Elissa and Steve Renoufs story.
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Diabetes Products, Diabetes Travel Bag, Diabetes PostersElissa Renouf's Story

Thank you for visiting our website. I would like to share with you my story of the challenges I face every day, in the hope it may bring better understanding, help, support and make managing your life that bit easier.

On the surface we are your typical Australian family with 5 beautiful, happy, healthy, well-loved children.  Delving further into our lives you will see it is a little more complicated than others, however we never lose sight or determination to live as normal as possible -  even though we are constantly handed these health issues with our children and ourselves.

 

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About me

I have five beautiful children, 4 boys and 1 girl aged between 20 and 12.  Steve and I started going out when we were 15. I left school in year 11 to start hairdressing, Steve completed year 12 and moved to Brisbane from our small country town to play professional Rugby League -  for the Brisbane Broncos and started an electrical apprenticeship. 9 months after Steve left Murgon I transferred my apprenticeship to a Brisbane salon. We were married in 1990 at the age of 19.

In 1992 not long after our first child Sam was born Steve developed Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 22. He was at this time playing professional Rugby League for the Brisbane Broncos, Queensland and Australia.

In 1992 Steve had the best playing year of his life. On returning home from England after a 3 week World Cup Tour and World Club Challenge game he started losing weight, was very thirsty and had an infection in a wound after an operation. All of this didn’t make sense until he was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease Type 1 diabetes. Steve’s main concern was if he would be able to play football again at the level he had previously achieved. Well he did and this was mainly due to his attitude and the way he managed his diabetes. By keeping a very strict control of his levels through diet and insulin injections he was able to achieve his goals.

Steve and I went on to have another 2 children, Billy born 1994 and Sunita born 1996. When Sunita was 6 months old I developed Graves Disease (overactive thyroid) which is also an auto-immune disease. I treat this with tablets that keep my levels under control. We often wondered whether the children had a risk of getting one of the diseases but were told that they had only about 5% chance.

 

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Charlie is diagnosed 2002

Steve and I had another 2 children, Charlie born 1999 and Freddie born 2001. All the children were very happy and healthy until May 2002. Just after Charlie’s third birthday - one night when he was going to bed, he asked me to fill a drink bottle with water.  First thing the next morning, he asked for it to be filled again.  As we had tested the children on Steven’s meter every now and then and they were all fine I was not really alarmed but asked him if I could test him on Daddy’s tester.  I suggested to Charlie we do this; however he did not want to. Not wanting to cause an upset I decided I would test him that night when he was asleep.

When we did test him his level was 21mml. We phoned the hospital, they asked for him to be taken in straight away and they started him on insulin injections the next morning. Lucky for us we had the knowledge about Diabetes which allowed us to diagnose it before Charlie become very ill.

He accepted his daily routine of 7 finger prick test and 4-5 insulin injections a day, and everything that goes with having diabetes very well. We put this down to the fact that he had always seen Steve do everything, so it wasn’t as scary as it is for children who have never seen the needles before.

 

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A Double Wammie 2003

By early January 2003 we had everything under control with Charlie’s diabetes when we noticed Billy - who was 8 ½ at the time, was also showing signs.  We tested him all that day and by afternoon knew that he too had developed Type 1 diabetes. He accepted this very well as he already understood a lot about diabetes because of Charlie. Billy was also diagnosed with Coeliac disease in May 2003 which means he can’t have any foods that contain gluten.  eg wheat, oats, barley, rye and malt. 

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The Hat-Trick 2004

Over the next few months we kept on testing the other children and by October 2003 we noticed that Freddie - our youngest child, was showing very early signs of diabetes. I found this a particularly hard time, as Freddie was still producing insulin but this was slowly decreasing. Why can’t I stop this from happening?

By March 2004 Freddie started on insulin injections just 2 months before his third birthday. He also accepted this very well because he was going to be like Dad and his 2 other brothers. Freddie was then diagnosed with Coeliac disease in November 2005.

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Something different 2006

Late 2005 Sunita - aged 9 ½, was playing basketball when she collapsed on the court.  After a visit to the doctor he put it down to a fainting episode. In Feb 2006 Sunita had another fainting episode after swimming. We took her to a neurologist who informed us that there was a slim chance it was Epilepsy and if so, the seizures would become more frequent and stronger. Within 2 weeks she had another seizure, this time she didn’t faint but her face jumped and twitched uncontrollably. I phoned the specialist and he suggested we have an MRI to rule anything else out, before starting her on Epilepsy medication.
 

Following the MRI we went to visit the specialist. Steven, Sunita and I entered his room and within 5 minutes our whole world came crashing down.  We were told that she had a brain tumor.  Here we were worried about putting her on epilepsy medication, and now we are being told that our daughter has a brain tumor.  Sunita was in the room at the time so we had to be very mindful about what questions we asked.  They couldn’t tell us much more than, it was a hamartoma or a low grade glioma, which has a very broad spectrum.  The tumor was in the Thalamus (core of the brain) which is responsible for all of her gross motor nerves so we couldn’t do a biopsy.  Now we have to wait and see if it is growing and how quickly.  We had to wait 3 months before the next MRI until we would know if it was growing and if so how fast.  As anyone would imagine this was a very difficult time.

Over the next 18 months Sunita had 4 MRI’s, which showed no significant changes.  She continues to have MRI’s at 2 years intervals and fingers crossed there has never be any change.  If this is the case the doctors say that it’s possible that the tumor is just a birth mark where the cells haven’t formed properly however she will have to monitor the tumor for the rest of her life.  The tumor may have never been found if Sunita didn’t have the epilepsy seizure. 

Sunita had two years on the epilepsy medication and 18 months of having no seizures so was allowed to go off the medication.  She has now been symptom free for over 6 years.

 

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Not another one

After watching Sam's levels slowly rise over a 2 year period, September 2009 was the month that he was formally diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, two months before his 17th birthday. I am so proud of the way Sam has accepted this challenge with such confidence and ease. 

 

 

 

 

Things happen for a reason

I am not sure why so many things have happened to us but I am now trying to make a difference to other people who have been affected by diabetes.

Starting my own business in 2004, I designed and created funky, bright, useful, convenience based products to help manage diabetes. With so many diabetics in my family already, I had a great amount of experience and knowledge of what is needed to make diabetes as convenient and manageable as possible.

Having spoken at conferences around Australia, New Zealand and at the International Diabetes Federation World Diabetes Congress – Montreal, Canada, I hope that by telling my story and the positive way we deal with diabetes in our family – it will never stop our children from doing anything, the same way it never stopped their father. It may help other families to look at their lifes and realize that life isn’t that bad even though they may have diabetes or another illness. Yes it is hard and certainly an inconvenience, however there are many other disease’s we could have, which would not allow us or our children to live as full a life as we can with diabetes.

I love the fact that I am helping others and I feel this also helps me, as the business has been a great distraction when things start to play on my mind.

As diabetes, Type 1 and predominantly Type 2 affect a huge population, I hope that I can help spread the word that managing diabetes and being positive has so many benefits.  If we as a family can be positive with what challenges we have been handed, there is no reason why other families can’t!

This is my motto:

A Pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, An Optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty” by Sir Winston Churchill

Take care and always enjoy life, whichever direction it may take you.

Elissa