Caramels or Whining. Your choice.
or: What does juice have to do with happiness?

As I tell my audiences, one technique we can use to enjoy our lives, our jobs, and our families more is to CHOOSE to enjoy them more. We can make the choice to have fun. What’s that got to do with juice and caramels? Glad you asked.

Very recently my ten year old daughter got diagnosed with Type One Diabetes. I knew nearly nothing about diabetes 60 days ago. Now I’m pretty darned educated about the disease and can sum up my extensive new knowledge in these two words: diabetes sucks. It does, it really does. Badly.

My fourth grader’s life has changed. Now she gets three shots a day, something that makes even some toughened rugby players get squeamish. She stabs her little fingers five to ten times a day for a blood test to see what her blood sugar is.

And to top it off, she has to watch what and when she eats. Her life has changed. Our entire family has changed.
It’s a huge loss, and my wife and are bummed. (Being “bummed” about diabetes is a little like being “disappointed” with the plague. Anyway…) We are sad about our loss of freedom as a family. We’ve lost a lot of flexibility. But most of all, we’re sad about what this disease means for our daughter in the long run. What does this mean regarding babysitters? Summer camp? College? Marriage? Childbirth? And on and on. The big picture is manageable, but it isn’t all that great of a picture. It’s way better than a million possible medical problems because it is “manageable.” But it is also a million times worse than not having it at all.

But the disease has been a learning experience for me.

When our kid’s blood sugar is low, it needs to be immediately raised to prevent some fairly serious potential problems. (Can you say “seizure?” Bleck.) The correction is easy… she eats caramels or drinks juice, and she’s fine.

When she tests her blood and discovers a “low,” her mom and I spring into action. “We need to get that glucose up! Stat! Let’s go! Now!” We’re trying to avoid the crisis.

But when Claire has a low, she is delighted. “I get juice!”

You see, her mom and I don’t give her much juice. So when she gets to go to the cupboard and pick out one of the flavors that she selected at the grocery store, she’s jazzed. The only thing better, in her little-girl opinion, is to have caramels instead.

When her blood sugar is low her Mom and I say, “Oh no!” But all she says is, “Berry Berry!”

When it comes to Diabetes, my wife and I are focused on the long-term fears and the short term inconveniences, of which there are many. But our daughter is focused on the good things that have come out of it: the cool water bottle the hospital gave her, the extra attention she gets from everybody from her parents to the school nurse, the fact that she is suddenly “special” in her class, and the fact that—when she gets low— she gets a piece of candy or a box of juice. Claire loves the fact that she is the ONLY fourth-grader at the school who has a whole bag of caramels in her desk that she is allowed to eat in class, WITHOUT SHARING!

How cool is that?!

Don’t get me wrong. She isn’t always an angel. She complains and whines some of the time. But for the most part, Claire’s willingness to just accept the disease is amazing. Two weeks ago, Claire told me this: “Daddy, I think diabetes is good because life is boring if it is too much the same. And diabetes is something new. So that makes it good.”

Now I don’t mean to brag, but I’m WAY more educated than my kid. I’ve read more, thought more and seen more. I understand the seriousness of this crappy disease better than she does. I KNOW that diabetes sucks. I’m positive.

But guess what? I’m an idiot and Claire is a genius. She gets it. GETS it. She understands that whether or not we chose this disease, it is here to stay. Our only choice is how we are going to deal with it. Are we going to whine about it or are we going to choose to enjoy the juice and the caramels?

It’s such a simple idea that is often difficult to execute: when we are presented with stuff we would never choose for ourselves our only choice is to freak out about it or to do our best to enjoy it. So easy. Yet so difficult.

I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna go with my daughter. Pass the juice and toss me a caramel!

Update:  Claire is still a rock star, even though she is now a young woman.  Her ability to “just handle” diabetes as a matter of fact and not as some sort of curse is an inspiration to me.  (Which is funny as I’m supposed to be the inspirational health care motivational speaker.). Of course she has bad diabetes days.  Sometimes she wakes up with a crazy and unexplainable high blood sugar that sorta tanks her ay.  She has had problems with insulin pumps failing, insulin going bad, and more and more she has experienced the financial costs of diabetes.  (The amount she spends on insulin is a crime.) But she still maintains a great attitude, never complains, and just seems to have accepted diabetes as part of her life. You go, Claire.  Love you!

Related Article about Claire Speaking at a Diabetes Fund Raiser Here.

Brad Montgomery
Motivational Health Care Keynote Speaker, Comedian, Proud Daddy

1 reply
  1. Tyler Hemmer
    Tyler Hemmer says:

    Hi, my name is Tyler Hemmmer. I am 18 years and i have type 1 diabetes. I found out when i was in 4th grade just like your daughter. Ive lived with it now for the past 8 years and its 2nd nature by now. I can’t remember when i didn’t have it. But i don’t remember that i do have. By that i mean i don’t let this crappy thing interfere with my life. I live each day the way i want and how i want and i don’t let people who don’t understand a thing tell me other wise. It can be rouph but you gotta push through it and be positive and do not let anyone tell you are your daughter that she isn’t aloud to have ice cream..because she has ”diabetes” and its bad for him or her..(ive had many personal insidents in school, being called out in class). My point is dont let this or anyone else bring you or your daughter down. Its hard and will only get harder until it gets better. If you need any information as she gets older and or any questions maybe a doctor couldn’t answer for you, feel free to ask. Its good to have friends going through the same thing. Diabetes camp is a life changer.

    Just letting you and your daughter know she isn’t the only one out there…
    Have a great day.

    Tyler Hemmer

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