In August of 2005, my then seven-year old son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which, for some unknown reason, the body attacks itself. In the case of Type 1 Diabetes, the pancreas is attacked and its insulin-producing beta cells are destroyed. The body can no longer produce insulin, a hormone necessary to convert sugar (glucose), starches and other food into energy necessary for life.
Mark’s diagnosis was the third serious event to strike our family. (I guess bad things really do happen in three’s.) In 2001, when Mark was just three years old, his father died from a rare form of cancer. In 2003, as Mark was preparing to enter Kindergarten, I was diagnosed with and successfully battled Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). Now, we were faced with a chronic, life-threatening, currently incurable disease, and this time it was happening to my child. This is the event that knocked me to my knees and it took months for me to stand up again and move forward.
My son, on the other hand, took the diagnosis fairly well. We spent three days inpatient at Children’s Hospital where we both had to learn how to do finger sticks to check blood sugar, calculate an insulin dosage based on the number of carbohydrates eaten in a meal and give insulin injections. We met with doctors, nurse practioners, a dietician, and a social worker. It was overwhelming, a real case of TMI-too much information. Mark took it all in stride and was content to play video games and visit with friends and family who stopped by. As tragic as it is for a child to be diagnosed with any disease, they do seem to adjust and get on with their lives.
I did not understand the full meaning of my son’s acceptance of this disease until last summer. We were driving home one afternoon and out of the blue Mark asked me, “If you could have one wish, what would it be?” I am ashamed to admit that for just a couple of seconds, my mind wandered to material things-a new car, bigger house, new shoes. Thankfully, I quickly came back to my senses and replied, “If I could have just one wish, I would want a cure for Type 1 Diabetes today.” Without any hesitation, Mark instantly replied, “Mom, you don’t want a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. You want a cure for cancer. It kills far more people.” I was speechless and tears began to well in my eyes. This was further confirmation for me that I am raising and living with an old soul.
My son is currently eleven years old. He endured more in the first seven years of his life than many people do in a lifetime. I believe that he is an old soul who has come here in this lifetime for accelerated growth and as a teacher to other, newer souls. I am his devoted student and have a front row seat in his classroom everyday.