The walk for me is a bag of mixed emotions. On one hand, I love the event and the way it brings so many people together. I love the rally, and the sense of hope, albeit fleeting, about the possibility of a cure. But I hate the reason why we're there. I can't stand that there are so many individuals, both children and adults, that live with type 1 diabetes, and I especially dread the stories of loss we hear each year, about a child taken too soon, or a college student who died from a low because they lived alone. But as long as Dylan has diabetes, we will walk year after year, building on memories and creating new experiences.
It's strange how certain moments or experiences are permanently etched in our brains, providing a vivid snapshot that doesn't seem to fade over time. Other memories grow weaker with the passing years. Our first walk is one of those burned on memories for me. It was in May of 2006, 6 months after Dylan's diagnosis. We were so new, still so unaware of what it really means to live with type 1 diabetes on a permanents basis. Dylan was still honeymooning and everything seems pretty straightforward. Almost easy. Little did I know that a charity event on a warm May day 6 years ago would change my life forever, because it would be the first time that I truly realized the magnitude of this disease.
That first year we arrived at the walk site early, and we did what we do every year. We dropped off our pledges, picked up our swag bag, and proceeded to visit all of the sponsors and exhibitor booths. I remember we had so much free stuff in our bag that lugging it around for the 5km walk wasn't easy! We crossed the finish line and everything seemed ok. Dylan's blood glucose level was great, he had no problem with the distance, and we had a nice turnout of family. It was shaping up not only to be a day to remember, but to be a day to look forward to each year.
And then, 10 feet over the finish line, Dylan turned to me, with a look of pure intrigue, and said, "Is that it mom?"
"Yes," I said, "The walk is finished, we did it!"
To which he asked, "So I don't have diabetes anymore?"
Whoa, stop right there! Had someone just punched me in the stomach? I couldn't breathe, and I literally did NOT know how to respond. We had talked about the permanence of type 1 diabetes on numerous occasions, but Dylan was 5. I really had no idea how much he actually understood, versus how much he wanted to understand. After a few forced breaths I finally managed to gather my thoughts and respond, "No sweetie, you still have diabetes. What made you think it was gone?"
His response is one I will never forget. He looked me square in the eye and stated matter-of-factly, "because it's the walk to cure diabetes. We walked, so my diabetes should be cured, right?" That's my guy. Always thinking logically, way ahead of the pack, even at the age of 5. (For years after this event, as I became more and more involved with my local JDRF chapter, I seriously contemplated telling them this story and suggesting that maybe they should consider renaming the walk.)
So every year when we walk, I remember that 5 year old boy with his innocent, yet valid, inquiry. And while we may have added many great walk memories to the list since then, this one will always stand out.