I am a lucky gal. I get to travel all over the country and talk to people about finding ways to be empowered in life while raising a child with diabetes. Sometimes I talk about advocating and raising funds for research. Often I talk about thriving in this life instead of just surviving.
But the topic I get the most positive feedback on is raising a teen with diabetes. I just did two talks in Austin, Texas: one on “Letting them go,” (how to let your kids have freedom, from play dates to slumber parties to college and beyond) and a second talk on raising a teen with diabetes.
As is always the case after, parents (and even some young adults with T1D) lined up to thank me. Which is nice.
But here is the thing: I’m not the one they should be thanking. Because without the openness, honestly and willingness to have her story shared that my daughter Lauren has possessed for so long, my talks would not exist.
So today, I want to say a special thank you to her.
Lauren has long been open and sharing; she even testified before Congress (twice!) about her struggle with diabetes in her adolescent years. She’s never shied away from the brutal truth, and she’s always been open to talking to anyone about it, for the good of all.
This is not an easy choice. Because you know what? People judge. People who do not understand how very, very hard it is to just simply live your life with Type 1 diabetes. They think “Oh come on – just do what you are supposed to and move on.” But life with Type 1 is a daily dodge of land mines, both physical and emotional.
It’s not an easy choice, too because: dammit, this stuff is personal. I know others who have bravely chosen to share their diabetes journey (Anna, Kerri, Kelly and Scott come to mind, but there are more). It takes a special kind of person to be willing to put it all out there for the sake of others. But Lauren has – and still does.
Because everything I’ve ever written; every talk I’ve ever given, has only been done with Lauren’s seal of approval. And to everything I’ve wanted to share, she’s almost never said no.
That’s because she gets it. Dammit: she gets it. Like me she imagines how much less frightening and confusing our teen years struggle might have been with more honest input, information and suggestions from one who had been there – truly been there.
And like me, she feels a responsibility to help those coming along this road after us.
I want Lauren to know how many thousands – and I am quite sure the number totals in the tens of thousands – of parents and kids in the throes of the teen years or looking just ahead to them – think of her experiences, her slips, her ability to get back up and keep going, and her amazing successes, as a positive touch point for their lives.
People say it to me all the time. “Now that I heard her story, I feel like we can do this.”
“Hearing that a kid as great as her struggled makes me understand that my child is a great kid, not a disappointment.”
“Now I know it’s going to be okay.”
So today, as I get ready to head back home after a weekend of speaking with parents in Austin, I want to say a public thank you to Lauren for changing the diabetes world for the better.
Lauren is not perfect. (Except in her parents’ eyes). She wasn’t a “role model diabetic” in her teen years. But that’s what makes her willingness to share all the more powerful. She’s real. And she’s thriving, despite diabetes.
True open honesty takes courage, stamina and just plain guts. You’ve got them all, Lauren. And the diabetes world may say thanks to me all the time – but they really mean thanks to you.
(Post note: Lauren is very busy starting her career in advocacy in Washington DC, so now is not the time. But I dream of the day when I can bring her along with me on talks, to share the stage, the story and the ‘inspiration duty’ with me. Imagine that!)