My Son Was Diagnosed with Type I Diabetes

Posted July 14, 2011 by

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When my son was 3, he had a friend in preschool who had diabetes. One day while at the pharmacy, he saw diabetes supplies displayed under the counter. He announced loudly, “When I get diabebes, I am going to buy those!” Everyone in line thought he was so cute. Over the last 10 years we have laughed fondly at that “kids say the funniest things” moment. We are no longer laughing. Just 6 weeks shy of his 14th birthday, my son was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes.

This is the child who already deals with anxiety, depression, ADHD and a mood disorder. We are a family already dealing with 3 children ( including him) with mental health diagnoses. I have watched him go through the 5 stages of grief all in one day, several times. He goes from saying he is ok with it and will deal, to wondering why this happened to him, to thinking he will never be able to have a candy bar again, to refusing to watch TV due to the multitude of food commercials, back to being ok with it and ready to take it on. He has decided that since he occasionally laughed at the way Wilfred Brimley pronounced Diabetes with a southern accent, Karma has come back to bite him.  He is also ready to play the diabetes card if necessary. When he wanted to play Monopoly, which is my least favorite game to play, he said to me when I declined, “but Mom, I have diabetes!” When I said I had a headache, he said, “at least you you don’t have Diabetes!” At the same time, he expressed great empathy when he saw a little boy on the hospital ward dealing with cancer, also expressing how he was glad he had diabetes, which he can manage, instead of cancer. Last night, as we were getting ready to be discharged after our 4 day hospital stay, he said to me, “I’ll bet the nurses are going to come and and yell ‘APRIL FOOLS!’ any minute!”

“They” say God does not give you more than you can handle. We were already feeling stretched to the limit with what was going on with our boys. In fact, we had begun looking into respite care for our youngest (my 11-year-old step son) because we need a break desperately from dealing with his daily behaviors. As my newly diagnosed son has, I also have gone through the stages of grief, each one, repeatedly. At times I want to find whoever ‘THEY” are and kick them in the teeth!

All of the nurses seem to be impressed with the laid back manner in which we took the news and how quickly we learned how to test his blood sugar and give the shots. I have been told this a lot. People are always telling me they could never do what I do, or would never be able to manage what I manage. Really? What is the alternative? This always baffles me. What do other people do? It’s not like we have a choice in the matter. But one social worker told me she has seen moms rocking and howling in the hallways. Well, I was doing that on the inside.

It’s interesting: since my children have the other mental health issues, I have, over the years, learned to advocate for them. I’ve educated myself and in turn, my career path shifted to helping other families navigate the maze of the mental health world. Now I need to find someone to help us navigate this new world we just entered. As we left the hospital last night, I felt very much like I did when leaving the hospital for the first time. “Here you go! Good luck keeping him alive!” But here we are, 13 years later, and he is still alive. I figured it out then, I will figure it out now.


I am a mom of two boys, ages 16 and 22, both with ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. I have remarried and my husband has 2 boys, ages 13 and 16. The 13 year old lives with us, and has some behavioral problems and attachment issues. There is always something happening at our house!

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  1. Laurie Cooper (Edit) Report

    Emmie – I am so sorry for you, your son and your whole family. I know all too well the pain and the fear that you are all dealing with. My 3 year old granddaughter was diagnosed last November with Type 1. It was the scariest thing our entire family has ever had to face. Everyone thought she just had a virus, but when she continued to get worse instead of better and was completely lethargic, my son and daughter-in-law rushed her to the emergency room where they were told that she was in DKA – Diabetic Ketoacidosis – and was very close to going into a diabetic coma. Needless to say, the next several days were a whirlwind. Thank God for the amazing Dr.’s, nurses and educators at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital in Atlanta! They were able to get Lily’s blood sugar back to a good level and slowly but surely over the next several days, we saw the life come back into her. And then the education began! I felt very much as you do now, so I want to tell you that it will be okay! It gets better, it gets easier and there’s lots of help and support out there. I would highly encourage you to get in touch with The Juvenile Diabetes Association, if you haven’t already. Their website is The people there are amazing!
    Please tell your son that having type 1 diabetes doesn’t mean that he’ll never be able to have a candy bar again! He can be, do and have anything he’s ever had before – he just has to give himself insulin whenever he has any carbs.
    My beautiful little granddaughter is no different from any of the other little kids her age, except that she has diabetes and has to take insulin!
    The advances they’ve made to date, in the treatment of diabetes is unbelievable. I am completely confident that one day there will either be a cure for diabetes, or at the very least, she’ll be able to get a new pancreas! In the meantime, I pray every single day for her diabetes to be cured and I also thank God every single day that all she has is Diabetes! It can be managed! I walked the halls of Scottish Rite Hospital when Lily was there and witnessed children and families dealing with things no one should ever have to deal with!
    Hug your son!! He WILL be okay!! He’s lucky to have a Mom that will love him and support him as he adjusts to his new way of life!
    God Bless you all!

  2. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    Deborah: I’m not sure how old your son is, but something that works really well with kids up to about age 16 are behavior charts. A behavior chart is an incentive program designed to motivate your child to practice the behavior you want to see—in this case, doing something the first time he is asked. I am going to include a link to an article about behavior charts as well as a link to a type of chart called a Single Behavior Chart. Both the article and the chart include instructions and suggestions for use. It would be best to discuss this with your child’s counselor to be sure this type of tool will be appropriate for your son. And as you surely know, continue to work with your child’s doctor closely to make sure your son’s blood sugar is well controlled—it’s no secret that uncontrolled blood sugar can be related to behavioral problems in children. Please continue to check back at frequently for the latest expert articles about child behavior. Take care.
    Child Behavior Charts: How to Use Behavior Charts Effectively
    Single Behavior Chart

  3. Deborah (Edit) Report

    I can relate to some of what you are going through. My son has type 1 diabetes. He also has ODD, anger issues, abused by his dad. and it continues. I’m having a hard time getting him to follow through on listening and minding. He’s in counseling. That’s working a little bit. I need some help. I can’t afford to get the total transformation. Limited income and being poor doesn’t help. I need some suggestions. Thank you.



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