Saturday, March 12, 2011

In 11 years what have I done? Well, I got a tattoo...

It was almost eleven years ago when we were told that my son had Type 1 diabetes and I recently wondered what have I done? When my son was first diagnosed and we knew that he would live, I remember thinking that this was what my life would be about.  Now, I wonder what have I done? Has it been enough?   Have I worked as hard as I could? Have I made a difference each year that we had lived with diabetes?

Yes, this is a bit of a feel-good post.  It is a bit of a vain post all about ME.  So, what have I done? I have ruffled feathers.  I have whined. I have complained. I have been pushy. I have helped to change a few things for people with diabetes. And of course...I got a tattoo.

I have survived life with diabetes for over a decade and my son is thankfully alive to tell the tale. There were times I that I wondered if either one of us would make it.  In the early days he would hoard food in his cheek, swallowing nothing and dragging meals on for hour.  He would then vomit.  He would bring me to tears as I tried to get him to drink juice to ward off the low he was experiencing while hanging over the toilet throwing up and passing out.  I didn't know how we would make it through another day let alone a few thousand more days but we did....and I got a tattoo to prove it.

I shared Rufus the bear with diabetes with children on the west coast of our province and on the west coast of my country.  I "met" incredible friends online who helped me to get past the above mentioned food battles and so much more.  I connected with amazing people in real life who met with me for regular "therapy" sessions which included great conversation, good food and a few drinks...and eventually I got a tattoo.

I tackled the federal government and won.  I saw that the Disability Tax Credit was not fair and had the issue brought up before a parliamentary committee. I was blessed with an amazing mentor who guided me and helped me motivate others to ask the Federal government for further change.  A bill of $41million was the projected cost, but we now see children up to 14 years of age given the Disability Tax Credit, and adults who intensively manage their diabetes also qualify without hassle...and did I mention that I got a tattoo?

My son got older and was soon heading off to school.  I began to worry about protecting other children with diabetes.  What happens to those students who's parents can't speak for them? How do we protect all of our children? I began speaking to anyone who would listen.  I wrote letters. I suggested policies. I educated educators. I educated parents.  I badgered provincial members of parliament. I wish I could say that I won and all of our kids are protected, but we have seen change.  I have worked with the CDA to change their guidelines.  I have been quoted by boards who use my policy as their guide.  I have been asked to meet with provincial policy makers to adjust how they deal with children with diabetes in their schools. Progress is slow but it is being made...and of course there was the tattoo.

Somewhere along the way I tackled something I had never done before. I created a website. It allowed me a platform to do a lot of the things I mentioned already. It also allowed me to interact with a lot more people than I normally would. This led to a challenge. 

Each year in November I worked to created heightened awareness of diabetes.  I wrote letters about our experience. I created a booklet on the "Faces of Diabetes".  One year I wondered out loud what to do next.  The answer I was given was get a tattoo. The gauntlet was laid down by a woman in her 70s who claimed that she had done it so what was my problem? A number of other people said that they were up for the challenge. The plan was to get a tattoo relating to diabetes done in November.  Media attention to what you had done would be vital.  Pictures were a must and we would share.  The result was I got a tattoo and created one of my most visited and amazing web tattoo page

The tattoo created some controversy for me as in my exuberance, I shouted what I had done from the roof tops.  Some people did not appreciate my enthusiasm.  That was okay.  I grew.  Things changed but I had a tattoo.  Yes its my only tattoo. I had thought of getting one years ago but it didn't happen.  When the challenge was made, I contacted an artist and he created something that I love--two entwined hearts.  I have two boys.  Their names were placed in each heart.  Their birthstone color was added and of course we had to have a diabetes awareness ribbon and blood. 

My boys sit on my left shoulder, close to my heart.  I have told them that when I am old, senile and walking the halls of the home in a nightdress with the back hanging out, they will not be able to say that I am their mother.  Their names are on my back and they will have to claim me.

So I guess I have made a few contributions in eleven years.  I hope and pray that I have (and will continue) been able to give back even half as much as I have been given (that list is for another post so come back and read again!).  In the meantime, well I have a tattoo that shows that diabetes has not beaten us..and never will!!


  1. I aspire to be like YOU! Amazing post Barb and thank you for giving those of us with less experience in the "D" arena inspiration. You are a blessing through and through.