Written by, Deidre Pickering
Our sweet daughter, Cassidy was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on Feb 17, 2010. I wish I would have known the warning signs for diabetes, but when your four year old gets sick it’s not the first thing that pops into your head. Cassidy is my oldest of three, so I thought she was going through a growth spurt, losing her baby weight and eating and drinking more. She seemed to lack energy all the time. She had been potty-trained for a couple of years and had recently started having accidents wetting the bed at night. The day I took her to the doctor I thought she was coming down with a cold or had strep throat. She was a very active child so when she didn’t get out of bed that morning I knew something was wrong, but thought some antibiotics would be the fix.
I made a doctor’s appointment and took her bothers Dylan (two years old) and Brody (three months old) to my mom’s house. When we got to the doctor’s office they did a strep test, which was negative, but I knew something was not right with her so I kept talking to the doctor. After telling him how she was thirsty all the time and never seemed to get enough to eat, the doctor suggested a urine test. While waiting for the results, which seemed like forever, Cassidy just slept in my lap.
I would have never guessed the results of the test in a million years. The doctor tried explaining what life would be like with diabetes and what the next step would be, but I was in complete shock. He sent us straight to Primary Children’s Hospital and he called them to let them know we were on our way. I called my husband John, but can’t remember our conversation because I was in a daze and so scared for Cassidy. She was already afraid of needles and blood. I couldn’t believe this was happening to her.
I remember lots of tests, tears and taking classes to learn how to take care of our daughter. It was very overwhelming to know that after we left the hospital, Cassidy’s health would be in our hands. We spent two nights in the hospital with Cassidy. Most of the time was spent being educated on how to care for someone with diabetes. It added stress that only one parent could spend the night with her at the hospital. John was the obvious choice since I was nursing Brody. Leaving her there every night was the hardest thing to do, but knowing John was there for her brought me comfort.
Trying to explain to a four year old we needed to poke her finger (up to ten times a day) and after the poke she would need a shot before she could eat anything was heart-breaking. I still wish every day that I could trade spots with her.
The first year of her diagnosis was the hardest trial I have ever been through. Calculating Cassidy’s insulin dose was very complicated and the toughest part was learning how to carbohydrate count. Every carb she ate had to be counted for in order to give her the correct amount of insulin. We learned quickly that serving sizes can be very tricky to calculate while making sure she’s eating healthy. Unfortunately fruits and vegetables don’t come in a “standard” size. Preparing meals turned into a nightmare of math problems. I spent more time calculating carbs for a meal than actually cooking it.
We were instructed to give Cassidy her insulin before she eats so that her body has time to absorb the insulin before her food begins to digest. The problem with that is it means she has to eat whatever we calculated the carbs for. I remember the first birthday party she went to a few months after her hospital stay. She really wanted a piece of cake. I had thought the slice of cake was Cassidy-sized so I gave her a shot of insulin and she started eating. Half way through the cake she was full. Now she had too much insulin and her blood glucose level would drop low if she didn’t finish the cake. I was standing there with other moms and said, “sorry sweetie you need to eat all of your cake.” I got some strange looks from the other moms. I must be the first mom who ever forced their child to eat all of their cake.
I was so scared. Could a four year old tell if their blood sugar was getting too low or high? I was afraid to let her out of my sight because she might drop so low that she would pass out and start to seizure. We had to test her blood in the middle of the night to make sure her levels were in the correct range so she could make it until morning without needing to eat something. It took a little while for her to understand there was no getting out of finger pokes and shots. This wasn’t a passing phase.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reached out to me through their Family Link program and I was able to talk to families going through the same thing. It was nice to hear from others that the first year is the hardest and it does get better. I didn’t believe them for the first few months. I got the hang of carb counting and Cassidy learned tell us when she felt like she was low. I am now a walking carbohydrate counting expert. Even when Cassidy is in school my brain is still calculating the carbs on every plate of food I make for myself or her brothers.
We found out about the Step Out walk with the ADA and Cassidy was excited to be a part of it. In the last four years she has raised more than $6,000.00 towards finding the cure for diabetes. She has volunteered with the ADA to help fill bags with goodies that they give to newly diagnosed patients. She also was a spit donor to help train diabetes sniffing dogs.
Cassidy amazes me every day. She is my hero and example of being strong. At age six she started poking her fingers by herself. After the first year she was able to get an insulin pump so now she doesn’t need shots for Insulin. It was tricky getting used to the pump but she likes it a lot better because she has more freedom. If she wants seconds at dinner she doesn’t need another shot. She knows how to work her pump and with help counting carbs she can give herself insulin.
Our life has changed since she was diagnosed,and she has adjusted very well. Our family has been a huge support to us. I don’t know what we would do without their love. We can leave Cassidy now for a few nights with John’s sister, Michelle and she knows how to take care of her. We appreciate Michelle taking the time to learn how to take care of her. I know Heavenly Father has faith in us to take care of Cassidy and know she has been given the strength to handle this challenge. We are so proud of her.
Thanks Barbara, for giving me this opportunity to share her story. This was the first time I’ve written it and it was harder than I thought it would be.
Editor’s Note: Thank you, Deidre for sharing. We’re also proud of Cassidy, for all the good things she’s accomplished and for the way she’s handling this challenge. Give her a hug and thank her for inspiring us!