One year ago, I shared about “The Day That Changed Everything…and Nothing” — the day my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. That day that, had we lived in the eras I so love to write about it, he would have died. I know I’ve mentioned this new life a few other times since, but I try not to inundate you all, LOL.
However, it’s November, which means Diabetes Awareness month. It’s exactly one year since I shared that super-long, super-vulnerable post linked above. It’s been 13.5 months since that Day. I thought it would be a good day to invite all of us to pause and look at the quiet warriors among us. Those with invisible diseases that they fight every day. Every…day. Those who wage wars most of us would never dream. Those who fight with faith and hope under burdens so very heavy. I’m not just talking about T1Ds here, I’m talking about all those quiet warriors.
I remember years ago, my best friend was getting her son ready for Halloween. He had epilepsy, and they were on the crazy-intense medical keto diet to try to give his brain a chance to heal itself (and it worked, praise God!). She was telling me about how, all around the country, there were people who put out teal pumpkins–something she’d never paused to think about until it was her kid who needed it. Teal pumpkins, you see, are filled with non-candy treats in consideration of kids with extreme food allergies. And since part of the diet is absolutely NO sugar, this was imperative for her son–candy was an absolute NO. As they hunted through their neighborhoods for teal pumpkins, she was so, so touched that people cared enough about these kids who couldn’t have candy to do that. I also remember her lamenting how her son looked perfectly normal from the outside, so people didn’t know how dangerous life could be for him. That at any moment, he could have a seizure and topple from the playground equipment and seriously injure himself.
That was when I first began to appreciate these quiet warriors among us. Maybe they’re the kids sitting next to yours on the bus. Maybe it’s the woman three cubicles over who has that annoying alarm going off all the time. Maybe it’s the older gentleman holding the door open for you as you rush into the store.
You can’t tell to look at them. But they’re fighting. They’re fighting diseases that are trying to silence them forever, and they’re doing it with bravery, with hope, with strength of spirit. They’re accepting the fact that there are all these lists of things that are “cannot”s for them. For instance, my son:
- Cannot eat without giving himself an injection
- Cannot eat without counting all the carbs
- Cannot eat without measuring everything out exactly
- Cannot go to bed without taking his long-acting insulin
- Cannot leave the house without his “go-bag” of insulin and sugar-laden supplies to bring up low blood sugars
- Cannot enjoy swimming or other activities without either pre-loading himself with sugar and protein or checking every few minutes to make sure he’s not dropping too low (low blood sugars can make a diabetic pass out or have seizures or, in extreme cases, die)
- Cannot take a shower within 30 minutes of taking insulin
These are just a few of his “cannot”s. These are the limitations that come with his particular war. It’s different, of course, for others. But no less a battle. No less a challenge.
Here’s the thing I’ve witnessed, though, in this last year. These warriors don’t focus on the negatives–they focus on what they CAN do. My son is stronger than he has ever been–physically and emotionally and mentally. He may sigh in frustration, but he does what he needs to do. I can count on one hand the times in the last year he has complained about anything diabetes-related. He gets up every day, and he faces it. He forgives me when I forget something he needs, puts on that stiff upper lip, and just waits for us to get home so he can eat. He laughs with me when we have to make an 8 a.m. detour to three different pharmacies in a strange town to try to find the needles that I didn’t put back in his bag. He learns. He adapts. He takes care of himself. He does not, for one minute, let this disease define him.
And that is the same sort of fortitude I’ve seen not only in other Type 1 kids and adults, but in so many others who have learned to live with what seems to us to be “too much to bear.” They do bear it. And they bear it with strength that inspires me…that inspires me not only to be strong, but to be considerate.
Because I never know what invisible war that person beside me is fighting. I never know if I’m putting them at risk with my actions. I never know if my assumption that they are “normal” because they look “normal” is adding a burden to their battle. I can’t know.
But what I can know is that everyone has some battle they are fighting. Whether it’s chronic illness or disease or depression, whether it’s any one of a thousand different things, they are a warrior. YOU are a warrior. And as a mom of such a warrior, I don’t just salute you–I support you. I will ask myself how I can protect you. How I can make your life easier. How I can consider what you need instead of how those needs may inconvenience me.
As a Type 1 family, we are praying for a cure, and we are so encouraged by the medical advances and studies going on even now (like this, as one example). We pray that someday there will be a solution that will manage this disease for my son, so that all those “cannot”s don’t always rule his days. But we also know that even if that day never comes, he will be a champion.
How do we know? Because we see all the champions that have come before. That are walking this same road even now. We see all the quiet warriors, breaking through enemy lines and seizing the day, chasing their dreams, trusting that even in the worst, there’s Someone holding them.
To all you quiet warriors, I pray God’s strength upon you. And I thank you. Your example has gotten us through this last year. And I can only pray that my warrior’s example will do the same for others.