ColumnsLiving with Type 1 Diabetes

I Hate My Son’s Honeymoon Period

Our first honeymoon was everything you could want in a romantic getaway – a pressure-free and luxurious vacation in Paris. Our second honeymoon was anything but.

It happened when our older son, Jack, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 11. The first night, as I stayed by Jack’s hospital bed, I thought I would never be able to take care of him or teach him how to care for himself through this complicated disease. I had watched a dear friend cope with Type 1 diabetes for 32 years and wondered how my little boy could endure it.

That dreadful night was just the beginning of the adventurous ride absurdly named “honeymoon phase”. There is nothing romantic and fun about trying to manage insulin levels while one’s pancreas pretends not to be diabetic and randomly pumps out insulin. I felt like I had been forced into the pilot’s seat of a small plane with trusting passengers behind me in the cabin and only three days of flight training.

One night I checked Jack’s bedtime sugar and I gave a correction because his level was 245. Within 30 minutes he appeared in our bedroom ashen, sweating, and shaking. I lept out of bed to grab what looked like an apparition in the doorway. The poor kid had tested on his own and his blood sugar was 38, an all-time low. This episode took two iterations of juice boxes over an hour interspersed with the requisite testing to restore him to a safe level for sleeping.

On nights like that one I always do a 3:00 am check. Every T1D parent knows the feeling, the horrendous pit in the stomach when walking over the threshold of the child’s room in the dark of night. I tickled my sleeping tween’s nose to elicit a movement and was happy when he swatted my hand away and uttered an unintelligible grunt of annoyance. We tested anyway and saw a number higher than optimal, but the prospect of Jack sleeping through a dangerous low had been averted for another night.

shutterstock_234294550_boy_cliffs_300pxIt’s like a battleground on a cellular level as my son’s pubescent body strives to grow while dealing with an erratic, failing pancreas. We meticulously count carbs and monitor his sugars, but we are often left staring at each other saying, “What the heck just happened?” In this unstable honeymoon period, there is no rhyme or reason to how Jack’s fragile pancreas behaves. I often feel like an elephant just sat down on one side of a see-saw delicately balancing carbs and insulin.

I’m sick of this see-saw and so is Jack. It is a bizarre idea to wait for an organ to peter out so we can reclaim sanity. If I could turn off his pancreas with the push of a button, I would do it so we could get on with our lives, but I can’t do that.

Winston Churchill said, “When you are going through hell, keep going.” That is what we’ll do, and we’ll aspire to do it with grace and fortitude to show Jack his foundation is unwavering. We’ve got our son’s back, and we’ll teach him how to catch himself before he falls. Someday, I want him to have his own honeymoon in Paris, when he’ll look back on this confusing chapter in his life with pride.

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Tara Bryant-Gray is a training and development professional with experience in medical education, clinical trials management, and quality standards design and implementation. She has a Master of Education degree from Harvard University and a Master of Science degree in Technical Systems Management from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The mother of two young sons, one of whom was recently diagnosed with Type 1, Tara is an impassioned advocate for a cure. Tara and her family live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

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