When Dylan was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes six and a half years ago, I was adamant about doing everything I could to help to find a cure; I fundraised, I volunteered, I advocated, and, above all, I hoped. My hope that a cure would come in Dylan's lifetime was so unwavering that I would stop at nothing to see it into fruition. And we were not among the parents who were told by medical professionals that a cure would be found within five, or even ten, years. I clearly remember our endocrinologist saying that she felt a cure for Type 1 Diabetes would be available by the time Dylan was my age (I was thirty at Dylan's diagnosis, he was three days shy of his fifth birthday), but that there were no guarantees. Yet I jumped into my advocacy as if a cure was imminent.
Those first few years, Dylan and I used to talk often about what a cure would mean to him. He was young and a cure would mean freedom from this new restrictive lifestyle. It would mean no more injections, no more finger pokes, no more counting carbs, no more mom obsessing over his every move, no more constant worrying (well, the latter two would probably continue regardless, I am a mom after all...).
Then when Dylan was nine, he volunteered as a Youth Ambassador for JDRF and gave a number of speeches to corporations about what it was really like being a child and living with type 1 diabetes. At the end of each speech he always spoke briefly about what a cure would mean to him. His speech ended with,
"What would a cure mean to me? A cure for diabetes would make me feel free. Free to eat what I want, when I want. To eat my Halloween candy on Halloween and my Easter eggs at Easter, free to be just a regular kid. Right now there is no cure for type-1 diabetes, but we can change that with your help. This June, join me and the many other children, teens, and adults with diabetes as we walk to find a cure, so kids like me can live happy and free. I don’t let my diabetes get me down, but I do want a cure so I don’t have to deal with diabetes every minute, every hour, every day."
That was only two years ago, and yet so much has changed. At eleven years old, Dylan has become a young man, and has become so responsible with his diabetes care. The disease has been fully enveloped into our lives; it is routine, in a way. And sometime in the last two years, Dylan and I stopped talking about a cure. It wasn't that we stopped believing, or gave up hope. Maybe it was due to the fact that he could no longer remember life without diabetes; or perhaps it was that those conversations simply took a backseat to everyday life. Whatever the reason, a cure was no longer on the forefront of our minds. We went from hope to acceptance.
Fast forward to last week, when I got a mass email from the Canadian Diabetes Association asking individuals to share their stories. They want Canadians touched by diabetes to describe what a cure would mean to them, and post it to the CDA Facebook page. Readers will then vote on the stories, and the author of the story with the most votes will win an iPad 2. I really didn't think anything of it at the time, but later I realized how long it has been since Dylan and I had talked about a cure.
That same evening I asked Dylan what he thought. I didn't ask him if he hoped for a cure, because we all know the answer to that question; I asked him if he still thought about a cure. His response came immediately, without any hesitation. "Every day," he said. "Really?" I asked. "Yes," he replied, "but I try not to worry about it too much. I've accepted that diabetes is my life, so I deal with it." That was it, end of conversation.
As the tears inevitably flooded my eyes, I stood up and left the room. I was literally unsure of how to feel about his response, and I'm still torn. A part of me is so proud of him for his mature outlook and acceptance, partly because it would break my heart to learn that he pines for a life he may never have, and partly because, in the long run, this attitude will likely lead him to take better care of his diabetes as he gets older. At the same time, however, hope is important; believing that a cure is out there somewhere can provide solace and comfort in times of need and desperation.
So I guess my question for readers is: At what point, if ever, do you give up hope for a life free of diabetes and simply accept the life you've been given?