Monday, October 06, 2008

Three Years Chained

Three years ago today was the worst day of my entire life.

In some ways it seems like it was so long ago. I don’t remember what it feels like to sleep an entire night through. I don’t remember what it is like to let Riley eat without counting carbs. I don’t remember what it’s like not to leave the house without a bag of supplies. I don’t remember watching him run around without worrying that his sugar will drop. It seems like he’s had diabetes for forever.

At least it seems that way most of the time. I just go on with the day to day of living most of the time. Diabetes has intermingled itself into the fabric of out lives. I’ve gotten so used to it being around that most of the time it seems like it’s barely there.

But, as Riley’s anniversary has approach it’s been on my mind more. The winces he makes when I prick his finger are more noticeable. The black marks on his fingertips stand out more. His supply bag seems a little heavier. The insulin in the refrigerator door seems out of place. The tubing sticking out of his waistband is a painful reminder of what he faces every day.

I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if he had never been diagnosed. There is no way to know if diabetes has shaped his personality. And, if it has, has it shaped it for the better or the worse?

Would my family be happier if Riley had never been diagnosed? Or are we happier because we are more thankful for the little things? Would we go more places and do more things? Or are we more determined to do things now than we would have been had he never been diagnosed? Would I be stronger if diabetes had never entered our lives? Would I be weaker?

I’ll never really know the answer to these questions.

What I do know is that I wouldn’t change one thing about my little man. Whether diabetes has shaped his personality or not, I wouldn’t change a thing about him. He’s wonderful and unique. He’s understanding (most of the time) and has a really good heart.

I also know that my family is a happy one. We’ve had our share of ups and downs. And, while my stress level is particularly high right now, I can say I am truly happy. I have two wonderful kids and a husband who loves me unconditionally. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

I feel like we pretty much go and do what we want (or whatever money constraints will allow). I’m not sure if diabetes has made us more active, but it certainly hasn’t slowed us down.

The last question is the kicker. Am I stronger because of diabetes? I know a lot of times I don’t feel strong at all. Sometimes diabetes tries to make me feel weak. Sometimes it succeeds.

Three years ago I cried on a daily basis, not just once, but several times a day. I would lock myself in the bathroom and sob. I would go in to check on Riley before going to bed and while looking at his sweet, sleeping, innocent face I would burst into tears all over again. I can’t even begin to tell you how many nights I cried myself to sleep with my head on Michael’s chest.

It brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. I know he was suffering then too. I was so wrapped up in my own grief that I didn’t really think about what he must be going through. Not only had his son been diagnosed with a chronic disease, his wife had pretty much gone off the deep end.

I know I felt weak then. I remember thinking back then that I had always thought that I was a pretty strong person. Diabetes had shown me how weak I really was. I remember thinking how disappointed I was in myself. I thought I should just be able to snap out of it and move on. I knew I had to be strong for Riley and the rest of my family, but I didn’t know how.

So, I don’t really know how to answer the last question. I don’t know if it even needs an answer. I am who I am. If diabetes had something to do with that, so be it.

Today, I’m just glad we’ve made it to where we are. I am so thankful that three years after the worst day of my life my son is still here. I’m thankful for both of my kids and the rest of my family.

I remember when Riley was first diagnosed I would read posts from other parents talking about how they had “celebrated” their child’s anniversary. I just couldn’t understand how they could commemorate something so terrible. I was convinced than when that day came I would spend my time underneath the bed covers.

The first anniversary was the toughest. But, when it rolled around I realized that I couldn’t sit around and mope. His first anniversary we took him out to a movie. It wasn’t really to celebrate, but more to recognize the day in some way. My heart wasn’t in it, but I was at least going through the motions.

On last year’s anniversary I held Walk of Hope to raise money for a cure. That night we took Riley to a local county fair where he had a blast. I felt that since October 6th was such a significant day that it should be commemorated in some way.

This year we’re going to go do whatever Riley wants to do. This is the first year that I understand why you recognize the anniversary at all.

Tonight I will celebrate. Not because he was diagnosed, but because, three years later he’s happy and healthy. I will celebrate that diabetes hasn’t defeated us. And, I will celebrate that if it has shaped us in any way, it didn’t do such a bad job.


Allison said...

I think you perfectly summed up why I - and many others - celebrate or at least recognize our anniversary. Happy anniversary to you and Riley and Michael and Holden! :-)

Jillian said...

It's a bittersweet anniversary , but like Allison said it should be recognized in whatever way is right for your family. Here's to you, Michael, Holden, and Riley!

Phyl said...

Wow, what an awesome post. I need to make my friends and family read this. I totally relate--only the names and dates are changed.

We are coming up on our 2nd anniversary. I let the 1st go by quietly, but lately I had been thinking that the date needed to be acknowledged openly. I didn't really know why, only that I wanted to do it. You've helped me understand the why. Thanks. And Happy Anniversary.

Amy said...

That was indeed an awesome post. I've been reading your blog for a while. My 3 year old little girl was diagnosed in March with Type 1. I cried when I read your post, because I often still do cry over her before I go to bed at night and I often feel like I have gone off the deep end. There are days that feel normal, but there are many more days that I worry and I hurt for what she has lost- although she will never remember life before diabetes. I almost don't remember already. Thanks for your thoughts and God bless!

Kelly said...

-Tears- We will be thinking of you today, and always on Rileys "anniversary" date.

k2 said...

Penny -
Don't torture yourself with the "what-ifs," it will bring you down and make you crazy.
Celebrate all things Riley!
Relish his life,his quirks,his future, and how far you allhave come since that day 3 years ago.
Life is beautiful, not always perfect, and more often filled with challenges. But beautiful none the less-is proof of that ;)


Lyrehca said...

Great post--you've come a long way.

Caro said...

Awesome post.

You should all be proud of everything you've achieved and just how far you've come.

Keith said...

Penny, I think in those early years it is difficult to find a reason to mark the passing of another anniversary. However, as time goes by it becomes easier. As I approach my 40th anniversary, I'm saying to myself, 'Self, it's been a long tough battle, but I'm here, standing, in good health and ready to live and fight another day!'.

You probably don't realize it but you, Michael and Riley have become much stronger. You've overcome a thousand little medical crises and developed a keen acumen that will help you deal with any coming issues. In my opinion that is reason enough to celebrate.

Anonymous said...

I have been exactly where you are and this poem spoke to my heart. If you've never heard it before, I hope it speaks to yours, too.

Amy :)

How God Selects The Mother Of A Child With Diabetes
by: Erma Bombeck

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice,
a few by social pressures and a couple by habit. Did
you ever wonder how mothers of children with Diabetes
are chosen? Somehow I visualize God hovering over
Earth selecting his instruments for propagation with
great care and deliberation. As he observes, he
instructs his angels to make notes in a giant ledger.
“Armstrong, Beth, son. Patron Saint Matthew.”
“Forrest, Marjorie, daughter. Patron Saint Cecilia.”
“Rutledge, Carrie, twins. Patron Saint Gerard. He’s
used to profanity.”
Finally, he passes a name to an angel and smiles,
“Give her a child with diabetes.” The angel is

curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy.”
“Exactly”, smiles God. “Could I give a child with
diabetes to a mother who does not know laughter? That
would be cruel.”
“But has she the patience?” asks the angel.
“I don’t want her to have too much patience, or she
will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once
the shock and resentment wear off, she’ll handle it.
I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and
independence that is so rare and so necessary in a
mother. You see, the child I am going to give her has
her own world. She has to make it live in her world
and that’s not going to be easy.”
“But, Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.”
God smiles, “No matter. I can fix that. This one is
perfect. She has just enough selfishness.”
The angel gasps. “Selfishness? Is that a virtue?”
God nods. “If she cannot separate herself from the
child occasionally, she will never survive. Yes, this
is a woman whom I will bless with less than perfect.”
“She does not realize it yet, but she is to be envied.
I will permit her to see clearly the things I see . . .
ignorance, cruelty, prejudice . . . and allow her to
rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be
at her side every minute of every day of her life
because she is doing my work as surely as if she is
here by my side.”
“And what about her Patron Saint?” asks the angel,
his pen poised in mid air. God smiles. “A mirror
will suffice.”