Just one month into Ben’s diagnosis and we had already made it through several “firsts.” We had successfully navigated through our first Halloween and Ben’s first day back at school. Now it was time to prepare for the remaining holidays, our first Thanksgiving and our first Christmas.
Several months before Ben’s diagnosis we had already made Thanksgiving plans. One of Jeff’s high school friends had moved with his family to
. Jeff had purchased airline tickets for us to fly to North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with them. When Jeff purchased these tickets he also purchased the flight insurance. This was the first and only time Jeff has made that decision, such serendipity. As Thanksgiving approached we needed to decide if we still would take the trip. Jeff thought we should still go, but I was certain it was a bad idea. All I could think of was all the things that could go wrong during the flight. I was certain that we would get trapped on the plane on the runway with no access to food. Ben would have a low and I would end up running up and down the aisles like a crazy woman screaming for juice and candy! North Carolina
To get our money back for the flights we needed a doctor’s note. At our next doctor’s appointment we discussed the trip with the endocrinologist. He asked me why I didn’t want to go, and I explained my vision of being trapped on the runway along with a full laundry list of every horrible thing that could possibly happen. The doctor didn’t argue. Instead he gave me “the face” and then quickly agreed that we should stay home and signed the paper work for us to get our tickets refunded.
The endocrinologist we meet with that day was Dr. Joseph I. Wolfsdorf. He was not our regular endocrinologist. Earlier our doctor had cancelled our appointment because he was unable to make it. Later the office called us back and asked if we would like to meet with Dr. Wolfsdorf instead. We agreed not realizing at the time what a privilege that was. Dr. Wolfsdorf is the Chief of Endocrinology at Children’s Hospital in
. He is world renowned for his expertise in Type 1 diabetes. We discovered this weeks later. At the time Jeff and I still really did not understand much about Type 1 diabetes. The appointment was more like two first graders, who are still learning to add 2 digit numbers, chatting with Albert Einstein. I wish I could have that hour back now. I had spent that very luck hour talking to a world renowned endocrinologist about a panic attack I feared I would have on an airplane runway. Boston
Thanksgiving really is the worst diabetic holiday. Unlike other holidays, where you go to church, exchange gifts, or watch fireworks, Thanksgiving is completely and totally about food, large quantities of food. We were now all eating on Ben’s schedule: breakfast at 7:30, snack at 10:00, lunch at noon, snack at 2:00, dinner at 5:00 and bedtime snack at 8:00. This was the meal plan we could not deviate from, and we were unsure where a massive Thanksgiving dinner would fit in.
Jeff’s brother and his family had recently bought a new house in a neighboring town. They were celebrating by hosting a huge Thanksgiving including a house full of family and friends. It sounded like fun, but sounded like more than we could handle. Cooking for that many people was enough of a challenge; they did not need our family then making dietary demands. Instead we decide to go my parent’s for Thanksgiving dinner. We decided to go to my parent’s house because they were hosting fewer people and I felt comfortable asking my mother to have dinner ready at noon. That was the theory. But I forgot that my side of the family is notorious for serving Thanksgiving dinner late, often very late. And this year was no exception.
We started Thanksgiving Day with the Stow Gobbler 5K run. This 5K run had slowly become a family tradition. Two years earlier, my sister had motivated me to run a sprint triathlon. At the time I had just turned 40 and was feeling very out of shape. So we started training: swimming, biking and running. I did successfully complete the triathlon (Note: all I claim here is that the triathlon was completed). As part of my training our family had started running 5Ks together. Since we were now committed to living a healthy life style we decided to continue this tradition.
After the run and a quick shower, we drove to my parent’s house. My sisters were there with their families. The kids all giggled and played and the rest of us enjoyed a glass of wine and helped my mother prepare dinner. The plan was to have dinner ready at noon. I remember pacing back and forth watching the clock. I kept whining about dinner being late hoping that would help cook the turkey faster.
While we waited for the turkey to cook, my mother wanted to take a picture of all the grandkids. We arranged them all on the sofa in the living room, Ben was front and center. While the photos were being snapped there was a cacophony of people yelling at the kids to: “Smile!”, “Sit up straight”, “Look at the camera!” Joey, my sister’s baby, wanted nothing to do with this madness. Everyone was encouraging Joey to sit, but he refused and march right out of the photo. Not only was the baby not cooperating but Ben was not either. He just sat on the sofa with a strange disconnected look. Jeff and I knew this was not a good.
I have included the actual photo from that day here. Ben is in the center with a red and blue stripped shirt. Joey is the baby running away.
Once the picture chaos was over, we pulled out the test kit and checked Ben’s blood sugar. Indeed, he was low. My whining had been unsuccessful and dinner was too late. We gave Ben his juice and waited for his blood sugar to come back in range. While we waited, I prepared a plate of whatever food had already been cooked.
Exactly what I had wanted to avoid had happened.
Ben ended up eating Thanksgiving dinner alone.
With Thanksgiving behind us it was time to come up with a plan for Christmas. We decided the best approach would be to keep it simple. Fortunately, there is more to Christmas then just one badly timed over-sized family dinner. We started our day with gifts from Santa under the Christmas tree. Then we attended Christmas mass. We returned home around noon and ate a simple diabetic friendly lunch at home. We then packed presents for our family, snacks, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we would later have for dinner. Honestly, I do not have a clear a memory of our first Christmas, which I believe is a very good thing! This Christmas ended free of sad family photographs and any drama. For us, that was a huge win!
We had made it through two more “firsts”, Thanksgiving and Christmas. 2009 was coming to an end. It had been a fairly uneventful year until that fateful day at the end of October. Jeff and I were struggling. We had so much more to learn. But we love our boys and we were committed to our family. We knew we needed more than a New Year’s resolution to get us through 2010. We needed to think well beyond 2010, we needed to make a lifetime commitment, specifically Ben’s lifetime.