The holiday season is upon us, which means my “lists” have begun! Notice the “s” at the end of list. These lists are not what I want for Christmas, but what I need to accomplish before Christmas gets here. The grocery list for cookies and special Christmas meals, the party list, the school list, and most importantly the “who we need to buy Christmas presents for” list. As I finished the “who we need to buy Christmas presents for” list and looked at how long this list was, I felt overwhelmed. I questioned when I was going to get all this done and how was I going to pay for it all. I wasn’t feeling rich at all; in fact, I was feeling defeated. There have been quite a few moments and days lately where defeat has overpowered the richness in my life.
Life has a way of throwing you curveballs just when everything is going well and you think you’ve figured everything out in this life. I have contemplated sharing this latest news, as I’m honestly embarrassed to admit the reality of my life and worried about what people may think about our family. But I cannot worry or stress about what people think. This is my life. This is our life. We cannot change it or look back but only move forward. Recently our son Luke was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This diagnosis came out of nowhere after what we thought was a virus or a stomach bug or maybe even the flu. When they told us he had type 1 diabetes my mind immediately started asking questions. Why? Why did our family get another blow? Why Luke and not me? What did I do to deserve this? Did I do something wrong as a child? Did I eat something wrong when I was pregnant? Did I yell too much at my kids this year? Am I being punished in this life? Lots of questions and A LOT of mom guilt. First Gracie dies of cancer and then Luke gets diagnosed with a disease that is life threatening if not taken care of daily for the rest of his life. Why? Why? Why? Once again I am feeling defeated.
The worry of a child with type 1 diabetes is very overwhelming. Is he low? Is he high? Did I count the carbs correctly? Has it been three hours since his last insulin? Do we need more supplies? Will his diagnosis be accepted by his friends? Will he be invited to parties or sleepovers with his friends? Will the parents be supportive? How will he handle school? Will he miss classes to go to the nurse? Will his grades go down? How will he handle his sports schedule? Puberty is already scary enough; how will diabetes mess with that? Will he ever be able to have a beer (when he’s 21 of course)? OMG, what will he do when he goes to college? I might have to go with him! The questions and worry and mom guilt never stop.
With lots of time and patience, I am slowly learning a lot about this diagnosis. Type 1 diabetes will never go away, but it is manageable. Luke will need insulin to stay alive for the rest of his life. Type 1 diabetes has no known cause and no cure. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the beta cells in the pancreas. I did not cause this. So please don’t think that I mis-fed my son or that he didn’t get enough exercise. That only exacerbates my mom guilt for no reason. Over the course of a month, I have learned that kids with diabetes can do everything that other kids can do; they just need to adapt activities to keep blood sugars from going too high or too low. Diabetes is just one aspect of a child with type 1. I know I need to take care of his medical needs but always try to make him feel like a kid first and foremost.
Luke is doing AMAZING with all of this. He’s handled it wonderfully, is managing it successfully, gives himself his own shots and does not let diabetes define him. At this moment, he is in control of diabetes and is not letting diabetes control him. I can only hope and pray that it stays this way. He is not feeling defeated, so neither should I.
I looked back at those Christmas lists and I decided to look at it in a different way. Instead of feeling defeated, I felt rich. Not material rich, but rich with love, thankfulness ,and happiness. When looking at the list of who to buy for, I didn’t feel defeated anymore, but rich to know so many people who love and care about my family. Rich to be able to make someone’s day a little brighter this holiday season. Rich to think about putting a smile on a face of someone else who also might be feeling defeated this Christmas. When looking at Luke’s diagnosis instead of feeling defeated, I’m also trying to look at it in a different way. I’m feeling rich with thankfulness that we got Luke to the hospital before it was too late, for the amazing doctors and team at Joslin who continue to educate him and our family on how to manage Type 1, and for his school and friends who support him. Have you ever heard the quote, “ When life throws you a curveball, hit it out of the park!” ? That’s exactly what Luke is doing. I am beyond rich for having a kid who gets thrown these curveballs but gets up, deals with it, deals with it amazingly and keeps living this crazy life. (But for God’s sake, can we please go with scrapes, cuts, bruises or even stitches next time and stay away from the big stuff like broken bones and life- threatening diseases?!)
It truly is all in how you look at things. I do realize that I am not alone. There are a lot of people out there who are also feeling defeated this holiday season… Holiday stress, anxiety, depression, financial struggles, loneliness, missing a loved one, illness, painful and life changing diagnoses … the list goes on and on. I hope and pray that anyone feeling these defeats can look at the situation again and find some type of richness to it. This Christmas season I hope that we can all try to spread a little Christmas cheer and kindness to those who are hurting and feel defeat. It is very hard to know who those people are as many don’t show their pain or defeat. So simply being kind to everyone and anyone you meet can change someone’s day. I hurt everyday knowing that Gracie is gone, but I feel rich for knowing her and loving her for the time she was here. I also feel very rich to have friends and family who help me find the good and fill my heart with love and thankfulness instead of defeat. But not everyone has the same support I do. A simple hello, how are you, holding the door open for someone, baking someone cookies, letting someone ahead of you in line, a Christmas card, a phone call, or a simple smile are just enough to turn one’s day around. Simple acts of kindness can make you and the person receiving them feel rich. Someone gave me this quote a while ago and when things get tough I remind myself, “You don’t have to do anything, you GET to do everything.” My Christmas wish is that when you are feeling defeated, you remember this and can find your way to making yourself and someone else feel RICH with love again. Merry Christmas.
“Today be thankful and think of how rich you really are.Your family and friends are priceless, your time is gold, and your health is wealth”.