Telling people I have Diabetes has become so second nature to me, and whilst of course I still get the occasional “So you can’t eat sugar then?” questions; for the most part people seem to understand what it means. So it felt somewhat strange to realise that my 2 year old niece doesn’t understand what it means; yet she is so much more curious than anyone I’ve ever shared this part of my life with before.
I remember back in late November 2015, when my precious little goddaughter and niece was just 19 months old, I went to visit for a Christmas weekend in the midlands with Little P and her parents. Oh she was so full of the joys of the season, and it was this weekend where her curiosity about everything first became apparent to me. She was trying on my shoes, playing with my hair, rifling through my handbag and my purse – she was £2 up by the end of that particular exploration – but then she took out my “kit”. Us Diabetics all have one don’t we, whether we use the cases that come with our glucose monitors, or whether we consolidate our equipment into one, very colourful, couldn’t be further from medical looking make-up bag, as I do. Clearly after stealing money from her Auntie NeNe, this colourful little gem was far too alluring in Little P’s explorations. As she enthusiastically removed the multicoloured case out of my bag, I felt a panic; are there any pen tips in there that could hurt her? Has the top of my lancet device come off again, exposing the sharp tip as if it were a banned spindle in Sleeping Beauty’s castle? Along with, possibly selfishly, “please don’t break my insulin pens”. Instantly, I found myself saying; “That’s NeNe’s medicine, shall I take it?” and removing the kit from view whilst Little P moved onto something else.
I took a photo of that moment, but I seldom thought of it again until the beginning of April this year, 2016 – 2 years of watching Little P grow, 2 years of learning all about a different way of loving, and of being loved. This little angel has my heart wholly and completely, she has me wrapped around her little finger and I am at her mercy every time I see her – starstruck and in awe! The day before Little P’s “more southerly” birthday party, she came to visit me with her Nanna (my mum) to meet my fur babies, see my home and have a coffee in the little market town by the river where I live. We were also going to choose balloons!!! We had coffee, we had a mooch and brought balloons, we even saw a papier mache cat that was bigger than Little P. As we got to Waitrose, I felt the familiar symptoms of a hypo…oh no! Thankfully there’s a new cafe in this particular branch, so I sat down and tested to check where I was on the scale of high-ok-low by which we set our daily targets and subsequently live our lives. I then had to “administer” the dextrose, which given that I hadn’t purchased it at Waitrose (it’s cheaper in Sainsburys or Boots often have some good offers – other shops are available), felt a little like rebellion. I don’t usually panic when dealing with hypos, but then I’m usually on my own; in this situation I was acutely aware that Mum had a long list of things to get done before the following day’s revelry, and Little P would soon need her nap, so I sent mum off to gather her wares from the aisles of Waitrose, with Little P making the choice to stay with Auntie NeNe. Right there, in that moment in the middle of Waitrose, I became so conscious of the fact that I was responsible for this little angel at the same time as perhaps not being fully compos mentis, I certainly couldn’t drive so how could I possibly be effective in the care of my little sisters most precious gift?! Well, I needn’t have worried, Little P was looking after me! Carefully, one by one feeding me the intensely flavoured, chalky, yet somehow quite juicy sweets and checking I’d finished it all before allowing me, as she puts it “maw medsin” (I’ve written that how she says it to help you appreciate the cuteness, I can spell…really). This little girl who was just over 24 hours away from being 2 was showing me so much compassion that I fell in love with her even more, something which I thought impossible!
I decided then that I wouldn’t be scared of her hurting herself with my medication next time she’s curious, I wouldn’t take it away from her and avoid the opportunity to start filling her with knowledge about this condition, which will of course impact her life because her Auntie NeNe has it. No, all future grabs of my kit would be met with “ooh that’s Auntie NeNe’s medicine, shall I show you?” I planned to take control and be proud and honoured to share this with her, particularly as no one else in our family can share this with her. So I’m determined to make it something else she positively associates with me. I hope that if she ever sees someone else testing their glucose or taking their insulin, she’ll think about me and be proud that I look after myself and manage my Diabetes on a daily basis, but also that she’ll feel reassured that I’m not the only one in the world that has to do it. It’s an alien feeling to think ahead to her being the same age as me when I was diagnosed, when “Little P” will no doubt be “Taller Than NeNe P”, and consider the comparison; for us (Sister, Mum, Dad and I) Diabetes came into our lives like a wrecking ball aiming for the wrong building (sorry if you now have the song in your head), but for Little P, she will have grown up with it, she can be one of those exquisite humans who show understanding and empathy and a desire to share knowledge about it – even though she doesn’t have it.
My resolve to be more open and dare I say it, educational about my kit; for that is the only part of Diabetes that her marvellous mind is capable of processing at her current age. The kit is tangible and visible; it would be too much to explain the “mechanics” of Type 1 Diabetes to her at the moment – and I’ve got to finish bringing the rest of the family up to speed first! Anyway, as I was saying; my resolve was somewhat thwarted by Little P’s new found assertiveness when I saw her over the last Bank Holiday weekend, assertiveness and her continued astounding grasp of the english language (as in for someone who’s still only 2, she didn’t speak a foreign language first). One of Little P’s new “catchphrases” is “P do it” and she’s pretty insistent that you do indeed allow P to do it, sometimes she’ll even cock her head to the side in an attempt to meet your gaze, knowing full well that her smile is a difficult one to resist! So, out comes the the kit, instantly recognised by Little P as something she still needs to get into. The nano second my fingers clasp the zip, her tiny hand reaches out and grabs my fingers and by proxy, the zip; “P do it” she says. A moment of panic, which I now view as a speedy risk assessment, and I allow her to help me open the bag. Her tiny hand then starts reaching inside, I’ve decided I don’t want her to think that’s OK just yet, part of the risk assessment; so I ask her “Auntie NeNe show P how it works?” an emphatic “Yes” accompanied by nodding of the head and that deliciously excited grin she does in anticipation of something new, there’s even a little “ooh” which she delivers with an intake of breathe, like she’s preparing to blow candles out on a cake. I insert the test strip into the meter and it becomes very clear that this is where Little P wants to take over, she wants to do the entire process to me. Testing my Blood Glucose?!?! But no one who isn’t medically qualified has ever done that in my 15 years with this condition…..but suddenly I think, OK here’s my first goal with her. Once she knows how it works, and she’s bit more steady with her hands and coordination, I’ll let her hold the meter whilst I prick my finger, and then she can collect the blood. But how do I start teaching her that process?
As Little P was repeating “P do it, P do it. Auntie NeNe, P do it”, I chose to continue testing myself and ask her to watch what I do because I was going to do it to her after….she watched and waited (albeit fidgeting like an impatient 2 year old does), and then it was her turn. I held the lancet device to her finger and instead of pricking her finger I made a “bing” noise, she reciprocated with the “Ooh” on the breath intake. I then instructed her to put her finger by the slot in which I usually insert my strips, I waited and then made a “beeboopdop” noise and looked at the meter; I informed Little P that it said she is “practically perfect in every way” (Thanks Mary Poppins – who now has a spoonful of sugar in their head?). Little P smiled, took a brief glance into my kit and then smiled at me again…..”NeNe Bubbles…..” Lesson 1 has begun.
One day I will actually perform a fingerprick test on her, I’m planning to do it to my whole family – I may even subject my friends to it so that they can all understand this integral part of my life a little better. But for now, I’m beyond thrilled to have another way of telling Little P that I think she’s perfect and how much I love her. Because clearly doing that 1million times whenever I see her isn’t already enough.