Coping with a Type 1 DiagnosisElissa Renouf
Having a child diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes can be an overwhelming and devastating time for the whole family. Elissa Renouf shares some tips and advise on how she dealt with 4 type 1 diagnosis’.
Q. How did you cope when your children were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes?
A. When Charlie, our fourth child, was diagnosed with Type 1 at three, I felt I could handle this challenge, but was still very upset for Charlie at the loss of freedom he faced in dealing with this for life. I felt a little self-pity too, having to take on managing his illness, plus rearing five children under nine. Having watched the kids father coping with diabetes, I knew I was up to the task and would do my best to help Charlie in a positive way.
The first 4-5 weeks were the hardest. There was so much to learn about diabetes. One day, while feeding my animals (70 of them at this time), the kids father called and I had a meltdown, explaining I would have to get rid of my much-loved pets to manage Charlie’s diabetes properly. But we found our feet, got into a routine and things settled down. I still have my pets, plus more – 101 in total.
While the kids father’s Type 1 had helped us gain a lot of diabetes knowledge, attending our hospital’s new-patient clinic was a great help. I learnt that all my feelings of being upset and overwhelmed were very normal. Four of my five kids now have Type 1 and each time a child was diagnosed I’d attend a new-patient clinic. It’s been a huge benefit in helping me handle and fully understand everything we should do to cope the best we can. I would urge parents to take advantage of any diabetes information days in their area because they bring you up to date on new developments to improve day to day care.
I believe diabetes is as hard as you want it to be. As a family, we treat it very seriously but very positively. Diabetes is not going to disappear, so the only way to truly cope is to embrace and accept it. I’ve tried to never use or allow my kids to use diabetes as an excuse. I try never to say things like, ‘you can’t eat that’ or ‘you’ve got to eat this.’ Its important a child with diabetes eats all their dinner but if, as a parent, I’m saying “you have to eat everything because you have diabetes’, they’ll hate their diabetes. But if it’s a family rule that everyone eats everything on their plates, then that’s just the family rule! And there won’t be any negative feelings.
As for not being able to eat certain foods, I let my kids eat everything, including ice cream, lollies and soft drinks as ‘sometimes foods’. This way they can still feel normal. I substitute the ‘sometimes foods’ for a routine food of similar carb value or give the kids a choice: they can have an extra insulin injection to cover the carbs or go without. It always amazes me to see a three year old choose an extra needle so they can have an ice cream. But making it their choice gives them some control – after all, it’s really their diabetes.
I am a Diabetes Educator in Armidale NSW, and have heard you speak at a conference in the past, and it really made an impact on me. I was wondering do you have any recorded talks you have given we could access? I have a few children who are experiencing burnout, and am looking for some practical ideas families could possibly implement, or suggestions so that the family could also take on some responsibility away from the child, to give them a break and get through the burnout period.