levels. The most careful control of diet, exercise, and carb intake can’t prevent blood sugar fluctuations; they’re just life with a confused immune system that beats up your pancreas.

Caleb’s diabetes supplies take up two shelves! We are so grateful to have them.

We visited three doctors and tried several pairs of glasses, over a period of several months. Finally, the issue was resolved – but not before it had impacted Caleb’s schoolwork. He persevered, sometimes substituting DVDs for books, sometimes shoving a cheap pair of reading glasses over his regular, prism-filled glasses. It was a frustrating process, and the lost time had to be recovered during the summer. I’m proud of Caleb’s courage and patience, which culminated in some wonderful news: Eventually, he won’t need glasses at all!

Caleb injects a sensor under his skin, which beams his interstitial fluid glucose to his insulin pump every few minutes. Ouch! But it works!

Despite his double vision, overall Caleb did not fall behind in school. We dodged other bullets, too:

  • He didn’t have to explain to a skeptical teacher why he MUST drink a juice immediately.
  • No school staff took his insulin pump away for the day, dangerously assuming he didn’t need it.
  • He wasn’t kept waiting miserably for an insulin shot until his parent could be reached, because the staff didn’t trust him to give himself the shot.
  • I didn’t have to sit in a school parking lot for half a day, because a teacher wouldn’t risk giving him glucose tabs or shots.

We could have encountered any or all of these true life situations, but we didn’t.

Because we homeschool.

Do you or your child have type 1 diabetes? How’s it going?

By Columba Lisa Smith