Well, it's over, & yet, it's only beginning. Welcome to December. That hunger pain you finally felt after swearing you'd never eat again, that free moment in your day, that extra cash in your wallet, don't let them fool you. The busyness, the food, the buying & wrapping & opening, they are upon us. Buckle up. I am trying to mentally prepare myself - - or at least plan some semblance of a birthday party for Reagan, who'll be four (4!) soon - - but it is slow going.
I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful. Ours was. I'll tell you (or show you) a little bit about it, but I am in an emotional state, an emotional, pictorial state. What follows will be full of equal parts emotion & pictures.
A few weeks ago my sister posted these pictures on Facebook, realizing that it had been a year since Reagan met Maisie for the first time. So, that's a sniff sniff thing anyway, right? Can I tell you what runs through my mind when I see pictures like this?
Insulin. Reagan was producing her own insulin last November. We didn't know it, but she had about six good weeks of pancreatic activity left at this point.
A few days after Reagan's official introduction to Miss Maisie, these were taken inside my parents' former home on the day we all trekked over to say a final goodbye.
(To lighten the mood, I will add that it was a good day as Jessica, my dad, & I went to see Catching Fire)
He's gained a lot of weight, & learned a lot of new tricks in a year. For example, wallowing on the floor, totally detracting from the dignity of his bow tie/red cardigan ensemble.
2014 . . . Henry weighs more, I weigh less, I have what I think is a better haircut, Trey continues to steadfastly refuse to participate in picture merriment, & sweet Reagan is kept happily humming along with her wonderful insulin pump:
A few with Miss MaryKate, who told me she likes taking pictures & she can teach Reagan how to smile. I believe her.
The emotional deluge began not because of the pictures of Reagan meeting Maisie, or the year that has passed & the ways it has changed my kids (which I can so readily document thanks to the 2,000 pictures stored on my iPhone), but because last week, on Monday, I faced down a demon that's haunted me for almost year.
Last January, I took Reagan to get a flu shot. It was a little late in the season for it, but a few pharmacist friends had warned me not to get it too early, as the flu hung around until April the previous year. After the shot business was completed, I took her to Starbucks for a cake pop, which I of course captured on the trusty iPhone.
Cake Pop, 2013:
Two weeks after these pictures were taken, Reagan was admitted to PICU having been diagnosed as diabetic. The medical folks asked me if she'd been sick. Had she had a stomach virus? No, no, nothing, I said. Often the onset of diabetes (type 1) occurs after an illness. Something riles up the body's immune system, & while it is busy fighting the invader, it mistakenly attacks the insulin producing cells as well. Shortly thereafter, deprived of insulin, the individual finds themselves in the ER.
We'd been in PICU a few nights when I thought back to the flu shot she'd had two weeks prior. I didn't want anyone to think I was nuts, so I didn't say anything except to one of her nurses, who didn't seem to have a strong opinion about whether or not a flu shot could trigger diabetes. Bottom line, Reagan is diabetic & they weren't overly concerned with what triggered it. I didn't think much more about it at the time, because really, what did it matter? I couldn't change anything at that point, & I told myself (over & over again) that had she not gotten the flu shot, it is highly likely something else would have triggered the diabetes, as she was obviously ripe to develop it.
I am not saying all this to frighten you, or to discourage flu shots. I will tell you what the attending physician in the ER told us, that nothing we did, or didn't do, triggered the diabetes. It could not have been prevented. Maybe one day they'll figure that out, how to both prevent it, & cure it, but they're not there yet. I do think, after discussing it with a few people & doing some online reading, that it likely was her flu shot that triggered the attack on her insulin producing cells. There are countless diabetes support message boards full of posts from mothers with stories similar to mine: child gets flu shot, & in a matter of weeks is diagnosed.
It was with all this on my mind that I carried Reagan to her doctor's office to get her flu shot last Monday. As a diabetic, she certainly does not need to contract the flu, & she's accustomed to needles & eager for any excuse to eat a cake pop, & so it was a pretty pleasant shot experience overall.
Cake Pop, 2014:
I am going to be brutally honest (because really, what other reason is there to blog?) & tell you that it is tough parenting a diabetic child. Some days, some weeks are tougher than others. I would say it's harder than I imagined, but I certainly never imaged it would be a part of my life. In addition to last week's flu shot drama (which was a drama played out solely in my head, mind you, as is most of the drama in my life), on Thursday, Thanksgiving, Reagan dipped low more than once. That's not a limbo reference. I sometimes forget most people don't speak diabetes; her blood sugar dipped low, very low, twice. It was likely due to the excitement of the day, a lot of running & jumping & cousin shenanigans, & my having to try & make sure she ate enough carbs to counteract the insulin I gave her for her meals, which is tricky when you're dealing with a three-year-old & strange Thanksgiving vegetable concoctions.
Diabetes is a guessing game, at least for a type 1 who needs insulin to cover every carb consumed. The guessing is easier when food is labelled with the exact carb count, or when a restaurant posts their nutrition information online. The guessing is easier when all the other variables that can affect blood sugar, such as exercise, growth spurts, illness, stress, anxiety, changes in the weather, etc., aren't in play. I don't have to guess perfectly, thank goodness, & I am getting better, but it's a guessing game that wears on me, & seeing extreme lows twice in a day shakes my confidence.
Some days I want to cry & wallow in it all. Thursday night, I wanted to cry & wallow in it all. I settled for hot chocolate & ordering some stuff online at incredibly discounted prices. I am typically good at giving myself pep talks (& spending money, which is always a mood lifter, as are skinny corduroy GAP pants at half off).
Friday was a better day, both numerically & otherwise. We went with my parents to pick out a Christmas tree for their house at Precious Memories, the most delightful Christmas tree farm.
Rows & rows of perfect trees dot rolling hills, & they have a tractor-pulled sleigh on which all the kids (plus their moms) took a spin while my mom settled the tree bill. With the tree strapped to the top of my mom's car, we ate lunch at Chick-fil-A. The adults enjoyed a post-meal coffee, & Reagan got to spend a few minutes enjoying the indoor playground she usually only glances at longingly as we whiz through the drive-thru.
Perhaps eclipsing all the holiday merriment, at least for me, Friday was one of the most perfect blood sugar days since diagnosis. Her range was 84-167, & that includes eating ice cream at Chick-fil-A. Due to sugar & fat content & a few other variables about which you likely don't care, ice cream is a hard food for which to dose. Thursday night, in lieu of a pity party (which really isn't en vogue on Thanksgiving), I watched LSU hold off Texas A&M, & I ordered my pants, & then I prayed. I don't know exactly how the Lord answers prayers, or how involved He was in Friday's wonderful numbers, but I know He knew I needed them.
I like the two sets of cake pop pictures. I like comparing them. She looks very healthy & happy in both sets of photos, & that's because she was, & she is. She can still eat a cake pop; it takes some wizardry on my part, but one lesson you learn quickly after a diabetes diagnosis is that whatever it is that your child needs to remain happy & healthy, that is what you do. If it means someone has to wake at two or three in the morning, every morning, to check her blood sugar, that becomes the new norm. If it means learning the carbohydrate count of every food under the sun, you get busy learning. I am honored to be her pancreas. It is a job I never imagined taking on, & it's a hard job, but most important jobs are. Much like parenting, it is stressful, but you keep at it because you are determined not to face the consequences of failing to successfully navigate the enormous task set before you.
I'll end by telling you how I spent Saturday evening. Trey took the kids to his parents' house mid-afternoon. I ran to the grocery store, as that's usually where I head first when I am alone. I grabbed a few grilled chicken nuggets & a cup of coffee at Chick-fil-A, which I thought would nicely compliment the enormous bag of popcorn I bought myself at the grocery store. I arrived home in time to plant myself on the couch, popcorn in lap, & watch Florida, terrible, terrible, their-coach-quit-in-the-middle-of-the-season Florida, almost knock off the best the ACC has to offer.
Florida almost knocking off the grossly overrated FSU was the beginning of a string of disappointing games for me, but I watched them all alone, on my couch, with my popcorn, & so I was not too upset at the end of the night. Once again, the regular season is nearing its end, & I find myself in familiar territory. Here's the thing. Alabama is the best team in college football (please know I am vomiting in my mouth a little). Amari Cooper is so, so good. I am going to assume Alabama will defeat Missouri for the SEC title, because really, if a team from the SEC West doesn't win the SEC this year, then there is no such concept as logic. So, Alabama claims their (rightful) spot in the playoffs. I think any two-loss SEC West team deserves a spot in the playoffs as well, particularly above an undefeated FSU. What is undefeated worth in the ACC, anyway? What does it mean when you can't soundly, convincingly defeat this year's Florida squad? No one thinks FSU could beat Ole Miss, or Mississippi State. No one who is intellectually honest thinks that.
So, Alabama & three lesser teams will make the first college football playoff, &, *cringe* I kind of hope Alabama gets a shot at FSU. As much as I don't want to see Alabama & the Tan Man win another title, what is eclipsing that at the moment is my desire to see FSU destroyed, & while there are other SEC teams who could destroy Winston & his posse, Alabama is the only SEC team with a chance to do it. I was so hopeful this would be the year for Ole Miss or Mississippi State, that it would not again fall to Alabama to deliver college football justice. Alas, sometimes fate is exceedingly cruel. You will not hear me say Roll Tide. I simply seek justice, for the college football world, & for the Western division of the SEC, which this year is as deep & talented as any division college football has ever seen. You know it's the truth. May justice prevail. Amen.