Randie Harmelin

My middle child, Stephanie, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on November 11, 1994 at the age of 12 1/2. That was the day that my family’s life changed forever. Diabetes forced my husband and me to grow up. That sounds sort of silly, because we were already the parents of three children, one of whom had developmental delays and the eldest who was getting ready to graduate high school. But diabetes came into our lives and changed it forever.

The feeling of letting something happen to your child that you can not fix, is the most helpless feeling in the world. The idea of a disease that needs constant supervision with no end in sight is sometimes extremely overwhelming. So we grew up and we dealt with it.

Almost seven years later, I now recognize some of the side effects that my daughter has from living with this disease, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I am not only speaking of the physical issues, because she is a very strong and mature young woman who is doing well, but I feel that she has been robbed of the childhood that was snatched away from her. I wish that I could have slowed down that process, but I know that most diabetic children with good control, are usually more mature than their peers.

My daughter is a sophomore in college now and doing great. I worry about her future and how this disease will potentially limit her possibilities. I started writing by saying that my husband and I “grew up” the day Steph was diagnosed, but I am ending by writing about how she had to grow up too fast.

She was a counselor at an overnight camp in the Berkshires this summer. After she came home she told me a story. A young camper who had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a short time before camp had started, was introduced to Steph so they could get to know each other. One day the little girl came to Steph very upset. She had been testing her blood before lunch, as she did at every meal, and the other kids started telling her that it was disgusting and they didn’t want to see it. That part of the story was bad enough, but my daughter’s answer broke my heart even more. She told this child that unfortunately that was going to happen all through her life, and that it was something that she was going to have to face. Then they came up with some things that the young girl could say when it did happen.

What broke my heart was that I never knew that my child was used to dealing with the ignorance and insensitivity of others. I wrote about this small aspect of our lives with diabetes because it just happened. It is just a little thing really, compared to the whole package of life with diabetes, but I wanted to share it.

Randie Harmelin