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The Se7en C’s of Living With a Diabetic…

January 27th, 2011 · 15 Comments

A couple of weeks ago one of my fave blogs that I follow, We Are That Family, mentioned that her husband had recently discovered that he was a diabetic and my instant reaction was: “Shew, she is going to need a lot of support.” We live with a diabetic, the father person was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes four, maybe five children ago… a fair number of years. I thought I would write a post about our experiences of living with diabetes.

And I still remember the kick in the stomach feeling on the day… When a doctor, who wasn’t our regular guy, phoned to tell me that my husband was desperately ill and going to die.” Turns out there is a lot of conflicting talk surrounding diabetes even within the medical world. People with diabetes can live long and productive lives if they take good care of themselves… just like the rest of us!!! Anyway, the next day he went for a major medical and I remember wanting to go with him but having three small children it was awkward… and we bounced around in the car for what seemed like hours, I even remember I was reading this book to the kids:

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Finally after all his hours of poking and prodding I was called in to meet the dietician. It was daunting to say the least!!! What I didn’t know was that I was at the start of a steep learning curve where information was severely lacking if not incorrect and trust me on this, support for the supporters of a diabetic is nonexistent.

What the dietician taught me was what a plate of food should look like. She didn’t say wether he could or couldn’t eat sugar, she didn’t say wether he could eat anything other than a lettuce leaf and granola bars… I of course didn’t ask. And she did give me a list of very expensive exclusively diabetic products that my husband would need to survive. I was sent home with a cheery “take care of him” as we went out the door. Nothing she said was wrong, per se, but nothing she said was enabling me in my quest to help my husband through this. So here are se7en things I have learnt over time, about being married to a diabetic:

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  1. Cousins: Firstly, diabetes is touted as a life-style illness but that isn’t entirely the case, my husbands father had it, his cousins all have it… there is a genetic factor. And because of that I am very careful about what my kids eat. Food is really quite central to our family and our kids are involved in every aspect of food: shopping, cleaning, cooking, serving, eating. They are being trained to eat correctly and I am hoping this will protect at the most, and delay at the least, the onset of diabetes in their lives.
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  3. Community: Diabetes is not just my husbands illness, it is a family illness and we are all in it together. We need to be aware of sticking to a meal time routine. We need to be aware that we need snacks available. We need to eat correctly no matter how tempting it is to have a bowl of ice-cream for lunch or to skip breakfast because we are in a dash. We need to be aware that his sugar levels rise and fall.
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  5. Cooking: There are so many mis-understandings regarding diabetics and their diets that it just isn’t even funny. His dad lived in an era when diabetics were told to “never eat sugar” and get on with it… That’s changed, nowadays we know that we need to avoid bad fats and otherwise he has no specific dietry restrictions other than he eats a regular diet of healthy food. I think the diet changes were and still are harder on the father person than the rest of us. My kids know no better than to have a pile of green salad on their plate for dinner. When we got married the father person thought all vegetables were potatoes and occasionally you had a side-order of salad. That’s all changed and he is now the salad king!!! For me the adjustment has been to become very regular with meals, there is never a skipped meal in fact if we go out we have to have a snack on board or access to one because if we should be delayed by twenty minutes that could be the end of a good day. Of course it has to be a snack that he wants to eat, I hear you thinking: “That’s obvious.” But it isn’t for me. His lunches were tricky for me initially. I had to get into the habit of them. There is no day that you can say: “Sorry babe I didn’t have time to make lunch, grab a take-out…” None of that, his lunch has to be carefully planned so that he has enough snackable foods to last him through the day. He usually gets a salad for lunch or whatever we had for dinner the night before I just put a lunch box out when I dish up dinner and add a serving into his lunch box. Add a couple of snacks to his bag and he is good to go in the morning.
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  7. Chronic and Critical: Diabetes doesn’t stop, it is here to stay. It doesn’t go away and you always have to be aware of it. It is a chronic illness in the sense that you have to watch so many things continuously. When you see socks for diabetics don’t laugh!!! They have circulation trouble and they need to take really good care of their feet or ultimately lose them – awful I know, but that’s the case. They need more eye exams than most people, foot exams and so on. It is costly, it is difficult and it is life. The other thing about diabetes is that even when you follow all “the rules” and eat everything right and exercise right and whatever you can still suffer from crazy spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. The crazy spikes in blood sugar levels are what make diabetes a critical illness too. They can only tell if their sugar isn’t right if they happen to prick their finger and test their sugar levels. However those around them can get used to noticing really quickly!!! There are few things worse than a diabetic, whose sugar levels are slightly off wack, because they do not want to test their sugar levels because “they are fine”… My children have all learnt to ask their father if he needs a snack rather than if he needs to test his blood sugar levels. In the sense that should their blood sugar swing up high or down low it needs to be brought back to the norm fairly rapidly in order for them to function.
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  9. Controllable: You can control diabetes with diet alone, up to a point and not forever, certainly for pre-diabetes you can delay the onset with healthful living. It isn’t a test or an exam you have to pass, there just comes a time when the diabetic body can no longer provide the insulin it needs. Initially the father person controlled his diabetes with medication but over time that became insulin injections. There is always the “living as healthfully” factor… eating right, exercising right… because it is a degenerative illness and because the better you care for yourself the better you can maintain sugar levels.
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  11. Coping: Mostly we don’t know that diabetes is lurking there, it is under control… and from day to day we live with it. However there are times when you will just want to sit in a heap and cry about it… and that’s okay. I guess, everybody has their ups and downs and one of our downs is diabetes. I know that when his blood sugar is wonky that his first reaction, like all of us when we don’t feel good, is to be cranky. Where I fail is that often I forget that he needs a glass of orange juice or a piece of toast, and I take it personally. Also, I don’t always keep track of snacking… Often on a Sunday morning we will have breakfast and then head for church… if church runs late and we chat afterwards we need a snack on hand before he starts to feel awful, because once he doesn’t feel well then he really doesn’t want to eat.
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  13. Chemists: You will spend a lot more time than you ever expected at the chemist. Sorting out and getting medication. This is something I learnt the hard way: When the chemist suggests that you keep the insulin cool, in the refrigerator… that it isn’t really a suggestion!!! If it sits in the car while you run a few errands and warms up it won’t work. And for all the injecting in the world you will not figure out why your blood sugar levels are not right. Lesson learnt. And we now collect it in a cooler box and I send his lunch with a insulin stick to work in a cooler box too.
  14. And the Se7en + 1th thing:

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  15. Chocolate: Many products are touted as especially for diabetics, special jams, special sweets and one of the greatest tragedies of life: Diabetic chocolate… very sad!!! Don’t fall for it, it is a trap. If you are going to have a sweet then have one – not the packet, but one or two. We live and die by Lindt 85% chocolate… the higher the cocoa % the less the sugar, it is practically sugar free. Many of the products that are said to be especially for diabetics may have minimum sugar but they are full of lots of other nasties!!! Frankly I would rather eat a small amount of the real thing than any amount of the fake thing!!! Otherwise there are plenty of baked treats for diabetics and I have blogged about them and plenty of diabetic baking tips before, just follow the link.

If you would like to know more about diabetes, type 1, type 2, pre-diabetes… then I have found the Diabetes UK Website a good place to start. It is a fabulous site with questions answered, how to talk to your kids about it and so on… If you want to know more then that would be the place to start.

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Tags: Diabetic · Monday Munchies · Organizing Se7en

15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Christine // Jan 27, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I don’t know about diabetes, but I can totally relate to having to bring in dietary changes (heart disease and cholesterol for hubby). Genetics definitely play a part!
    Like you it is completely a lifestyle thing, and my kids are completely in on it and aware.
    Great post!

  • 2 se7en // Jan 27, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Thanks Christine!!! I must say it really helps to have the kids on board!!! For instance they know that take-outs are a killer and won’t touch them – funny that!!! I never have to argue about take-outs they just won’t eat them!!! It is so good to have you blogging, I just love reading whatever you write!!!

  • 3 Carrie // Jan 27, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    A nice post and one close to my heart. My 3 year old son was diagnosed with Type I diabetes almost 2 years ago. And as you said, life changes from that moment forward. Although Type I is a different beast altogether, (he must wear an insulin pump attached to him with a needle dosing his insulin twenty four hours a day for the rest of his life) the gist of it is the same: we ALL changed our diets and for the better. All of our kids are on board and it is just the way it is now. Hoping for a long, healthy life to you and yours (and the same for my little guy too!)

  • 4 se7en // Jan 28, 2011 at 12:17 am

    Hi Carrie, So good to hear from a fellow diabetic family… Thanks for stopping by. I know it takes a certain amount of strength to support a diabetic husband and I imagine that being a mum to a diabetic child must add a whole new dimension to the problem. Indeed all the best to you and your little boy. Hope you have a good week!!!

  • 5 Kay // Jan 28, 2011 at 5:35 am

    What a great, honest post. My father in law was a truck driver during his diagnosis, didn’t look after himself and is now blind with only one leg. He’s never seen me, didn’t see his son get married and has never seen his granddaughter. He is a reminder to us all to keep healthy though!!

  • 6 Julie K in Taiwan // Jan 28, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Thank you for your informational and thoughtful post. My mom got type 1 when she was 13. I know I need to make some lifestyle changes and your post is inspiring. And I love that plate too!

  • 7 se7en // Jan 28, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Hi Kay, That is so sad… How very painful for all of you. I have to say that I have never met a mom, husband or wife of a diabetic, who was diagnosed later in life, that didn’t battle like crazy to support their diabetic. There is so much for the diabetic to come to terms with all at once and there is a huge adjustment as you get used to daily medication or injections and all the life-style changes at once. Often I think they just don’t want to accept that it is happening to them. And in a the middle of a sugar high their behavior can be so bizarre as to be alarming!!! Personally I think there could be a lot more support for the supporters…. and a lot more tough love for the patients. It is so frustrating when when medical folk say it is just a lifestyle adjustment there is a whole lot more going on… Thank-you so much for your comment it seems to have opened up a whole string of thoughts I could have written about!!! I wish you all the best and hope you have a good weekend!!!

  • 8 se7en // Jan 28, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Hi JulieK, Always good to hear from you… All strength to your mom!!! I don’t think it is very easy to be a diabetic it is a long road to travel!!! Great that you feel inspired!!! Hope you have a fabulous fun weekend!!!

  • 9 Wendy // Jan 28, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    what a great post. I too remember the shock and horror of my husband being diagnosed as type 2 diabetic in 2005. I remember crying over the pot of food I had made for dinner and wondering if it would be bad for him. I remember cruising isles in my usual store feeling totally confused as to what would be ok for him and what would not. It certainly is a family affair and my kids are learning to eat low gi too. We have come a long way since then and bake friendly muffins, snacks and treats for dad regularly. The Eating for Sustained energy books have been a Godsend!

  • 10 se7en // Jan 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Hi Wendy!!! Yup, I so know what you mean, you have to redefine everything you eat and what was once good to eat is not necessarily anymore!!! The Eating for Sustained Energy books are packed with wonderful hints and ideas, that I have found so useful… especially since they are quite realistic about what to eat as well!!!

  • 11 KM // Jan 28, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    WOW! What a BLESSING your hubs has in YOU— you provide an amazing amazing thing in all that you do to support his condition. I KNOW he must appreciate you like CRAZY! I bet your efforts are worth it, too! :) I think we could all learn from this kind of diet and life-style!

  • 12 se7en // Jan 29, 2011 at 1:01 am

    Hay KM, How are you!!! You always say the sweetest things!!! … And I loved your valentines n the snow how “cool” is that!!! Your kids have grown so much I think the winter is treating them well!!! Hope you have a fun fun weekend… lots of love to you all!!!

  • 13 Se7en’s Complete Recipe Collections. » se7en // Aug 20, 2011 at 9:20 am

    [...] The Se7en C’s of Living With a Diabetic. [...]

  • 14 tami // Nov 14, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    This is a very useful post. Thank you. I am trying to reverse my insulin resistance now and hoping the exercise I’m doing now is enough. Cannot afford to be on chronic medication! GAH!
    tami´s last blog post ..Holiday baking for edible gifts

  • 15 se7en // Nov 14, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Hi Tami, You go girl, I tell you it has to make a huge difference if you are working out and exercising… there comes a time way down the diabetic, type II, road when that is so hard to do… so keep at it, persevere… so worth it!!! Chronic medication is indeed a mind-bender and a budget-buster, but for quality of life I am so very grateful for it. Wishing you all the best…

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