World Diabetes Day – The Statistics of a T1D Family

2015 American Diabetes Association's Pittsburgh Walk to Cure Diabetes

I was diagnosed when I was two years old. Technology at that time was nowhere near what it is today. Blood Sugars were recorded on a monthly chart, day by day, hour by hour. On average, people with Type 1 Diabetes, or Juvenile Diabetes, test their blood sugar 6-10 times. I started using an insulin pump when I was 15. It is a device that is constantly attached to my body by way of an insertion set and tube, which pumps insulin into my bloodstream all day long. Being diagnosed at age 2 means – I don’t know any different. For me, this is my life, but it also comes with daily challenges. Challenges that are not just for me, but my husband and son, too.

As of today, my T1 diabetes footprint looks like this:

Currently, diabetes has no cure, only daily management. Diabetes costs thousands of dollars a year for a family member living with this disease. Medical appointments, insulin and device supplies are often all out of pocket until deductibles are met, which can sometimes be six months into the year.

My diabetes is no longer just about me. It’s about my family. It’s about teaching my children what it looks like to live with diabetes. It’s about teaching my son that just because I have diabetes, doesn’t mean I can’t do something. I may just have to work a little harder at it or take some extra steps.

Having diabetes for [nearly] all of my life has given me the strength to fight for my health. But having the opportunity to be a mother has given me a reason to fight. I want to be here for them.

2015 American Diabetes Association’s Pittsburgh Walk to Cure Diabetes

The statistics of a Type One Family look like this:

  • I am the mother who packs a snack for every errand we are running, even if it’s to the grocery store.
  • I am the mother who can’t always play the entire game and may have to eat the snack that my children so desperately want, because the value of my blood sugar numbers determines how valuable I can be to my children the rest of the day.
  • We are the parents teaching our three-year-old about daily medications, needles, insulin and warning signs for if mommy’s numbers are low.
  • I have a husband who always checks if I’ve “had a snack” before bed, worrying about not waking up in the morning.
  • I am the mother who’s always beeping at playgroup or in work meetings. Only, it’s not my phone. It’s the device attached to my body that’s keeping me alive.
  • I am the mom who has to juggle more doctors’ appointments than multiple children combined
  • The mom who is tired in the morning from lack of sleep, not because my children won’t sleep, but because I was chugging a glass of juice at 2AM. My husband waking me at 3AM to test again, and again at 4AM – only to now be treating a high blood sugar and the alarm going off at 5:30AM, when I really should have started my day.
  • I am the mom who is still struggling to lose the baby weight because between treating the lows from working out; cutting carbs to drop a few only to have to eat a days’ worth in one serving to bring my numbers back up in normal range; and dealing with the depression of not meeting a weight goal.
  • We are the family teaching our son how to cook together and eat more vegetables, because the reality of eating out of a paper bag multiple times a week is a recipe for high blood sugar all evening because of carbohydrate overload.
  • I am a mother constantly worried when my son seems “extra thirsty” or overly lethargic that he may have inherited my useless pancreas.
  • We are a family who is constantly teaching and showing our son that “everyone is different” and some people need to take different medicine every day or use tools to keep their bodies healthy.

It is not something that can be hidden. It is a disease that very much effects the reality of our everyday schedules.

But, does it make us that different from other families?

I really don’t think so.

Maybe that’s because my parents raised me to believe that just because I had diabetes, didn’t mean I couldn’t do or be anything I wanted. It just meant my daily life would look a little different. But then again, isn’t that what we’re striving to teach our children now anyway?

According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), 5 million people in the United States, are expected to have T1D by 2050; including nearly 600,000 youth.

Take a moment and educate yourself, by reading these simple myths and facts about Type 1 Diabetes or these Type 1 diabetes quick facts from the JDRF website. With the statistics increasing yearly, you, one of your children, or someone you know could be diagnosed with diabetes.

Or if one or more of your children have friends, classmates, or teammates, talk to them about what diabetes means. Check out some of the great blog posts from JDRF’s typeonenation, as a way to get your family involved in supporting Type 1 diabetics.

There is so much more to Type 1 diabetes than what’s on the surface. It is time we educate others so we can all help support other families living with Type 1 diabetes.

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Katie Stern
Katie is a wife and mom of 3 boys, Lucas, Zeke and Toby. She is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, with a degree in Marketing & Communications. Katie has worked in the construction industry for the past 12 years, building and restructuring brands and marketing departments, for companies in the Baltimore and Washington DC market, before returning to Pittsburgh and starting a family. Their second son, Toby, was born May 27, 2016 and died suddenly in August from SIDS, at 12 weeks and 5 days old. Katie and her husband, Dan, made a promise to Toby that they would work to do good in his name and never let the story of his life be forgotten. Through this loss, they have founded The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation with the hopes of bringing joy, laughter, and lots of smiles to families within the Pittsburgh community, while working to spread awareness about child-loss and the lives of grieving parents. This is not the path they would have chosen for their lives, but it is the journey they are now on and will strive to be the best parents they can be, to one child on earth and one in Heaven. Katie is currently the Director of Marketing for A. Martini & Co., and General Contracting and Construction Management Firm. She has been heavily involved with juvenile diabetes research, because she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 2. Currently, Katie sits on the Executive Leadership Council for the American Diabetes Association, Pittsburgh Chapter and is part of the planning committee for Step Out: Pittsburgh each year. Their family moved to Monroeville, one week after Toby was born, and have enjoyed getting to know that area of Pittsburgh and what it has to offer. While in the throes of motherhood, Katie is also active throughout the week with exercise routines, Paw Patrol and PJ Masks episodes, blogging at Our Happy Place & Co., a lifestyle blog she started in 2013, and working with her husband on the mission of The Little Fox.