Perfect teens – by Olly Double


Olly-DoubleSometimes people say the stupidest things when they’re trying to be helpful. If you tell people that both of your children have Type 1 diabetes, it’s not uncommon for them to try and make you feel better by saying something like, ‘Oh well, it could have been worse – they could have got cancer.’

Personally, I find that a bit annoying. Knowing that there are worse things that Joe and Tom could have got doesn’t particularly make me feel better about the fact that they HAVE got a lifelong medical condition that’s extremely challenging to keep under control. After all, life isn’t a game of disease-based Top Trumps.

If you get that comment and you find it similarly annoying, here’s a suggestion. When they say, ‘Oh well, it could have been worse – they could have got cancer,’ punch them in the face and say, ‘Oh well, it could have been worse – I could have kicked you in the groin.’

Something else that was said to us which wasn’t particularly helpful was that managing their diabetes would get much harder once they hit their teens. Tom was less than two when he was diagnosed back in 2000 and keeping his diabetes under control was practically impossible.

His regime was based on two daily injections of mixed insulin, which meant that his blood sugar levels were – to use a quaint old expression – ‘up and down like a bride’s nightie.’ The workings of the pancreas are a subtle and complex matter, and trying to replicate them with a double daily dose of Novomix 30 was a bit like trying to mend a watch with a lump hammer.

So being told that it would only get worse when he became a teenager was less than comforting. It only increased the sense of worry and panic that we felt on a daily basis.

In fact, the dreaded teenage years have turned out to be far less dreadful than advertised. In the last couple of years, Joe and Tom have been taking more and more control of their own diabetes. They test their blood glucose regularly and change the infusion sets for their insulin pumps – without moaning or making a fuss about it. Gone are the days when we had to do finger prick tests on them last thing at night and first thing in the morning.

Diabetes-kit-200x250And they don’t just do all of this stuff – they do it well. On recent trips to his diabetes clinic, Tom has had some of his best-ever HbA1C results. Joe, who’s 18 now, takes himself into London from Whitstable totally unaccompanied when he goes to clinic. He’s completely on top of his diabetes and has developed an awesome skill for ‘eyeballing’ – in other words, estimating how much carbohydrate there is in his food just by looking at it.

Having once been so heavily involved in the day-to-day care of their diabetes, Jacqui and I are starting to feel a bit redundant. That might make it sound a bit negative, but I’m not complaining. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say we’re feeling not so much redundant as retired.

Mind you, I wouldn’t want you to think that Joe and Tom are nauseatingly perfect teenagers. They’re still capable of reverting to type and exhibiting behaviour that people normally associate with that age bracket. For example, neither of them is overburdened with an excessive desire to clean up after themselves. It’s great that they cheerfully get on with their own infusion set changes, but the photos show that they’re less happy to tidy things away once they’re finished.

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