Two years ago, my life changed in ways I never could have imagined. My 10-year-old daughter, Averi, went from being a healthy, active child to fighting for her life in what felt like an instant.

Averi was spending the weekend with her dad when her stepmom noticed she'd been drinking more water than usual. It was out of the ordinary, but not overly concerning.

A few days later, Averi was so tired that I kept her home from school and called our pediatrician. When I brought her in to be seen, her blood sugar was so high that she was immediately admitted to our local Children's Hospital. Once we arrived at the ER, Averi was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes within minutes.

Looking back, there were likely other symptoms that I missed. Averi had been moody, hungry constantly, and losing weight. On the day of her diagnosis, I was so upset that I didn't see it. I pride myself on being very vigilant, but in that moment, I had no pride. I am the one person who should always keep her safe, and yet there we were, on the edge of a future I had no idea how to manage.

The days that followed were a blur of diabetes parent training and education. Suddenly, I was being trusted to monitor Averi's glucose and dose her with insulin—all without any sort of medical background.

It was almost like when you have your first newborn, and they send you home from the hospital. No rule book, just a pat on the back and a "you got this." I prayed that we could handle it all and that her life wouldn't change dramatically.

After Averi was discharged, my mental health took a turn for the worse. I was constantly sleep-deprived, anxious, and overwhelmed. I struggled with how much I was unable to control. I was also battling my own chronic condition in the background.

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis about a year after Averi was born, and my symptoms had grown worse throughout her childhood. I suffered from anemia, pancreatitis, and lightheadedness so debilitating I could hardly walk around the house. In 2020, my condition required emergency surgery during the height of the pandemic.

In 2022, while preparing to be out of commission for my third surgery in four years—one that I hoped would permanently improve my symptoms—Averi received her diagnosis.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't contemplate canceling the procedure. The idea of balancing a painful recovery and her care was almost unimaginable, but I found the alternative to be far more frightening. I knew that I needed to prioritize my own health to be there for Averi, so ultimately, I went in as scheduled a few weeks later. It was a decision that I made for both of us and our futures.

Post-recovery for me, we soon found a promising solution for Averi's condition, too. After a particularly scary bout of low blood sugar, we decided to move her from multiple daily injections to an insulin pump, which could auto-adjust her insulin levels every five minutes.

I was terrified, but soon realized that the benefits far outweighed my fears. For the first time since her diagnosis, a semblance of normalcy was on the horizon for Averi: no more insulin shots meant she could spend time with her friends without me there—a 10-year-old girl's dream. It also gave me some much-needed time to care for myself.

Averi is 12 years old now, and she's a shining example of how to face life's challenges with grace and courage. Being her mom has always inspired me, but witnessing her strength and resilience these past two years has been something else entirely. I still marvel at her capacity to just keep moving and smiling.

According to the CDC, a staggering 129 million people in the U.S. suffer from a chronic illness. There's a good chance that you or someone you know—a loved one, coworker, or friend—is one of those people. There's also a chance that chronic illness will one day affect your child.

If that happens, what I want you to know and remember is this: While this moment will have a permanent place in your memory, it will also have a permanent place in theirs. Take time to breathe and lean on those around you. You will make mistakes, and it will be okay. You will feel like you're failing, and it will be okay.

Just don't forget to take care of yourself too—you can't pour into anyone else's cup when yours is empty.

Stacey Mullins is a single mother of two who balances her own chronic condition with her daughter's type 1 diabetes daily. She's a strong advocate for other parents in her shoes and credits her daughter's Medtronic insulin pump, the MiniMed 780G, for changing both of their lives for the better.

All views expressed are the author's own.

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2024-06-18T12:33:02Z dg43tfdfdgfd