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First things first: A year of firsts following the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes

Juvenile diabetes mellitus type 1 Following a new diabetes diagnosis, families go through so many new experiences. Even a simple trip to the grocery store can suddenly seem like trip to a foreign land. But fear not. You're not alone. Take a deep breath. You've got this. Here is some perspective on a year of firsts following a type 1 diabetes diagnosis. First prescription pick up of all the necessary supplies: DH: My brain screamed, "What are all of these supplies and what do I do with all of them?!" After we got all of my son’s supplies, I made a basket that held everything we needed daily and put it in a central location for quick, easy access. I labeled baskets so that the rest of the supplies were easily visible in storage. Make sure all of your family members know where you keep glucagon in case of an actual emergency. KM: Your first trip to the pharmacy may be overwhelming. Do not panic if all supplies are not “covered” by insurance. It may take several phone calls to your insurance company, the pharmacy and the diabetes clinic, but you have to be an advocate for your child! First grocery store trip: DH: I spent a week putting on a brave face, but there I was in the produce section between the potatoes and onions – crying. I mean a boo-hoo-no-hiding-ugly kind of cry! Reality hit, and I had the sudden realization life had drastically changed. I used to zoom through the store, throwing things in my basket as I went along. But now, with every item, I questioned whether or not it was the “right” food for my son. What used to take minutes, now took much longer as I carefully read the nutrition labels. KM: Try making gradual changes in your eating plans. Quick and drastic meal changes will cause stress for all. As time goes on, you can gradually make healthy changes to the family’s eating plan, not just for the child with diabetes. First meal at home and counting those carbs: DH: I had always been a pretty decent home cook, but all of a sudden I was sweating buckets in the kitchen trying to make a meal for my family. I thought, “Should I replicate the menu that was served at the hospital?” That didn’t seem like a good idea. Instead, I laid out all my handouts from the training at the hospital, found all my measuring cups and spoons, took a deep breath and dove in. KM: After the first few weeks, this will become easier! Relax and just count the carbs at meals and snacks. Healthy eating habits can come in time. First outing: DH: Whether just running an errand, going on a field trip or taking a vacation, remembering all your necessary supplies is daunting at first. I composed a list of all the supplies we might need while out. I packed a bag ahead of time and I still check it periodically to replenish supplies. With a little extra planning, and a checklist, your outing or vacation can be just as enjoyable as before diagnosis! KM: It’s important to get out there – for a couple hours, a couple days or even a couple weeks! Planning ahead for your supplies can help. For trips away from home, we suggest taking up to twice your amount of supplies. First holiday gathering, school party or birthday party: DH: I never really paused to think before my son’s diagnosis, how much of our social lives revolve around food. Our first holiday was a big one…Halloween! One of our diabetes providers suggested I let my son have a certain amount of candy and trade the rest in for a toy. He loved that idea! KM: Letting your child with diabetes participate in activities with sweet treats can be tricky, but with some creativity, you can come up with ways to have fun and manage diabetes along the way. Try to include your child in special events and remember other parents of kids with diabetes and your diabetes team can help you with tips and tricks that make events enjoyable and maintain a sense of normalcy. First lows or highs: DH: I admit it; I have been called a control freak before. Obviously, I want my son's blood sugars to be "well-controlled." It’s easy to beat yourself up for highs or lows, but neither you, nor your child, should be defined by a number. In our house, a blood sugar is neither "good" nor "bad." We know what we're aiming for, but we accept that perfection is not a reality diabetes allows. Keep working with your diabetes team, and you will find what works for your child. KM: Children with diabetes will always have fluctuating sugars and frequent insulin dose adjustments are to be expected. Frequent blood sugar reviews and communication with your diabetes team will help keep your child’s blood sugars well managed. Diabetes is a disease of high and lows, and we're not talking about just blood sugars. The first year is the hardest. It's not uncommon to find yourself experiencing the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But eventually acceptance comes, and your focus changes from your first trip to the pharmacy to his first solo bike ride and all the other "normal" kid things you once worried about.
Kim Mason, registered nurse and certified diabetes educators