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Don’t Let Halloween Candy Frighten You

halloweenDon’t let Halloween frighten you after a diabetes diagnosis. When my son Alexander was first diagnosed I assumed he would be unable to participate in special, sugar-filled events like Halloween. I quickly learned he can eat whatever we decide is acceptable, including candy, as long as we count the carbs and adjust his insulin.

Oddly, Halloween brings with it a special treat for people with type 1 diabetes. All those tiny pre-packaged treats − they make perfect low blood sugar treatments. As soon as I see the mini-Halloween treats in the stores I stock up because these low treatments are easy to pack and Alexander’s low blood sugars respond more quickly to candy than juice.

As a mom of a child with type 1 diabetes, do I love the idea of the sugar binge of Halloween? No. But then again I also cringe at all that junk food for my child who doesn’t have diabetes. Just as every family will choose how they will partake, we have developed a system that works for us. In our house my children bring the treats home. There’s no eating while trick or treating because my son has a peanut allergy. Once the stash is sorted for safety, we separate the best candies for low treatments and let the kids pick a pile of treats to eat, trying to balance my son’s candy consumption with chips and chocolate that have a more predictable effect on his blood sugar. And of course it means extra blood sugar checks throughout the night.

Here’s a handy list of carbohydrate counts for common treats.

Halloween, like any other special event requires extra planning when living with type 1diabetes. But don’t let the challenge get you down. As I suggest in my book, Parenting Joyfully When Your Child Has Diabetes, use these special events as a learning opportunity and work with your child in an age-appropriate way to find a way to celebrate that makes everyone happy and safe.

How do you celebrate Halloween when living with type 1 diabetes? I’d love to hear your approach.


img_2510-copyI am thrilled that the FDA has approved the Medtronic hybrid closed loop system, called an artificial pancreas. Although not yet approved in Canada, I am confident it will eventually be approved for use here. I am thankful that research is providing better treatment and hope for all people living with type 1diabetes. This system will automate the dosing of insulin to reduce high blood sugar levels and reduce the likelihood of severe low blood sugars. I tear up with joy knowing this system will improve nighttime safety.

My son Alexander is a teenager so the day when he will live independently looms closer. Thoughts of him living alone with diabetes used to strike fear into my heart. My fear was fuelled by the possibility of a severe, possibly fatal, nighttime low blood sugar. Advances like this closed loop system reassure me that Alexander will be able to safely live alone when he is ready.

Like many parents with a child with type 1, I hold my breath every morning until I hear his footsteps, or check on him to know with certainty he has survived another night. I keep my fears to myself. Part of learning to live with diabetes is not allowing your fear to limit your child’s life. In my book, Parenting Joyfully When Your Child has diabetes, I offer tips to help you manage these common fears and assess when you need external support.

The Medtronic hybrid system is not a cure, but it is a huge step forward. To learn more about the system and the research investment from JDRF that fuelled this great advance, click here.

Happy Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for?



img_2468I am discouraged by the pervasiveness of misinformation about diabetes. I had not read a Danielle Steel novel since I snuck one from my mother as a teen. But a recent romance writing course had me looking for samples and who else to choose but a woman whose books have sold over 800 million copies around the world? Instead of the romance I was expecting, about 60 pages into the book Danielle Steel broke my heart with her error-filled writing about type 1 diabetes.

In Danielle Steel’s, A Perfect Life one page was filled with countless errors about the main character’s daughter’s type 1 diabetes. The child had been blinded by her type 1 diabetes (‘cause that’s common!), but was now doing fine because her insulin pump took care of her diabetes (another myth). There was no mention about how difficult it was for a blind child to work an insulin pump. Other errors on the page confusing hypo and hyperglycemia treatment had me shaking my head wondering who had done the research. I read the passage to my son Alexander. He laughed out loud at how inaccurate it was.

Sadly, many people have already read her book and assumed the medical aspects are accurate. I could have simply returned the book to the library but instead I took the time to write a respectful email to Ms. Steel suggesting that her research had not been as thorough as readers expect. I pointed out the errors that perpetuate the ignorance around diabetes. I mentioned that this misinformation makes life more difficult for people like my son who interact with people who have learned this misinformation. I received a cordial email thanking me for the correct information. I hope that small effort means that if she ever writes about diabetes again she will speak to an expert –someone who lives with type 1 diabetes.

As I write in my book Parenting Joyfully When Your Child Has Diabetes, if you choose to respond to such misconceptions, speak (or write) calmly with the goal of educating the world one person at a time. Try to omit medical jargon, otherwise the person listening will be overwhelmed. Together, as parents, we can raise awareness and understanding of type 1 diabetes one encounter at a time.

What productive, educational conversations have you had about type 1 diabetes?


It’s Never Okay to Make Fun of Diabetes


img_2429-copyIt’s  never okay to make fun of diabetes.  The insensitivity and ignorance behind such attempts at humor is stunning. They are not funny and they perpetuate the myths that those of us living with diabetes are trying to debunk.

In my book, Parenting Joyfully When Your Child Has Diabetes, I offer suggestions about how to deal with this lack of education. But I confess I am shocked at how much insensitivity remains.

Last week I almost fell off the treadmill watching Gilmore Girls when the chef, played by Melissa McCarthy made a superb strawberry sauce so good that “Someday when we open our own inn, diabetics will be lining up for this sauce.” I wondered how that asinine comment would make my son Alexander feel. Would he shake his head at yet another person who thought you could get diabetes by eating too many sugary sweets? Was that even the point of the joke? Or did the uninformed writer mean people with low blood sugars would line up to eat the sauce to treat a low? Ridiculous writing. Obviously no research done.

If Gilmore Girls was still running I would contact the writers and respectfully educate them about diabetes. Although, a slow process, I intend to counter ignorance with education bit by bit.

Such callowness is sadly common. Do you remember the Starbucks incident earlier this year when a customer picked up the coffee with a label that said, “Diabetes Here I come.” In whose world is it appropriate to mock a disease, any disease?

In what other TV shows or movies have you seen diabetes be inaccurately portrayed? The website diabetes.co.uk mentions four instances of film and TV that needed better research for their diabetes portrayal: The Syndicate, That’s My Boy, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, and Con Air. To read more about the details they got wrong click here.

If you know of any other examples of diabetes being misrepresented in the media, I’d love to hear about them. Maybe together we can help them get it right.