A Birthday Card
Dani Petrunich, CDN Student Blogger
My Mom remembers more about my diagnosis than I do. I was only three when I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, so I guess that’s to be expected, but she’s told me about it so many times that it feels like some of her memories have become my own. I don’t actually remember walking into the hospital after dance class in my tights, leotard, and tutu. I don’t remember my intense thirst, or constantly needing to pee, during the weeks before our visit. I don’t remember crying every time a nurse came to check my blood sugar, or eating special meals for my health. I don’t remember the doctor bearing the news, and I certainly don’t remember the emotions that came with it. But my Mom does.
Ever since that day in a small Illinois hospital room, my Mom has committed herself to helping me manage my diabetes. She mentioned once how she and my Dad stayed up for hours after my diagnosis reading books about diabetes, talking to doctors, and soaking up as much knowledge as they could about this foreign disease. As I grew, she began to teach me how to take care of myself. And she always made sure others knew how to take care of me. She used to meet with nurses and teachers before school each year to explain the basics of diabetes. She also came into my classroom and read a children’s book about a boy with diabetes to me and my fellow kindergarteners- “so everyone would know a little more about you,” she said.
As I grew up, I became more and more self-sufficient, but my Mom never stopped helping me any way she could. She used to pack my lunch every morning before school with a notecard that listed the food and carbs of everything in my lunch box. She still, to this day, asks how my blood sugars are running when I talk to her on the phone, and she is the first person I call when I need some serious advice about my numbers. She still orders my supplies, drives me to my endo appointments, and stays up-to-date on all the latest advances in research and technology: she taught me how to take care of myself, but she has never once abandoned me in my health care.
Not only does my Mom do everything within her power to assist me in my daily diabetes management, but she also dedicates herself to the greater diabetes community. For fifteen years, my Mom served as Team Captain for our town’s JDRF Walk team. She worked hard each fall, writing and mailing around 300 Walk letters, calling local businesses, raising money, planning for the actual walk day…and she did it all with a smile on her face. Thanks to her efforts, our team has risen well over $300,000 to date, and the team has been recognized by JDRF for its impressive fundraising achievements. I remember asking my Mom once why she registered me as a Walk Team Captain along with herself- “I don’t do anything!” I said. My Mom smiled and replied, “Sure you do- you’re the one that lives with diabetes each day!”
My Mom also volunteered at the local JDRF office, organized and attended diabetes fund raisers, galas, and events, and she even brought me along when she met with Congressman McGovern one afternoon to discuss diabetes-related legislation in our state. I’m so thankful for and touched by all the public work she has done in my honor, but some of my most treasured diabetes memories with my Mom don’t even come from her volunteer hours. I can remember crawling into my parents’ bed at 2 am with a low blood sugar when I was still little- my Dad would hurry downstairs to find the tastiest low snacks we had in the house while my Mom would hug me and make me feel better till my Dad returned with the food. Sometimes she’d come to tuck me in at night and I’d sob to her, asking “Why me???” She’s the only one I’ve ever broken down to when I get frustrated with my situation, and like all things I come to my Mom with, she always knows just what to say to make me feel better. She would give me the advice and strength I needed to wipe the tears away from my eyes and hold my head high. My Mom is the reason why I’m strong in the face of adversity, why I can turn a bad situation into something good: she taught me how to do that from the day I was diagnosed with diabetes.
My Mom is celebrating her birthday this Friday, so I want to dedicate this piece to her. I’m not writing this article because it’s her birthday week- I’m writing it because my Mom deserves to be told how absolutely incredible she is and how much I love and appreciate her- her birthday just reminded me that it’s been far too long since I’ve said all this. So, Mom, thank you for everything you do for me. Thank you for loving me and the rest of our family, and thank you for sacrificing so much of yourself to help the ones you love. Thank you for always being there- to listen to me, to advise me, to love me, and to laugh with me. Thank you for being the greatest mother a girl could ever ask for- especially a diabetic girl.
I’m sure that those of you reading this are thinking of your own mothers, or fathers, or whoever it may be that takes care of you best and loves you more than anything. Don’t wait till their birthday to tell them how much you appreciate them- give them a call, or a hug if you’re nearby, and be thankful for all the wonderful people in your life.