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A Mother, a Son and Type 1 Diabetes

If she couldn’t manage her own metabolic disease, how could she help her son with his?

By Christy Hoss, Santa Rosa, California

As appeared in

The principal shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but I’m concerned about Andrew going on the class trip to Yosemite.”

My hands clenched in my lap. This could not be happening. “He’s been looking forward to it for months,” I said. The five nights in the wilderness were both an end-of-school celebration and an outdoor science lab, the highlight of the year for my son’s entire sixth-grade class.

“It’s just too great of a risk,” he said. “We’ve had some bad experiences with diabetic children in the past and I can’t ask the teachers to look out for him. The trails are steep, slippery. If he got light-headed...”

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“I’ll do it!” I blurted out. “I’ll volunteer to be a chaperone.” After all, if it weren’t for me, Andrew wouldn’t be in this mess.

I didn’t have diabetes when I was Andrew’s age. No one in my family had ever been diagnosed with it. I wasn’t overweight. I was a lifeguard, an athlete. I was fit, happy, carefree.

But in my sophomore year of college I was constantly thirsty. I couldn’t drink enough. Then in class I couldn’t read the blackboard, even from the front row.

I’d just gotten married. “Something’s wrong,” my husband said. “You need to get this checked out.” By then, I was so weak, I could barely function.

The doctor ran some blood tests. When he returned to the exam room his face was grave. “Your blood-sugar level is off the charts. You’re lucky to be alive.” I stared at him in disbelief. What was he talking about?

“Christy, you have Type 1 diabetes. Your body isn’t producing insulin, which you need to metabolize sugar. Diabetes requires careful, frequent monitoring. It’s not curable, but the good news is it’s manageable.

"It shouldn’t at all limit what you can do provided you make some changes and stick to them.”

I was put on a strict diet plan and shown how to test my blood and give myself insulin shots. After a short hospital stay I felt better. But at home I struggled.

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Getting the right balance of insulin and sugar was a constant juggling act. I had to manually calculate the correct dosage of insulin, using a chart. But it wasn’t precise. Any physical activity made the insulin kick in faster.

My first day at home I was vacuuming when I felt like I was about to faint. I slumped onto the couch. This is impossible, I thought. There was so much to think about! I’d forget to test myself, skip a snack or take too much insulin.

Everyone else could eat what they wanted, yet I had to constantly monitor myself.

Somehow I made it through college and got a job. I went camping and hiking with my husband. Eventually I was able to afford an insulin pump, which delivers insulin continuously.

It was great no longer having to give myself shots, but by then I’d come to resent even the smallest demand from my diabetes. Sometimes I cheated with an extra snack, out of spite. All I wanted was to be free of it.

When Andrew was born, a perfect, healthy baby, I couldn’t thank God enough. He grew up tall and strong.

Then that past December I’d noticed Andrew drinking glass after glass of water. He woke up two or three times a night to go to the bathroom. And he was irritable, way more than your typical 11-year-old. Deep down inside I knew I had passed on my Type 1 diabetes to my son.