Oh no, oh no, it’s off to school we go!

Summer holidays are fantastic! Even if Type 1 diabetes does not behave itself, there is the time and the energy to deal with it. We live in Australia and this beach has been our home for many days in the last few weeks. How lucky is that?

Summer holidays go fast here! By the time you have Christmas and New Year celebrations, then put away the tree, it’s almost time to start getting organised for the new school year. I am most definitely not complaining about the holidays I get as a teacher. I’m comparing them to the British summer holidays when I had seven glorious uninterrupted weeks. Mind you, summer weather often passed us by!

Now we come to getting ready for school to go back. We don’t mention it much, but shoes have been purchased, pens and pencils are neatly arranged in a drawer, exercise books are piled up ready to be ignored for another year in favour of Google docs, the diabetes supply drawer is a testimony to organisation. So, what’s the worry?

During the holidays my sons are so independent. They’ll head off to the cricket nets, cycle out to a water hole in a local river and swing off ropes, meet up out the back of our house with mates and plan their day or hang about in the man cave (which will soon become a sanctuary of academia, where boys will sit and quietly study. I can but dream!).

Now, I have to hand the care of my (gorgeous, big, sometimes grumpy, often funny, 15 year old) son to a new group of teachers. This scares the hell out of me. My boy is tall, fit, sporty, as reasonably motivated as you can expect from a fifteen year old boy and looks perfectly, horribly normal. Type 1 diabetes is such an invisible disease and misconceptions around its causes and treatments abound. Last year my boy had some scary moments at school which were not all handled well but thankfully the year ended with an education session from our Diabetes Educator. Again, what’s the worry?

I’m a high school teacher. I get it! There is so much to take in. There is information to remember on every child so I’m just hoping that his teachers will remember the information they were given on my boy. I want his name to ring bells in their head and for them to take the time to read the information on him and to know what to do if he needs them.

Someone in authority  at his school told me last year that my son needs to take more responsibility and let teachers know when things aren’t going well. In other words, he needs to be an adult , not a fifteen year old boy. He needs to be able to communicate through low or high blood glucose levels and make things easier for everyone else.

There seems to be an assumption amongst some people that when a child gets a chronic disease, such as Type1 diabetes, they are simultaneously gifted with clarity of thought, maturity and the ability to communicate clearly in all, but especially in potentially dangerous, situations. Come on! What kind of teenagers were these people? I let this person know that they needed to realign their perceptions with the real world which is inhabited by real, live, less than perfect human beings. That is exactly why we have a management plan.

I love teaching teenagers. One thing I know, with absolute certainty, is that they are generally not finely tuned creatures! As the mum of three boys, I know this to be especially true of the male species whose poor brains develop at a slower rate than their female counterparts. The management of diabetes is huge, takes a high level of organisational skills and is constant. My boy does a pretty damn good job most of the time. Perfection is not a prerequisite in this house. I know that one day my son will leave school and won’t have the same safety net around him but while he is at school, I have expectations from those around him.

I wrote this poem last year and it still holds very true. My boy isn’t on a pump. His choice is to use insulin pens. That is his choice and my role is to support him. His little surf branded bag is his pancreas: his insulin pens, his blood glucose meter, his needles, his juice poppers.

We will enjoy the last few days of our freedom.


Camping Capers!

Camping is great for kids! We recently took the family from the House of Testosterone, our little boat , and one brave grandfather and met up with the cousins at an inland dam in NSW.
We have a camper trailer but , as we were taking the boat, the ‘glamping’ went out the window and we were back to basic camping: inflatable mattresses, ice in a cooler box full of food and everyone in tents.

What an amazing location!  We sat round the campfire at night, no technology, just voices laughing and telling jokes until one by one we all went to bed.

Day times were filled with water based activities on the dam. The stand up surf board, newly purchased, was a big hit and was used as a huge water ski on the back of the boat. Inflatable biscuits were towed behind the boat at ever increasing speeds, throwing those hanging on into the air!

Wood was collected and Pop gave wood chopping lessons to grandsons and I quietly hoped that none of my boys had inherited my clumsy genes. Shoes were worn and no toes were lost!

Unpowered camping is a challenge when it’s 40 degrees centigrade and you need to keep insulin at a stable temperature. Thank goodness for frio packs which all worked a treat. Blood glucose levels were slightly wonky one day and we knew a test would be required around 3am. That’s when the fun began! You just have to laugh sometimes as the parent of a child with Type 1 diabetes!

I set my phone alarm and rolled inelegantly off the inflatable mattress, trying not to wake my sleeping husband who had come to bed later than me after a few beers and a sing along to hits of various decades! Remember, the clumsy thing? I tried not to stand on my father in law’s head and exited the tent! This was not a romantic escape, in our two room tent.

No ensuite when camping! Not being a fan of the “bush wee” ( I have the horrors at the thought of snakes and spiders biting my bottom), I hiked to the toilet at near Olympic speed. Upon my return, torch on my head on a headband, I unzipped the boys’ tent door. Three sleeping boys in a hot tent. My sister once told me that her son’s room smelled of feet and fart. Triple that in a small confined space with not a lot of room to manoeuvre round. Entering this confined space was a real test of a mother’s love!

My eldest two are very similar in height and build and had just had haircuts so telling them apart was not easy! My eldest son almost got a taste of what life is like for his brother as I came close to testing his blood! Head torches are brutal and the look on my son’s face was quite hysterical as I poised the finger pricker! Luckily I looked up at the last moment and saw it was the wrong boy!

Moving around to number two son who had cocooned himself in his sheet. A mini wrestling match ensued and finally the test was done. Levels had come into a better range so all was good! I crawled out the tent , zipped it up and stood outside for a moment. That’s when I noticed just how amazing the stars were. Just standing there, looking up at what lay beyond, I had a giggle to myself at the previous scenario and took some time to feel thankful for my life.

Becoming Politically Re-engaged


 This is an original poster from the miners’ strike in the UK in the Eighties. Growing up in a working class area of Scotland through the eighties, seeing what Margaret Thatcher did to my country : the miners in my town, poll tax, nuclear power stations nearby to name but a few, I became very politically aware though my teenage years and took part in marches for CND, university marches when grants and funding were cut and more. I, like many around me, had strong opinions on everything! “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie! Out, out, out!”, was our favourite chant, as we  waved our banners and looked forward to catching up later in the student union.

Fast forward several decades and here I am, a middle class mammy in NSW, Australia. I watch politics from the sidelines and don’t feel especially engaged. I occasionally shake my fist at the television screen and my children roll their eyes as they sit through yet another doco on the ABC. The recent Independance movement in Scotland ignited my interest and rekindled those feelings somewhat but living on the other side of the world removed me from the real passion felt by my family there.

Recently however, I felt a spark and went with it. When my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I never imagined that this would re-engage me politically. The fight to get pump consumables on the PBS was before my son’s diagnosis, and I salute those who worked hard for this to be put in place, but we have come in at a time when a  push is on to have CGMs PBS listed (for those outside Australia, this means having the Continuous Glocose Monitor subsidised to make it more accessible). I wrote emails to two local MPs. Read it Here.

Both members sent letters on my behalf to the Health Minister Sussan Ley and received replies which they then forwarded on to me. I received a phonecall from the assistant of one member, asking me more about my son and why I had written. This was such a positive experience.

The second member has been fantastic. I am in his electorate, as is my son’s school. He emailed me on several occasions and followed up when I corrected some of the information in one of the emails. I took a chance as I felt, in these emails, that I was communicating with a real person, no spin, just honesty. I told this member that in our local area , which is in his electorate, there is an amazing diabetes clinic which helps those old and young, with all types of diabetes.

This wonderful group of people, and in particular, our diabetes educator, go above and beyond their duties. They always are there for all those in their care and encourage us to contact them for advice and seek help with areas such as adjusting insulin levels. They treat our son so well. He is the focus of what they suggest and his feelings and opinions are always sought. I suggested that the local member should go and visit them and thank them on behalf of those they help, day in day out. He asked me for the phone number and names of those who worked there.

Imagine my surprise today, when he emailed me to tell me he had taken in some morning tea, caught up with those who were at the clinic and thanked them for their work. It may not seem like much, but that gesture for me made everything worthwhile!

Goodbye 2015

Well, that was 2015!

We survived and thrived.

We shouted and forgave.

We laughed and sometimes we cried.

A year of learning that it’s OK not to be perfect.

A year of understanding that despite doing everything according to the plan,

Type 1 diabetes does not always play by the rules.

Increases in testosterone levels in the House of Testosterone

Mean there are now three males over 6 feet tall.

We took international trips and Type 1 diabetes did not spoil a thing.

Many cities were visited, carbs were guesstimated and new flavours were enjoyed.

Homework was done, after a fashion.

A new study was built to facilitate easier learning.

Yes, you may laugh!

Sport was regularly played through all the seasons,

With regular support and unwelcome reminders to check BGLs from the sidelines.

Rugby and football in winter were replaced by cricket, swimming at the beach and touch football in the summer.

We entered our third year helping our boy on his journey.

There’s an easy familiarity with the language around it.

There’s a realisation that control can be fragile

But there is nothing that has not been done.

Bring on 2016!