My Parents Tried to Have Type 1 For a Day

Diabetes activist Quinn Nystrom has written a memoir called If I Kiss You, Will I Get Diabetes?, about growing up with Type 1 diabetes. In this condensed excerpt, Quinn shares how her parents once had to put themselves in her shoes.

The first summer I had diabetes, my parents and I attended a workshop for parents of teenagers with diabetes at the International Diabetes Center in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. It was day two of the five-day seminar when my ears perked up. The speaker was addressing himself to the teenagers in the room.

“Do you think your parents really know how tough it is to manage diabetes?” he asked. “How do you think they would handle this disease?”

A ripple of laughter spread across the auditorium.

“Poof, now both of your parents have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes,” the speaker proclaimed. “For the next 24 hours, they will monitor their blood sugar and give themselves shots.”

Parents all over the room were whispering. A nurse entered the room with a cart filled with blood sugar kits, test strips, lancets, syringes, bottles of saline solution (to stand in for insulin) and logbooks.

“The parents will now be the patients,” the nurse explained, looking out over the small crowd of moms and dads. “You’ll be testing your blood sugar four times a day and injecting insulin five times a day. In addition, you’ll need to log everything you eat, and record your blood sugar numbers and the corresponding insulin dose.”

My mom looked very nervous. I saw her glancing at the exit sign when their names were called for the lab demonstration.

That night, my parents and I went out to eat at a steakhouse. After we ordered, my mom pulled out the blood sugar meters and strips. Dad quickly pricked his finger and produced a drop of blood. Mom tried to be relaxed and casual, but she was taking her time poking her finger.

“Ouch, that hurts,” she said. “Are we going to give ourselves a shot right here at the table?”

I laughed. “Where else are you planning to do it? You want to go out to the car or into the bathroom?”

They calculated their doses of insulin and drew up the corresponding number of units of saline solution.

“That didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would,” Mom said. “But it takes so much time.”

“You get used to it,” I replied. “I can test my blood and inject insulin in less than a minute.”

Back at the hotel, we were getting ready for bed. Mom was already curled up reading her book.

“Mom, have you tested your blood sugar tonight?” I asked.

“Quinn, I’m so tired. It’s been a long day. I’ve done it once already.”

“I wish I could take a night off from diabetes.” My eyes filled with tears. “You’ve had diabetes for nine hours and you’re already giving up.”

Mom jumped out of bed and came over to hug me.

“I’m proud of you, Quinn. Your dad I would trade places with you in a minute if we could,” she said. “But I would have to really practice with the needles.”

Thanks in part to her parents’ support, Quinn becomes a motivational speaker and diabetes activist. To buy If I Kiss You, Will I Get Diabetes, or to book Quinn Nystrom for a speaking engagement, please click here.

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For the past 20 years, Quinn Nystrom has been sharing her story of living with type 1 diabetes to audiences across the country speaking to over 300,000 people. Nystrom has been featured nationally on XM Radio, Glamour Magazine, MSN, Diabetes Forecast, Reader’s Digest and The Learning Channel (TLC). She received her Master of Science Degree in Communication Management from Syracuse University. Her graduate research focused on how communication messages from health care providers, parents and peers, impact an adolescent’s self-efficacy in their self-management with type 1 diabetes. She’s currently the National Diabetes Ambassador for Center for Change speaking out about the high prevalence of people with Type 1 diabetes and an eating disorder.

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