By Keely Steger and the rest of the Steger Family:
Charles, Noah, Sam, Austen, and (new baby!) Harper
Just like every T1D family and individual, we have a date we will never forget. For us, diagnosis day came on December 8, 2012. Our son, Sam, was just a couple months shy of his 4th birthday.
Since that’s right in the middle of the busy holiday season, our life that week had been filled with parties and events, hot chocolate drinking, and cookie baking and eating.
My husband and I had been noticing some things about Sam’s behavior that were unusual (extreme moodiness when he was hungry, excessive thirst, and frequent urination with nightly bed-wetting) and while “diabetes” was in the back of both of our minds, neither of us wanted to vocalize our fears.
However, one night, before my husband and I were headed out to a Christmas play and grandparents were coming to watch the kids, my “mother’s intuition” wouldn’t stop nagging me. I called a friend whose son has T1D and she came over with a meter and test strips to check Sam’s blood sugar.
After a few agonizing tries (dead meter battery!!), our life changed forever. Sam’s blood sugar was 600. Our friend immediately called Dr. Domek, her son’s doctor and a friend of the family. It was a Saturday night in December, but he answered and gave us the help and support we needed to get through the weekend until we could get Sam into his office first thing Monday morning.
The first few days, weeks, and even months of life with diabetes was incredibly hard on all of us. Sam was just 3 years old, and he didn’t understand what was happening to him. He fought us at every single blood sugar check. He fought us at every single insulin injection. He fought us at every single meal, thinking he had figured out that if he didn’t eat, he didn’t have to have a shot.
He and his siblings passed around an awful stomach bug, as well as a cold and fever, that only made matters worse. Those were dark days, and I feared that they were a picture of what our new normal life would become.
Gratefully, Sam adapted, as did we all. We found better solutions for blood sugar testing. We used alternative sites for injections. We made the decision as a family to change some of our eating and snacking habits.
As a family, and a team, we continue to walk through this life with Sam. It’s not always easy, and it often feels unfair. Sam is now 7 years old, and he is wise and mature beyond his years. For the many times he has said, “It’s not fair that I’m the only one with diabetes,” there are just as many times he says, “God knows that for some reason, having diabetes is what’s best for me.”
In the past 4 years, Sam has been able to try out an insulin pump (though he ultimately prefers the injections), and most recently started wearing a CGM (continuous glucose monitor). These pieces of technology have been life-changing for Sam and for all of us who care about and for him. It’s not unusual to see his little sister pick up his receiver and announce, “Sam, you’re 137 with the arrow going up!” It’s a team effort! I’ve even had moms check in with me after their child came home from school announcing that Sam got a little low during class.
If we could, we would change Sam’s story and remove diabetes. As his parents, we want a “normal,” healthy life for Sam and all of our kids. But as Sam reminds me, there is a good reason that he has diabetes. We may not fully understand that reason, but we continue to see God use this tough reality to force us to rely on His strength, to pray, to hope, and to stick together as a family to love and support Sam. While we would change diabetes if we could, we wouldn’t change Sam and his loving, tender, compassionate heart for anything.