Dear Malakai (letter 1)

A Story, humor, insulin-dependent diabetes, living, Love God Love People

Dear Malakai,

So I hear tell that you’ve started on a wonky, crazy, brandSpanking new, maybe scary, but somewhat exciting, God-trusting adventure. We’ve needed a kiddo like you in the ranks – an eager, willing, chasing after God sorta young feller. But hey, before I get too distracted, I’ve gotta tell you a little something. A few weeks ago I borrowed some superHuman powers and was whizbang transported into your room during your recent hospital stay. Not only that, but I also activated the invisibleWoman trait. Gah, speaking of hospitals, they still smell sorta funny, but they have cool beds with levers and wheels and other assorted whatnots. The chow isn’t as good as home cooking though. I bet you’re glad to be back at your place where you eat your momma’s food, huh?

Anyway, there I was, sitting in my invisible chair in my invisible skin in the corner of your hospital room, watching. And remembering. I was nine years old at my diagnosis. And it was summertime. We’d come back from a family reunion in the middle of Montana – where I’d eaten more than any grown man at the table, where I’d drank gallons of water, where I’d walked around with my young skin seemingly draping off my bones. My mom thought maybe it was some sorta wild growth spurt.

My relatives inhaled sharp and outright said, “Something ain’t right with that one. You gotta take her to the doctor as soon as you get home.”

So she did. I was hospitalized the same day that I saw my doctor. I’ve no recollection of my blood sugar levels beyond them saying “so very high.” During my several day stay, I got smart to when the nurse was headed into my room with a syringe because I’d watch from my door. When I saw her getting the gear ready, I’d slip out and hide in a closet or go into someone else’s room. Naughty. Naughty. My mom only could be there sometimes because she had to work (in a different town), and I didn’t have a dad. So, when needles freaked me out, I hid. In hindsight, I reckon that my stay was a wee bit challenging for the hospital staff. MyBad.

Okay, so Malakai, our times in those hospital rooms were similar in the shock and awe of the diagnosis, the alarming doctorDirectives of “take shots or die,” the learning about proper blood sugar levels, the trepidations of taking syringes into hand and poking needles into tender belly skins, the wanting to wipe the wrinkles of worry from our mother’s faces, the relief at knowing why we’ve been feeling off-kilter, and the understanding why we’ve been waking up with the sensation that we’d eaten a dozen tube socks in the night (in between all the peeing and drinking water and the peeing and drinking more water).

Speaking of parents, I reckon the whole process is harder on them than it is on kids. Young people are very resilient. The good thing with being diagnosed at an early age is that all the poking and injecting and snacking soon becomes as second nature as brushing teeth and picking up Legos off the floor. You do those things, right? Because really, I don’t pick up Legos, but you totally should do that. Basically, this insulin-dependent diabetes becomes part of us.

Part of me. Part of you. And that’s A-Okay! It’s better than okay. It’s slightly awesome, actually. We get to master and use all manner of gadgets and gizmos, medications and prescriptions, snacking and fasting. Right now and right here, I’m coining the term: Ninja-Betic. Then it will be way cool to answer people’s (sometimes nosy, sometimes compassionate) questions.

“Hi, my name’s Darlene. Yes, I have insulin-dependent diabetes. Please refer to me from now on as “Darlene the Ninja-Betic. It’s who I am. It’s what I do. Hiyaaaaah!”

Except, you know, you should refer to yourself as “Malakai” because that would be sorta weird if you called yourself by my name. Weird. And confusing.

Here’s a little of my diabeteStory. And by “little” I mean, Malakai, you’d best check your blood sugar level, see if you need a snack, and then go and fix you a cup of coffee (Oh, was that a no-go? Did your momma give you that raised eyebrow, pursed lips, slow back & forth nod? Maybe then you should get you some tea or something else to sip whilst you read this.)

So, I was four years younger than you at the time of my diagnosis. I had one sister, two years younger than me. I saw some images of your little sis with you on the hospital bed. Little sisters are so great (well, except for when they’re not). Anyway, mine used to stand in front of the television every time a sugary snack, cereal, or dessert commercial came on – basically, she stood there, arms spread wide, eyes big, heart even bigger, loving me by hiding the foods I could no longer eat. I also lived in the country and my family had a motley assortment of critters. Despite those similarities, you and I had one major difference… I didn’t know the Lord. Didn’t have a clue.

Malakai, you’ve got the Great Physician on your side. You know Him. You trust Him. Yikers – think about those who get diagnosed with any ailment who don’t know that their futures rest in His loving hands. Bleck. Well, buddy, that was me.

When my diagnosingDoctor came in and said, “Listen here Darlene and listen good, you can control this. Or, it can control you,” I took him at his word.

I learned skills, I acquired knowledge, and then I applied it to control my diabetes. I. I. I. I. I. Hmmm. I didn’t understand God’s grace and mercy and rest. Nor did I know about His sovereignty. (I’m so very thankful I know Him nowadays though.)

There’s so much I want to say to you. I’ll probably have to write some sorta series of letters to cover it. But, get this (before you get the 1400 other words today): one of the key people who was active in introducing me to the Lord was another insulin-dependent diabetic. We first bonded over our pumps. My land, God is so good like that. Anyway, I’m gonna get back to some of my diabeteStory hoopla before ya slide off yer chair in a spurt of uncontainable excitement and wonder.

My blood glucose meter was non-existent the first year. Dude, I had to drop a tablet into a glass beaker of urine, hold that little fizzing contraption next to a color block chart – and try not to touch the lower half because that bad boy got dern blasted hot during the chemical reaction. Think about doing that in the bathroom stall at a public school as a nine-year-old. It was GagMeGa-ross! Oh, and about getting the pee into the beaker? Yeppers, that was some kinda splendid excitement. No, no, it wasn’t. It was a clown and monkey and flaming circus act in a very confined space. Sometimes it ended with shattered glass on the floor. Or a glass beaker bobbing around in the toilet. Needless to say, I was thankful to heft around my first meter, even though it was the size of a brick. A brick! One of my current meters isn’t much bigger than one of those fat dry-erase markers. Whoa Nelly, times have changed with the treatment and management of insulin-dependent diabetes. Whewee!

During my growing up years from age nine to twenty-one, I went from one shot per day to two (with the advent of a shorter acting insulin) per day to four injections per day. That four-a-day, with the superDuper fast insulin to cover meals, and the 24-hour insulin to cover the day and night basal rates, it was terrifical as all get out! But four shots a day?

People would say, “Oh, you got it so bad, girlie” all while giving me those horrible, awful, and fast blinking, pity eyes.

To which I’d square my shoulders, pull on my Ninja-Betic cape, wag my finger back and forth, and say, “Who gives a rip? Four shots allow me so much more control and freedom!”

It was cool to be able to eat more, or eat less, at meals than my standard and allowable amounts. And, I had a bit more freedom with when I wanted to eat. My schedule became more flexible. It was totally awesomeSauce.

After about nine years of those 4-a-days, I went on the insulin pump. Actually, the pump went on me – clipped to my Wrangler’s front right pocket. Oh, there were pumps around prior to me getting my first, but I was waiting for them to get smaller, the technology to get better, and for the price to be a bit more affordable. Did you know that the first pump made was the size and weight of a brick? (What’s with everything being the size of a brick? Ack. Who knows?) My current pump is the size of a small flip cell phone. No more pushing a wheelbarrow everywhere to lug my Ninja-Betic supplies from place to place. Thank goodness – that was awkward only sometimes. Well, usually the times when stairs were involved.

Also, the advancements in understanding carbohydrate counting and/or simple carbs versus complex carbs, has improved. Back when I was a nine-year-old the only food rule was: Eat no more sugar. Dude, my blood glucose levels wonked all over the place – derrrr. Baked potatoes and bowls of popcorn and lots of fruit were my non-sugary go-to snacks. You should’ve seen the color explosions in my little pee-filled test tube! Mega doses of carbohydrates, anyone?

Hold onto your hat and tighten your belt for this one: I didn’t have the Internet. Shocking, I know. Malakai, you and your momma (and your entire Canadian clan of country folk) have access to information, education, forums, videos, and gaggles of other kiddos (and adults) with insulin-dependent diabetes. How cool is that? Just yesterday I watched two videos and downloaded an app that simulates the new pump I’m aiming to get next month. Back in the day, I was the only diabetic in my entire school – sometimes I felt alone and isolated as the sole Ninja-Betic. (I’ll tell you more about meeting others with the ‘betes in another letter, okay?) But you, you have access to support, encouragement, and slightly odd letters from really amazing people.

So, here you are: a new year is underway; you have new routines; you’re learning about new gizmos and devices; you’re gaining new knowledge about the pancreas, insulin, and glucose; you’ve adapted a few new ways; you’ve got some new accountability; your momma is trying not to do her new Let-Us-All-Freak-Out dance (as a mom myself, this one is a wild guess as to what she might be doing); your family is curious about your new condition, and yes, sometimes they’re bossy about your blood sugar levels and insulin injections. It’s true enough, you’ve sure as shootin’ got some new challenges. Yay teamMalakai! You’ve met all the requirements to being a Newbie Ninja-Betic. Welcome, my young friend.

Trusting Him,

Darlene – Ninja-Betic Extraordinaire

You can add “Extraordinaire” to your name after one million finger sticks and several thousand injections. For now, you’re Newbie Ninja-Betic, Malakai.

P.S. This new diagnosis? It ain’t no big deal. Yes, we’re diabetics. Yes, we take injections (or use a pump like I have for 13 years). Yes, we check blood glucose levels a bazoodle times a day. Yes, we are awesome Ninja-Betics. Now, let’s get on with the living of the lives God sets before us.

P.P.S. I’ll write more later. Until then, put your used test strips in the trash bin, eat your snacks, and have a blessed day in the Lord! Oh, and, mind your momma. Always do that.


21 thoughts on “Dear Malakai (letter 1)”

  1. lschontos says:

    To which Steve adds hearty AMEN!!!!
    Great job with this Darlene.

  2. Chrystal says:

    You are one special lady, I sit here with tears in my eyes thinking how much that letter must mean to Malakai. I love you and never ever stop writing and taking pictures!!!

    • Oh miss Chrystal, it’s exactly people like you that allow people like me to be our Ninja-Betic crazy selves.

      And a hearty cyberLuvHug to you, too.

  3. S. Etole says:

    What a crazy, loving lady you are. And I mean that in the best way possible!!! So honored to call you friend.

  4. Floyd says:

    What a blessing for a young man to have a momma like you. I have no doubt that he will one day be like an even stronger version of his mom and dad. This life’s not perfect, but I smile at the lessons your son will be learning sooner than those that think that he has some sort of disadvantage… not in God’s economy.

    Love that your son’s name is the same as my nephew’s.

    It’s good to read your fun and yet dead serious words again.

    • Heya Floyd! I’ve been away from the interWebs for many months – it’s great to see you here again.

      Just a little clarity… this letter is to Ann Voskamp’s son who was recently diagnosed with type 1, insulin-dependent diabetes (there’s a not very noticeable link up there in the second line to her story). As a type 1 myself, I felt a kindredness to him and his family. BUT, I do have myself a son (& a husband 😉 ) so all my lessons are not lost to the wilds of the interWebs. And “Malakai” is an awesomePossum name!

      I’m thankful for your presence and encouragement here, Floyd. I hope to make some rounds and catch up with you at your place.

      • Floyd says:

        Oh! The words of a mama don’t sound a whole lot different to their kids or the kids of their loved ones… Regardless, a great inspiration to all of us, sister. Appreciate your heart.

  5. Ann Voskamp says:

    My husband and I choked up reading this aloud together — cheered and nodded and smiled and when your little sister loved you like that? Everything fell liquid on this splitting smile.
    You’re an uncommon gem.
    And this was pure gold.
    Can’t wait to share with Malakai.

    • Ah, Ann and husband, it’s as if I played a dual role when I read your son’s diagnosis story – patient and momma. After so many years, it was good to revisit both the medical and emotional transitions from my 9-year-old diagnosis to now. I’m switching things up a bit with my T1D routine so I have a renewed excitement for the technology and advancements.

      Malakai – dude! If you’ve any questions, pop ’em in here or send me a note on the contact page, okay?

    • Thank ye Michelle. A new health diagnosis is always hard – I was hoping to shed some light, ease some tension, and offer a bit o’ hope.

  6. jodyo70 says:

    Darlene, what a precious, wonderful idea…and so glad Ann and hubby saw it and responded. God uses our challenges to become a testimony to others over and over again.
    Way to go, dudette.

    • Thanks, Jody!

      2 Cor. 1:3-5
      “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.”

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