The Birth of a T1D Blogger
In this book excerpt, Kerri Sparling describes how she found solace in the diabetes online community.
This profile was excerpted from My Sweet Life: Successful Women with Diabetes, edited by Dr. Beverly S. Adler.
The summer before starting second grade, I started to wet the bed again. Nothing too dramatic, but enough that my parents were concerned. I seemed healthy, otherwise, so their response to this odd bedwetting revival was to buy an alarm that connected to my underpants.
“If you start to urinate, these two metal pieces will connect and an alarm will go off. That way, you won’t wet the bed and you can get up and use the bathroom.” My mom seemed pleased, hoping this would fix the problem.
“Okay,” I said. I was embarrassed.
I wore the bedwetting alarm for about two weeks. After waking up almost every night with my underpants going off like a fire engine siren, I was scared straight.
I spent the rest of the summer climbing trees, sleeping over at my friends’ houses, and being a kid. Never wet the bed again.
But something was still a little bit off. A few weeks before I was scheduled to start school, my mother took me in for my before-school physical. A few days later, we received a call back
from the pediatrician’s office. My parents repeated words I didn’t understand – “diabetes” and “hospital” – and the whirlwind of change began.
The thing about Type 1 diabetes is that you go from diagnosis to intense management in a matter of 24 hours. On the day before my diagnosis, I went to bed without checking my blood sugar and didn’t give any thought at all to the carbohydrate content of my snack. I didn’t stick a needle into my arm and inject insulin that was stolen from the pancreas of a cow. My mother didn’t worry about how stable my numbers would be throughout the night. I just went to bed. The night after my diagnosis, we were learning about our new “normal.”
I was the only kid I knew who had Type 1 diabetes. My small Rhode Island town wasn’t big enough at the time for two grocery stores, never mind a whole diabetes community, so finding other kids whose pancreases didn’t produce insulin was difficult. This marked lack of community was hard, both for my parents and for me.
In efforts to help me connect with other kids who really understood, my parents signed me up for the Clara Barton Camp for Diabetic Girls (now known as The Barton Center). For 12 days, I was surrounded by other little girls who also shot up before they ate breakfast. I was empowered, knowing I wasn’t alone, and that there was life – a good life – to be had after diagnosis. Unfortunately, with the end of camp came the end of my access to a diabetes community.
Try as they might to understand, my family’s empathy could only go so far. Just as I had no idea what it was like to care for a child with diabetes, my parents didn’t understand what it was like to be that child with diabetes. I tried to explain how a low blood sugar felt, or a high one, but my words could only resonate to a certain point. I craved understanding, kindred spirits, and their absence in my childhood left a gaping hole.
I felt alone. Alone with diabetes, yet oddly still part of the diabetes community. No one knew I was there, but just hearing someone at school mention, that their cousin has Type 1 or that a lady they were waiting on at the restaurant freaked out when her diet soda was switched for a regular one made me feel like I was instantly connected to these imperfect strangers.
My definition of “support” changed the day I met my husband.
“So what is that, an insulin pump?” he asked. I was so taken aback that this handsome guy knew this device’s purpose that I responded with a flustered, “Yes?”
When we first met, his perception of diabetes was vague and faceless. The only tangible symptom I had, as far as he was concerned, was the insulin pump attached to my hip. I had to learn how to explain diabetes in a way that would educate and not scare my future husband, and he had to listen and learn to love me without fear. We began to build our future together, knowing that it involved this thing called diabetes, but that my life, and our relationship, wasn’t defined by this disease.
After several months of dating, he encouraged me to share my thoughts about diabetes on a web blog. “Maybe you’ll find other twenty-somethings like you who have had diabetes for a long time,” he said. He knew that I needed those kindred spirits whose pancreases also neglected to produce their own insulin.
On a very sunny afternoon in May, after spending the day walking along the beach, I decided to start a blog. On May 4, 2005, I wrote my first blog post about life with Type 1 diabetes at SixUntilMe. It’s funny how fast the words come when they’ve been bottled up inside of you for almost two decades. From that moment on, I found my community.
To read Kerri’s blog, Six Until Me, go to www.SixUntilMe.com.
You can order My Sweet Life: Successful Women with Diabetes at Amazon.com.
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