Seven-year-old Harriet was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in January 2017 and features in our Christmas appeal. Mum Hannah explains how they’ll be making sure their first Christmas with Type 1 is magical for the whole family.
When your child has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, you have to experience everything once to learn how you’d deal with it again. And our first Christmas is no different.
Celebrations can be tricky to navigate. At Easter, we asked family to give the children money for toys instead of Easter eggs. But Harriet was distraught and said: “What, nobody in the whole family got eggs? The Easter Bunny didn't come because of my diabetes?” We quickly arranged for a friend to come over to leave some eggs for the kids to discover. We realised how important it is for Harriet to join in with things like Easter eggs – we just need to keep an eye on her levels and make sure all the children aren’t eating too much. It’s still early days for us with diabetes and we’re always learning.
Chocolate advent calendars
With Christmas, the first hurdle has been chocolate advent calendars. The kids usually get a few each from different family members. But this time, the family were worried about if it was still ok to buy them. We decided it’s important to keep the normal festive traditions going – it just needs a bit of extra thinking through.
As soon as Harriet wakes up, we always scan her flash glucose monitor to check her sugar levels. She’s usually in range or a little low, so eating a small chocolate isn’t a massive issue. She’ll then take her insulin injection and wait to have her breakfast as usual.
Parties and treats
It’s not just advent calendars – there’s chocolate everywhere in the run up to Christmas. Harriet has had to learn that she does have to be careful sometimes. We’re in the first week of December and she’s already been given four chocolate selection boxes from her dancing, swimming and football groups.
It’s really important to us that Harriet can join in with her school Christmas dinner. She usually takes a packed lunch so I can carb count everything and work out her insulin dose in advance, but we’ve spoken to the school and agreed that Harriet will have Christmas dinner with her friends. We may have to do a bit of guesstimating when it comes to working out the carb count – but it’s worth it so Harriet can have a great time, and we can’t go too far wrong.
Change of routine
As a Type 1 parent, you’re constantly looking for solutions. You need to anticipate where issues or challenges might be, and work out ways to navigate them.
But as much as you try to plan, no two days are the same. You can follow the same routine, the same insulin regime, and get completely different readings from one day to the other.
Once school is over, the Christmas break means more late nights and a change to the usual routine. This will all affect Harriet’s sugar levels. My husband and I will relax and enjoy a drink or two over Christmas – but we’ll also be mentally making a note of what Harriet’s levels are, and who will be checking on her later. We always need to have our eye on the ball.
There are no days off from Type 1 diabetes, and that includes Christmas Day. We’ll still be following our usual routine of checking Harriet’s blood sugar levels, counting carbs and injecting. We know if we go too far away from our routine, Harriet’s levels will be all over the place.
But Type 1 diabetes won't change how special Christmas is to us as a family. There will still be new pyjamas on Christmas Eve, choosing a new bauble each at the garden centre where we go to see Santa and our huge extended family party on Boxing Day with silly games.
And once Christmas is over, Harriet's excited about celebrating her first diaversary with a friend who she met at the Type 1 Weekender, and who was diagnosed within a week of her.
Harriet’s a brave little girl who’s dealt with this new challenge brilliantly – and we're all looking forward to enjoying a magical family Christmas.