Highs and lows: my daughter's type 1 diabetes diagnosis

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A teenage daughter with type 1 diabetes using a mobile smart phone at home while lying on their bed.

Highs and Lows is a nonfiction essay about the type 1 diabetes diagnosis of the author's 12-year-old daughter. It expresses the author's perspective of how lonely it can be living with a chronic illness, and the guilt she felt for not realizing her daughter needed medical help. 

Highs and lows: my daughter's type 1 diabetes diagnosis

We sat on her twin mattress covered in teddy bear beanie babies and stuffed calico cats. The hot pink walls I'd painted while she was away at summer camp to surprise her after five days away glared at me as I asked: "I won't be mad, just be honest—have you been taking diet pills?"

She said no. Of course not. She told a convincing group of sentences, and I cannot remember the exact words. It haunts me during breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and midnight snacks. Memory recall is my badge of honor. 

Her unofficial step-mom had an idea. We'd been together since 2004, and on New Year's Day in January of 2005 - her yellow lab of thirteen years died. She'd been a type 1 diabetic dog for the last six years of her life. 

So after I left my daughter's room on December 22, 2006, my girlfriend suggested we test her blood sugar using the glucometer that was still in the cupboard with the other dog paraphernalia. She put new batteries in, and the value flashed: 493. She'd taken the last blood sugar number before the vet came to our house on the first day of a brand new year to take her away. 

We did not proceed with checking her blood sugar. Maybe because of the trauma of remembering when she lost her pup. Maybe because I'd said: no one in our family is diabetic. Maybe because it was too big to think it was true. Maybe because I was selfish. 

Two days later, I called her pediatrician—explained the sudden weight loss, the excessive thirst, and the bathroom accidents that I'd always thought were from the continuous drinking. Of course: come right in. Immediately.  

She's twenty-eight now and is a practicing mental health counselor. Six months ago, she asked if we'd looked into support groups for type 1 diabetics. I reminded her we did get a referral for a type 1 diabetic camp after she'd tried the same YMCA one that following summer after her diagnosis. It wasn't the same—she'd felt alone among the other kids who didn't have to eat at certain times, go to the camp nurse daily, and other quirks that only type 1 diabetics and their parents and siblings understand. But the real answer here is no. We didn't look into support groups. We didn't find other families with kids around her age with the same diagnosis. 

You know what I did?     

I was halfway through a nutrition degree, and although I finished because I'm stubborn—I decided I'd never be a dietitian.     

Big whoop. 

After that first week, where she was an inpatient at a Doernbecher Children's Hospital, while I watched the nurses show a twelve-year-old girl how to give herself shots, how to read the units on syringes, and how to roll—not shake—tiny bottles of insulin between her hands, and offer more peanut butter than you'd ever put in a dog's Kong, I made that decision quickly and quietly in my head. I told no one.

Sometime last year, she granted access for me to follow her blood sugars on an app with strict instructions: do not call, do not text (regarding any high or low values). It is basically, here, see the ups and downs I've lived with for the past sixteen years. How do you like the ride? It gets pretty lonely. 

Article by
Mandy Nadyne

Mandy Nadyne, the author of "Highs and lows: my daughter's type 1 diabetes diagnosis," holds an MFA in Creative Writing and an undergrad in nutrition, which she rebels against daily. Her fiction, nonfiction, flash fiction, and poetry have appeared in Whitefish Review Literary Journal, RWW Soundings, 100 Word Story, High Shelf Press, Third Point Press, Sunspot Lit, Drunk Monkeys, Prose Online, and Necessary Fiction. She lives in Corvallis, Oregon, with her girlfriend of eighteen years and loves pizza and rain in no particular order.


"I won't be mad, just be honest" | ©Odua Images / Adobe Stock