Our name did finally get called, and Maddie rolled up her sleeve and rolled her eyes, thinking how unnecessary this blood draw was. She felt fine. Well, not fine, but fine enough. So fine that her plans for the evening were to spend time with her bestie! Sure, Maddie had experienced some strange health issues over the past 6 months, but they were things that we treated and endured and "fixed".
As inconvenient as going to the lab on a cold December afternoon was, somehow I knew it was necessary. My instinct had taken her to the doctor and now my gut was telling me that something was really wrong. Two hours later, I got a call with the lab results and a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. We were given instructions to make our way to the ER for immediate treatment. As I stood in the Target parking lot, accepting a phone call that would alter our lives, I was filled with doubt. Not believing for a second that we needed to rush to the ER, I questioned the PA incessantly. She politely overlooked my doubts and told me that she had confirmed the plans with the doctor, and that I was welcome to call him - which I did. His caller ID announced me; "Heather", our pediatrician and friend answered. "Is it true?" I asked. "Is it diabetes?". Pause... "Yes." "And we need to go tonight"? "Yes". "Will you call ahead for us". "Yes. I'm so sorry. This is life changing and you can handle it."
I'll never forget going downstairs to Maddie's room to give her the news of the diagnosis and the urgency with which we needed to get her help. Oblivious to what had transpired, her music was blaring and her pretty voice was singing. I knocked on her door, and quietly told her what was going on. I'll also never forget how much she trusted me and how quickly she responded even though she was filled with her own doubts. You would have thought we had rehearsed tossing our belongings into overnight bags, as if we had planned this from the beginning of the day. The other kids at home had questions that we didn't have answers to, there were plans that had to be made so that things at home were taken care of. And like clockwork, God's grace kicked in. It's really the only explanation for how smoothly the chaos was managed.
Arriving at the hospital provided some peace in the middle of the turmoil. We were uneducated about T1D, and had no idea how much we would learn in a very short period of time. What we were assured of by the nurses and doctors that cared for Maddie is that she would start feeling much better, soon. Even though we were reeling from the events of the past hour, we took great comfort in knowing that we had found out what was causing the recent and strange health issues.
We spent the night at the hospital while Maddie's blood sugar was monitored. Looking back now, I was in shock yet played the part of "capable Mom" well. An Oscar worthy performance perhaps. Being strong for my daughter and husband, assuring everyone that we were going to be okay, never for a second believing my own voice. But I felt that God was near. I couldn't see Him or touch Him, but I know He stayed with me in the hospital room that night. I don't think He was fooled a bit by my acting, but He knows me best and knew what I needed. He's like that, showing up and handling things when we cannot.
Although the diagnosis of T1D is not the end of the world, it has most definitely rocked ours. However, we have amazing doctors and nurses that are educating and supporting us. We have had 3 weeks practice at blood sugar draws and insulin injections, and Maddie feels like a super-hero (her words :)) because she has mastered giving herself shots. We have emergency stashes of food and candy and medicine. A sharps container hides behind the coffee pot on the kitchen counter. A drawer has been emptied of kitchen utensils in order to make room for diabetes supplies. Logs are kept of carbs and units of insulin. Food is weighed and calculated.
Maddie is a rock-star. She is capable and strong, and although she gets scared and tired, she doesn't spend time feeling sorry for herself.
Right now, I am pretending to be okay; faking it for a bit; continuing to play the part I began learning that first night. "We'll be okay". "We can manage this". "We'll be fine". Pasting a smile on my face and carrying on, because it's what I do, what I'm known for. It's what folks want to hear from me. They want to know that I'll take care of things, and that I have the faith to handle this. It's what friends believe about me; it's what I usually believe about myself. But really, I'm not okay. The truth is that I am scared about my daughter's health. I'm anxious about her future. I question our ability to manage this disease in a life that is so busy and full. I worry about not being strong enough for all of us, because I know that deep down I'm weak and selfish and ill-equipped. But I also know that God is here and that He loves us. My faith in Him isn't just for the great times, but it's for these difficult times. I believe that that these dark days that I'm living in are not dark to Him. I know that when the grief overwhelms me and my inadequacies appear greater than my abilities He is here, holding me and watching out for Maddie. I know it, I just don't feel it all the time. My comfort is found in scripture, because it tells me the truth and that is what I need so desperately. I think back to the afternoon that I sat in the waiting room at the lab, before we knew what we know now, my "What if" questions coming to mind. Even in my sadness, I am comforted by my own conclusion that the God that walked with us into the lab is the same God that walked with us out of the lab. Maddie's diagnosis didn't cause Him to change His promises or care of us. He hasn't altered His presence or His sovereignty. He is so full of grace and love and compassion for Maddie, for me, for our family. He has showed us His goodness in so many ways and even in this hard circumstance, we are blessed.
"If I say 'Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me
will be night'; Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You."
"The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word, you let me catch my breath, and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley,
I'm not afraid when you walk at my side.
Your trusty Shepherd's crook makes me feel secure."