Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guest Blogger: Brandi Jasnica

Wow. Being asked to be a guest blogger is such a privilege, especially when it comes to blogging for my little niece, Laila. I have to admit, I was asked to do this months ago, but by my own procrastination, am only writing now. I wanted to get the words just right, and anything I was coming up with was falling short. So I decided to just write, and this is what I came up with:
(get comfy, I'm wordy)

I first had the sweet pleasure of meeting Laila when she was just a tiny little bundle. You know that saying, "Sugar and spice and everything nice?" Well that is just what Laila is made of. Well, maybe a little more spice than sugar...but you get the point.

I didn't see Laila again until she was 5 years old, and already diagnosed with diabetes. I was actually terrified to be in the same house with her, because I DO NOT do well with needles, which is pathetic, because my own husband is a type 2 diabetic, and by now, I should be use to it. But as it was, I was scared. I didn't want to be a big sissy in front of such a brave, brave girl. There was a moment where we were at the mall. Joli, myself, and the kids. And Laila needed insulin and Joli had her hands full. Joli asked me to give Laila's skin a little pinch, so she could administer the insulin, and I am okay with admitting now, that then, I almost passed out. 

At 6 years old, Laila has become a master of her disease, and is quite impressive. I'm still squeamish, but was able to watch her change her pump site without falling over. She didn't say it, but I think she was impressed with me. LOL. Maybe it was just my imagination. She even lectured my husband over the phone about the dangers of not testing when he should. Shame on him. If a 6 year old can handle it, surely so can he.

But all of that is neither here nor there, because what I wanted to blog about is not about how brave Laila is, or how strong and independent and beautiful she is. Even though all of that is certainly true. What I wanted to blog about were the times, be them few or far between, when diabetes can break even the bravest of the brave, and the strongest of the strong. 

The times where you truly wish diabetes was a person so you could beat them from here to Timbuktu. The times when those sad, sad eyes look at you and say, "Aunty Brandi, I wish I didn't have diabetes." You know they want a smart answer. Something to take the pain away from changing their pump site yet another time. Something that will delay it for just a few moments longer. But you come up empty because what do you say to a 6 year old who has no choice but to poke herself again? The only thing I could tell her, was the most honest thing I could, "Laila, I wish you didn't have diabetes either." And she just smiled at me. She really is wise beyond her years. 
Or the times when it just isn't fair that your mom is a baker and everyone else had an extra bite. Like the time when Laila screamed, "I HATE DIABETES!" because she wanted another cupcake. My heart broke not just for her, but for her mother, who I am sure has had to deliver countless "no's" to her sweet angel faced diabetic child.
Or the other times when sugars are too low, or too high in the middle of night and you have to stay up and do what is necessary to get the right levels. As a mother of three children, Joli knows she is going to have another sleepless night and a very rough day ahead of her. These days are more often than one would like to have. But it comes with the territory, and it is not glamorous.
I don't want to seem like I'm short handing Laila, because she is AMAZING. But there are many other times when this disease has worn a family out. Of course they make the best of it, and faces are always smiling. From just 2 short weeks and many stories I have heard, I gather that if diabetes was in fact a person, I would be in line to get my kicks in.
With no children of my own, I love the ones that are in my life with all that I have. My heart breaks every time I even think about a child having to deal with this disease. Or any other disease for that matter. Childrens' only worry should be if it's rainy or sunny and what to have for cereal. Not glucose meters and insulin or lancets, etc.

To my dear sweet and lovely Laila, I know that it is not fair that you have diabetes. But you should know that your bravery makes other kids be able to cope more easily. You are beautiful, kind, funny, sweet and everything I could ever want in a niece. When I think about you, I don't think about how you have diabetes, I think about your smile. And I think about your thoughtfulness and your cute little face. I love you so much, and I haven't even known you that long. I am grateful that you have other women in your life that can look out for you when mom needs them. They are smart women, so learn from them. And remember to always be yourself. I know that you know that diabetes does not define you. It's not who you are, it's just something that you have. YOU are wonderful, and I love you so so so so SO SO SO SO much!!!!! 

Love always, 
Aunty Brandi

Major, major diabetes

I've been pondering topics for this month's blog post. I try to incorporate Laila in some way if I can, but something someone said to me just yesterday has me feeling like it's time to educate. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there are a few things I want everyone to know about this disease. I'll do my best to break it down and simplify it as much as possible, if you have any questions, you know you can always ask.

 Let me preface this by saying just because you know someone who has diabetes doesn't mean you "know diabetes". The reason for this post is based on a conversation I had with a girl yesterday. She was young, preteen maybe, and was helping watch some children while the adults were busy. Laila needed to check her sugar, which she did, and reported to me herself. The girl repeated Laila's blood sugar to me after finding a 300+ reading, and I explained that was very high. The girl told me she "knows all about diabetes, cause two of my friends are major, major diabetics". I just smiled, thanked her for her help, and let her know there is no such thing. Diabetes is diabetes, though intensity varies, there's no such thing as a major, major diabetic.

*Type 1 Diabetes, commonly referred to as Type 1, or T1D, is an autoimmune disease in which a person's pancreas stops producing insulin. Insulin is a hormone that enables people to get energy from food.

*There is nothing, and I repeat: NOTHING, you can do to get rid of Type 1 diabetes. There's no magic pill, no special syrup, no cure. INSULIN is NOT a cure! There is also nothing you can do to prevent Type 1 diabetes, either. The cause is still unknown. In our situation, there was no genetic predisposition, no way of knowing beforehand Laila would be stricken with this awful disease.

*Type 1 diabetes means a lifelong dependency on insulin. In our situation, Laila wears an insulin pump. It's the closest thing to a working pancreas she'll probably ever have. Insulin is not a cure for diabetes, even with insulin, there's still the risk of high or low blood sugars, both life-threatening, in addition to multiple other serious effects.

*Everyone is different, and every diabetic is different. There is so much that goes on "behind the scenes" that most people don't ever see. Laila is "intensive treatment", which means every single thing she eats gets counted. Laila counts carbohydrates, everything, even something as tiny as a peanut, must be counted. In addition to counting carbohydrates, Laila has to be careful with other things like exercise, diet, sun exposure-even a common cold can fluctuate her sugars and cause additional complications.

I don't mean for this post to be negative, or to sound like Laila lives a life of impending doom. She's alive, and healthy. Diabetes is just one of the many hurdles Laila's going to face throughout the rest of her life. Producing insulin is the only thing she can't do. She's going to go through plenty of struggles, from a school girl crush to prom dress shopping, one day she's going to have an amazing career and a beautiful family.

Please, take the time to educate yourself. If you have a question, ask. Trust me, I can speak for Laila and myself when I say this-we would rather you just ask than make assumptions, say something ignorant or offensive, or talk about us after we leave. No question is offensive or too bold, I promise.