DSA SA Port Elizabeth board member, Megan Soanes, shares what it is like to have both her husband and son have Type 1 diabetes.
Megan Soanes lives in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) with her husband, Scott and their two children, Gabriel (11) and Cheyanne (4).
My husband has Type 1 diabetes
My husband, Scott (45) was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 12; he is insulin-dependent. When we started dating, it was a challenge for me to learn about diabetes, but after 12 years of marriage, I now understand the auto-immune disease.
Admittedly, it took time to learn the nuances of the disease and accept that it was not in my power to cure but rather maintain. One weekend, in 2018, everything appeared to be normal, little did we know our lives would change forever.
Finding out our son also has diabetes
My husband noticed that our, then 7-year-old son, Gabriel, was constantly thirsty and always needed the bathroom. My husband told me to test Gabriel’s blood glucose. To my shock, it was sitting on 35,2 (the normal level being between 5-7). We rushed him to the doctor, only for him to confirm what we already suspected. My baby boy is a Type 1 diabetic just like his dad.
My son and I cried together as we already knew what his father goes through with his diabetes. I always knew, in the back of my mind, that this could happen when I fell pregnant, but every mother hopes for their kids to be healthy.
It’s not easier for my son
Many people assume that it’s easier for Gabriel to accept his diabetes and the responsibilities that come with it, seeing that his father has diabetes. This is not the case. A seven-year-old child doesn’t expect to have the responsibility of keeping their glucose levels ‘normal’ and they certainly don’t want to stick needles in their bodies three to four times a day.
In the beginning, and still four years down the line, Gabriel is constantly worried that his glucose will drop when he is sleeping over at a friend, or anywhere that he doesn’t have immediate access to his medication.
High fibre diet
Although we try maintain a healthy diet, we, as a family, don’t follow any strict diet rules but we do keep Gabriel on a high fibre diet and ensure he stays away from starch. Luckily that is easy as Gabriel doesn’t enjoy pasta, rice or potatoes. In contrast, Scott loves starch.
It does become a challenge to figure out what snacks are appropriate for maintaining a good glucose level; this comes with time and research. We have found that our go-to snacks for when Scott or Gabriel have low glucose levels would be a juice box and Super Cs. If their glucose level is high, they take some insulin (a correction dose) and drink a lot of water.
Thankfully, we, as a family, love the outdoors, especially hiking and are always looking for new adventures. Over December, we did a 10km hike; I was exceptionally proud of Gabriel and Scott.
Nurse, mother and wife
Honestly, it’s not easy living with two family members who have Type 1 diabetes. There are days when I want to throw myself under my blankets and scream, “Why me, why do I have to deal with this?”
However, at the end of the day I know that Scott and Gabriel didn’t ask to have diabetes and I shouldn’t complain. I have to put on my ‘mother doing her best’ crown and carry on.
The big thing that keeps me going is knowing the best support system for my husband and son, is me. For them, I’m on call 24/7, 365 days a year. No leave, no holidays. I’m a nurse, a mother and a wife.
I do have faults, just like everyone else, and I get those days where I’m impatient, due to being a full-time working mom. I also get tired and want to have someone wait on me when I’m not feeling well, or to be left alone when I’m irritated, but I take one step at a time and keep moving forward.
Advice to other mothers and wives
My advice to moms and wives living with people who have Type 1 diabetes is:
- Don’t expect the person with diabetes to be perfect. You’ll be chasing a lost dream, there is no such thing as a perfect diabetic. Each case is unique and can influence your lives in different ways.
- Live life and be the support pillar that they need and always know there is a support group you can reach out to.
- It’s important to remember, diabetes can’t take a backseat just because you’re a mother. To the contrary, diabetes is a priority because you’re a mother. This is one of the reason that makes me understand the reality of being a mother and a support figure for the two people in my house afflicted by Type 1 diabetes can leave anyone feeling overwhelming some days.
I’m sure all mothers and wives would agree, even without Type 1 diabetes in the mix, it’s very hard for mothers and wives to make themselves a priority. Everybody wants a piece of your time, your energy, and your heart. However, it’s important to know and accept that your needs matter, too, Mama! Like they say, “If Mama isn’t happy, then nobody is happy!”
Strive for balance
As difficult as it may be, the key to living a happier life is balance. So, think about what you need to create more balance in your life as a mother and wife. Some things you could possible try are: 30 minutes of exercise in the morning or motivating your children to be more responsible for cleaning and making their own beds. This can be a learning opportunity to teach them responsibility so that they can learn to look after themselves, especially the responsibility of keeping tabs on their diabetes. Maybe it’s assigning each child clean-up duties after dinner every night, or signing up for a fitness class twice a week which means dad oversees dinner those nights.
Once again, to ensure the stability of your own mental health, you need to maintain a more balanced and peaceful lifestyle for your own health Your needs matter, too, Mama! Don’t forget it!
DSA – Denim For Diabetes
I’m extremely happy that I got involved with DSA Port Elizabeth as I wanted to learn more about diabetes as well as help other moms that are going through what I’m going through.
I reached out to DSA Port Elizabeth and since then I have become a board member. I’m in charge of all the fundraising for this non-profit organisation. My main project is Denim for Diabetes, where we encourage schools to educate staff members and pupils about diabetes. We also ask companies to join us in this project as well.
In 2021, with the help of my friend, Jay, we got our first company, CompRSA, to take part in Denim for Diabetes. This was an amazing leap forward, witnessing a company supporting such a good cause.
I want all kids living with diabetes to know that they aren’t alone and we are here for you. Reach out to your parents and ask for help, let them know if you need them to hold you and reassure you that you are okay. Don’t let diabetes control your life, you must control diabetes. You can do anything you set your mind too!