My life in Science whilst raising a child with type 1 diabetes

Biomedical Science, Type 1 Diabetes, Coeliac Disease and other findings


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How it all began…

Enveloped – a word I have used quite often in the past seven years.  It’s how I felt when Type 1 Diabetes came to the door. My son was aged 4.  Various adjectives followed me around for the first few years including, distraught, distressed, hysterical, frantic, confused.  You get the picture. I began to visualise the condition as a beast that came unannounced, with a dark task in hand.  I, the queen of battle, destroying it’s power over my small, vulnerable child.  Enveloping my son with my protection.  Holding onto his dear life, whilst continually taking the fear away from him and tucking it deep into my own psyche.  Unaware of the damage it was doing to me.  That task, enveloped me. Very quickly,  I was tired. Tired as can be.  The relentless taming of the beast which came to destroy my soul.  To the brink that grief was taking over, the unacceptance that my son was harbouring a life-threatening monster, which may cost him his life at any time, or indeed provide him with many unwanted severe complications, I was standing on the verge of facing the most terrifying and fragile element that any mother can ever face.  Mortality.  Everyday faced me straight on.  It was always there in every carefully, managed step I took, to maintain a normal life for him and for the rest of the family,  whilst enveloping me in it’s power.  A battle that I was honestly beginning to loose.  I had to learn ways to avoid this happening altogether.

Bearing in mind, I had planned to return to work that summer. My son,  was my second child and I had enjoyed being a full-time mum for the past 4 years, but I needed something else to keep my brain alive.  I needed to show my other child that I could face life, that type 1 diabetes was enveloped around me, but that I could carry the weight of it, and other pressures as they came along.  This strong person, I never knew I was.  The diagnosis showed me, that as fear of death can be gripping, it can also give enlightenment and strength to endure all else.

Ok! So. The determination to fight this swaddle, this enclosure, this envelope of fear turned into my zest to know more about the why? how? what?

I knew I loved science earlier in life.  Previously I had enrolled on a nursing course at a very prime age of 17. It wasn’t for me, the first ward placement was sick kids, and I was not for facing that kind of heartbreak at age 17.  Irony?

What then? Which career change shall I go for? Biomedical Science. Genius!  I can possibly study that.  Learning and possibly progressing with a view to helping in a lab to research the cause/cure would be a good career path for me to choose now.  And at the ripe ‘auld’ age (I say that, because I come from Burns country, Robert Burns that is!) of 31 I started on my journey.  I have won small awards on the way for projects I’ve completed, and have met some amazing minds.  Some inspiring parents, and friends who fundraise with hope of a cure never failing, and children who all seem to have broader shoulders than some of their peers.

Since then, I have read so many articles, websites, blogs, journals related to Type 1 Diabetes and the future for my son and millions others.  At present, I am very interested in the work of Dr. Faustman, http://www.faustmanlab.org/ .  The artificial pancreas funded by Diabetes Uk, http://www.diabetes.org.uk/Research/Research-round-up/Research-spotlight/Research-spotlight-the-artificial-pancreas/ and also the work of Prof John Todd http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/Funding/Biomedical-science/Funded-projects/Major-initiatives/Juvenile-Diabetes-Research-Foundation/.

I am now nearing the end of my third year of the Biomedical Science Degree at the University of the West of Scotland (primarly chosen to be closer to home – just incase!)  I intend to try and finish my honors year, and then take things from there.

My son will be turning 12 by the time I start my honors year, and therefore I may, for the first time on this journey, be able to study at a full-time level. But that largely depends on the fact that he will be moving to Secondary school which brings a whole other level of care and supervision tactics.

Oh, and did I mention at age 8, four years after his diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, came along Coeliac Disease.  At the time, the phonecall to tell me the blood sample was positive for antibodies came whilst I was sat in a genetics lecture.  Fate!

One thing is for sure, when I see how my son copes everyday with my help and supervision, he lights me up. He envelopes me in his light, his strength to face it all, and his amazing sense of humour.

My path continues…