This one needs participation — read below and then in the comments, share about a sibling you want to salute and then share this blog with them. Let’s cheer on the folks who don’t always get the praise but always live with T1D along.
It’s T1D Day—the first official day of Diabetes Awareness Month. Since I’ve been banging the world on it’s head about diabetes awareness for the past six months, I’m going to participate but go easy on my friends. After all, friends who knew nothing about T1D before this have donated a ton to my Ride to Cure effort. They’ve listened. And reacted. And now they care. I need to give them a bit of a break.
But I will be picking some topics to blog about here. Today, on this first day of Diabetes Awareness Month, I’m going to pick a topic we all don’t think of first: the siblings and loved ones of a person with T1D. Because as much as you’ve learned here about my daughter with diabetes and her life, you’ve not learned much about my other daughter.
Because while she may not have fluctuating blood sugars or have to take shots and prick her finger all day, T1D has impacted her life. No doubt about it.
It has never been easy for Leigh, my older daughter, with T1D in our home. Sure, I worked hard at balancing. I never missed a tennis match in her life. I volunteered at all her school events. I was president of her school PTO (and raised the most money in the school’s history!) I celebrated when she won the state science fair and placed in the state geography fair. I was tickled to watch her receive the impressive “Prinicipal’s Award” for the most caring, giving and hard-working student in her high school in the principal’s eyes. I cheered her when she earned her gold medal from the US President’s Service Program. I hung out with her. I bought her cute clothes that cost way too much because 1) she looks so durn cute in them all and 2) she deserved them. I learned the Fordham Fight song and I rock my Fordham clothes to this day (rotating with my George Mason clothes of course!) I was thrilled when she completed amazing internships at both JDRF National and the Boston office of Senator Ted Kennedy. She is a hard-working, determined young woman who brings us nothing but joy.
But how does it ever measure up to even when your other child demands constant care and concern? And how do you take away from a sibling their fear (what if I get it?), their guilt (thank goodness I don’t have it!) and their anger (Really? Again? Diabetes is in the way again?) Siblings walk a hard road too.
So here is some news on Leigh’s life, totally worth celebrating.
Leigh moved back from New York City almost two years ago with a goal: to become an elementary school teacher. Since she quit a very good job in the city with great benefits, I was a bit freaked out. (What if she gets diabetes? See – I cannot stop attaching things in her life to T1D. Grrr.) Thank you changes in insurance rules – she was able to go on ours while she cranked her way through her master’s degree at Northeastern, graduating in one year with a 4.0 and securing a job teaching first grade at a public school. (Imagine the day a mom or dad walks in there to have a meeting to educate her about their child with T1D who will be in the room. That’s going to be a happy day for those parents. There I go again with the T1D). I have to say, I was worried when she quit her job and moved. But my husband said to me “What has Leigh ever attempted that has not been a huge success?” And he was right.
Leigh and her long-time boyfriend (and fellow Fordham alum) Mike (who also quit his job to teach and secured a great job as a high school English teacher), purchased an adorable home just a few miles from us. They joined our beach club and we got to hang out with them all summer. Leigh got back into tennis and is still hitting the ball like a champ. I get to watch her compete again! (And buy her cute tennis outfits).
In July, Leigh and Mike went off to NYC for the weekend. I knew they were on their way down there in the car, and my phone rang.
Leigh was sobbing and tried to get out a “hello mom.”
I freaked. “Did you get in a car accident??? What is wrong???” I nearly shouted.
“No,” she said and then between tears got out the news. “Michael just proposed to me! And I said yes!”
Mike did a great job – insisting they stop on their way to NYC at Fordham to buy some stuff and walk around. On the steps of Keating Hall, where they met, he proposed. Awesomeness. We love Mike and he already is like a son to us. We could not be happier. And now I get to spend this year planning Leigh and Mike’s wedding, which will take place on October 5, 2013. (Ride to fund Leigh’s wedding, anyone? Ha ha kidding).
We’ve already shopped for – and purchased – her gown. HERE is a photo of it. Just kidding Leigh. Even I don’t share that much! I have to say, shopping for her gown with her was everything I dreamed it would be. I had kind of a stressful, weird “planning my wedding time” in my life (another story for another type of blog – nothing to do with my great husband though!) so I’ve long dreamed of the day I’d share all that with my daughters. It was wonderful. And now we are pinning away and planning away. So much fun for her and me ahead of us this year.
I will say that the first months may have worried Leigh. I was so invested in my Ride to Cure effort, it almost consumed me (which it almost has to when you train from nothing to 100 miles in six months and set a crazy fundraising goal and exceed it). Now my time is all about her wedding. And I’m all for it.
Leigh and Mike are very close to Lauren. And I know they care deeply about her health and her future. T1D is on their minds, and will always be a part of how they interact with Lauren – until a cure.
Because as I said, it’s just plain hard being the sibling. You feel you cannot complain. You feel selfish if you get angry. You get just plain sick of it all.
But most of all, someone you love deeply – your sister or brother – suffers daily. And you have your own worries. When Lauren went through her difficult years, it was hard on Leigh too. Since they are my only children, Leigh worried about losing her sister – about never being aunties together or growing old together. I know that seeing Lauren thrive is as healing to Leigh as it is to me.
My friend Katie has two daughter’s as well. Ellie, her first, has T1D. Anna, her second, does not. Anna is a firecracker of a gal and smart as a whip. She lets things roll and just embraces life. But recently, as Katie sat with them, encouraging Ellie to do her own pump site change for the first time, she saw a side of Anna that sums it up. Here is Katie’s story about that moment:
“The siblings of kids with T1D are pretty amazing… Ellie is working up the courage to put in her own pump site (we are talking pushing a 1″ needle into your skin and then pulling it back out – not fun). She keeps getting discouraged and walked away from last attempt calling herself a wimp.
Anna, who is just sitting in chair nearby waiting for site change to be done so we can go on with our day, says: “You are anything but a wimp. No one should have to do that. You are stronger than anyone I know.”
Siblings rock. They put their own needs aside time and time again. They worry and fear and freak out and burn out, but keep it inside more than any of us for the sake of their sibling with T1D. They care passionately, and they admire.
So today, on T1D day, I salute them. I salute Anna, who truly gets it every day and every hour. I salute Leigh (and Mike), who has lived with this for 15 years just as much as me and Lauren and her dad. I salute Jack, who as an adult still works hard every day to make life better for his two siblings with diabetes. I salute Katherine, who created a “Duck sale” to raise money to help cure her brother Patrick, and worked hard on it every year. I salute Tess and Melanie who care so much about their little brother Jeff they could probably take over total care of him if need be. Please join me in the comments below and salute a sibling you want to get some credit. They’ve earned it. And deserve to hear it.
Happy T1D Day to them all. And now, back to pinning. I’ve a wedding to plan!