What To Do When Chronic Illness Threatens Your Child

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I struggle with faith.

I’m caught up in my brain, in numbers, in odds, in statistical likelihood and significance.

What’s funny is I’m absolutely horrid at advanced math, but I’m good at statistics. Statistics are numbers that make sense. Math that means something. Numbers can be misleading, but ultimately they don’t lie.

As a mother with type 1 diabetes, my worst nightmare would be my child developing my chronic illness. Here's how I'm coping.

My oldest daughter, Little Bo, was acting a little strange a couple nights ago. I couldn’t put my finger on it. She was saying her tummy hurts, but when I’d press, she denied it.

She was saying she was tired, too, but it was the end of a long day for a little girl who dropped her last nap months ago. Maybe tiredness was just to be expected?

Sometimes she just says stuff. She’s three.

But I did what pretty much every mom with type 1 diabetes does when things don’t feel right: I pulled out my blood sugar meter and tested her.

166 mg/dL.

Okay, a little elevated after a meal but not frightening.

My anxiety was rearing its ugly head though, and I needed to check again. Home glucose meters can be off by upwards of 15 points (I’ve also seen 20%) in either direction. Maybe she was only 141? That would be more like a number I’d expect. So we squeezed the finger again and tested.

179 mg/dL.

Two hours later, when she was fast asleep, I tested again, and she was 130 mg/dL. Higher than I would expect. Not scary, but worth noting.

The next morning, she had her usual bowl of cereal. Call me a “mean mom” but I don’t let my kid eat “kid cereal.” Instead, she asks for some “hearty morning fiber” made with 6 organic, ancient grains. Because that’s all she knows.

I checked her blood sugar an hour after eating for some peace of mind after the readings I got the night before. And I watched my worst nightmare begin to unfold.

191 mg/dL.

I wiped her finger with an alcohol swab and squeezed the finger again.

204 mg/dL.

And with that, I did what any reasonable person with a history of diabetes-related anxiety would do: I started sobbing.

Because you see, I struggle with faith.

Before I got pregnant with Little Bo, I was reading a book my mom gave me on how to hear from God. At the end of the first chapter, the author instructed you to grab a Bible, pray that the Lord would reveal to you what He wants you to know, listen for an answer, then open the Bible at random and see what you get.

It was worth a shot, I figured. I was having panic attacks at the thought of getting pregnant. I was afraid my diabetes would hurt my baby in utero, or that she would wind up with diabetes herself one day–a fate I couldn’t bear. So I prayed for an answer to those fears, fully expecting nothing to come of it.

The verse Jeremiah 33:3 came to mind. Oh, I thought. But wait. Didn’t the author mention this verse in the chapter I just read? That’s probably where my brain is grabbing that.

I have a degree in psychology. I know the brain grabs onto things and throws them into your memory or consciousness in weird ways sometimes. And being a Christian, I’ve wondered how people can be sure they’re hearing from God instead of their own weird brain.

Mother experiencing anxiety hugging a pillow

But whatever. I prayed anyway. God, here goes nothing. Please give me an answer to the fear I’ve been having and let me hear what You want me to know.

I flipped open my Bible with my eyes closed. It was a new Bible my Mom had given me for Christmas that I confess I wasn’t very familiar with. It was thinner than a typical Bible, so I didn’t have a clear sense of where I was opening to. Which I figured was probably a good thing, since when I’ve tried something like this in the past I always wound up lost in Psalms that don’t seem relevant.

I opened my eyes and landed on the number 3.

I scanned further up the page and saw “Chapter 33.” I jumped to the top of the page: Jeremiah.

Call to me, and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you do not know.
-Jeremiah 33:3

What a weird coincidence, I thought. But was it one? There are 31,102 verses in the Bible, and I randomly landed on the exact one that popped into my brain just a few seconds earlier. I mean, what are the chances of that happening by accident?

I guess God knows I have faith in numbers.

I went on to have a nearly flawless pregnancy, and for the last two years Little Bo’s antibody tests have come back negative for markers of her developing type 1 diabetes.

Fast forward to now, as I look at the number 204 staring back at me, highlighted in red with the words “high blood sugar” scrolling along the bottom of my glucose meter screen.

I would like to say that I prayed, that I had faith, and that everything turned out okay because God keeps His promises.

But that’s not what happened.

In fact, I’m still not sure things are actually okay. We have an appointment with a pediatric endocrinologist today. I’ll be driving 80 miles round-trip to get there just to have the first available appointment.

So instead, I’ll tell you what I should have done, what I’m trying to do, and what you should do in situations like these, where you see your worst nightmare unfolding before your eyes.

PRAY WITHOUT CEASING

This is a given. And it’s something we technically shouldn’t even need to “start” doing, by definition. We should be doing it already. I hadn’t been.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
-Thessalonians 5:16-18

HOLD ON THE TRUTH

I say this instead of “have faith,” because that sounds cliche and to be honest, I’m still trying to figure out what that even really looks like practically speaking.

But there are things I know to be true about Jesus, like that He wants you well, that you can cast your fears on Him, and that He is the only thing that has effectively carried me out of some dark places. I know that God is outside of time, and His promises hold true forever, not just the moment they are delivered through the random flipping open of a Bible almost four years ago.

Perhaps holding onto these truths is Faith. Perhaps my diabetes diagnosis is the mountain I’m moving in my life, and it doesn’t matter that the actual one near my house hasn’t moved an inch. I’m not sure yet. But I’m working on it.

I’ve been in a dark place the last couple days. I was feeling better after getting some reassuring glucose readings two days ago, but high numbers after a bowl of cereal yesterday shook my faith again.  

WHAT A ‘GOD’ THING TO DO

My mom likes to talk about a verse somewhere in Isaiah, where it says that God answers your prayers before you even utter them. I was thinking about this as I went to grab my Bible, which was collecting dust on my nightstand, along with several other books I’ve been meaning to read. One of those books was a devotional my sister gave me for Christmas.

And I had this thought.

Wouldn’t it be funny if I grabbed this book instead, opened it up, and landed on exactly what I needed to hear right now? Wouldn’t that be such a ‘God’ thing to do, if three months ago He put it on my sister’s heart to give me this book she initially bought for herself because He knew I needed to hear what I’m about to read when I open this?

I chuckled to myself. Yeah, God’s funny that way. Chuckle chuckle.

I grabbed the devotional. What the heck, why not, right?

I sat down, prayed desperately that I would have some sign that what I was about to read was truly the Lord speaking to my fears and the situation with my little girl’s blood sugar, and flipped open the 399 page book to March 23rd.

Oh, that’s the day Little Bo first had weird blood sugar readings. That was the day all this started. What are the odds of that?

Wait.

What ARE the odds of that?

I started reading. The devotionals over the next four relevant days (it was March 26th) were oddly applicable. Here are the Cliff’s notes:

March 23: God’s love never falters; He will not betray you.
March 24: Don’t be afraid to show your devotion to Jesus.
March 25: God’s power is made perfect in weakness.
March 26: Be a prisoner of Faith; there is Hope in Christ.

March 25th was particularly relevant. 2 Corinthians 12:9 is one of just two very meaningful-to-me verses in the Bible (the other being Jeremiah 33:3). It’s the one where Paul talks about a thorn in his flesh that he begs God to remove.

My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.
-2 Corinthians 12:9

Let me tell you mamas, diabetes is a thorn in my flesh (literally) that has made me weak in many, many ways.

And trust me, my skeptical self has already thought it: Well, these are all sort of generic Christian messages, so I might have just happened upon some relevant teaching at a relevant time. That’s not necessarily God trying to reach me.

I suppose that could be the case. But I’ve tried opening up to March 23rd at random again, and I haven’t been able to. And 2 Corinthians 12:9–my verse–isn’t referenced anywhere else in the book. So I choose to believe those were the signs I prayed for.

And besides, what are the odds of me having that weird “wouldn’t it be such a God thing if…” thought, grabbing a book I had no prior intention of grabbing, and then opening up to exactly what I needed to hear on the date I needed to hear it?

I guess God knew I would like those odds.

And I share all of this because of March 24th. I don’t really talk about my faith much. It’s always been a personal, private thing for me, even with family and friends to an extent. When I read what the devotional said on March 24th, I instantly knew I needed to write this post.

Because I know that God likes to do clever “big picture planning” things, like inspire someone to write something they wouldn’t normally ever even consider sharing publicly, so that an email subscriber who really needs to hear it right now will see it. Or because someone two years from now is going to pray for some kind of guidance when they go through a similar situation and stumble upon this post over Pinterest.

So I’m sharing.

Because who knows? Maybe you’re the one I’m supposed to share this with.

LOVE,
GABBY

As a mother with type 1 diabetes, my worst nightmare would be my child developing my chronic illness. Here's how I'm coping.