An Open Letter to Parents
If you’ve followed Cam’s Curesaders, you’ve read about Cam’s dealings with being a diabetic athlete. It’s a challenge for all of you out there that have to do a lot more than the average athlete to stay healthy daily, as well as those times of competition. As Cam’s father, I have had a front row seat to what it takes. AND, what it takes to be a parent of that athlete.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember how we started, as parents, to work with our diabetic. If you’re a parent reading this, you already know how much you worry about your son or daughter and their well being. Now add to that, the elements of them being an athlete, and, have that athlete play in a heavy contact sport. If you’re one of those athletes reading this, trust me, we worry. It’s what parents do.
During the first months of our T1D life, we tried to dial in that perfect sugar every time we went to practice or games. At first we started with some combination of chocolate/peanut butter snack out there. There are several out there, so you can take your pick. When you’re dealing with a younger kid, obviously one of those combos in a candy bar form are very popular. While I am not endorsing giving kids candy, for our diabetic, it fit the bill well. We did it in limited quantities, and it wasn’t an all the time routine, but it was helpful. There is a rainbow at the end of this. They eventually get tired of whatever it is you start using, in our case it was Reeses cups, and they never eat them again. We still laugh about it at his older age, and it’s become a great joke, “how about a Reese’s?” NO THANKS, is always the answer.
If there is such a thing, the easy thing to have to handle for a diabetic kid is when they start to go low. We’ve always kept a sports drink with sugar nearby, and it’s always been a quick recovery fix. Nobody panics, just keeping it handy keeps everybody calm.
The tough one is highs. I struggle to try and say I know what’s going on in their minds when they’re high, so let me just say, I know what they don’t know. They don’t know they are unreasonable. I have researched this with other diabetic children, parents, and spouses. Without exception, they tend to be a little difficult when they are high. And I mean 300+ high. I can speak for this parent, it’s tough on me. I want to help, I try to talk calmly, politely, lovingly. I really don’t think they hear that.
Cam’s sport is hockey, and it was also his older brothers favorite sport. It may have come from my own passion for the game. I loved it so much that I decided to start coaching it when my oldest son was 5. I’m not just passionate about the sport, I’m biased. The hockey community is so tight and supportive, I feel for those who’ve never experienced it the way we have. It is because of this community that Cam started Cams Curesaders.
This section of todays message is important. Please read it more than once. It’s about communication. As I started my coaching career, USA Hockey required me to go through training. Their training is designed not just about the game, but how to guide young athletes. I’m sure other sports require something, I will only speak in reference to what I had to do. Hockey coach training can take up to 10 years in order for you to reach the Level 4 requirements. It can be accelerated if you do it annually, but it only requires updating every 2 years. I accelerated mine into about a 5 year learning process up to a Level 4. I chose to stop there, as I had no aspirations to go to a college level of coaching. They taught me several great things, but they didn’t teach me about diabetes. This is important, as most, if not all, of the coaches out there have no idea what they are dealing with. This is where your communication is key. This is where you have to be a “coach.”
There are all kinds of individuals/coaches in this world. Too often I have seen coaches that separate themselves from parents. I understand, this is for good reason in most cases. In the case of your diabetic athlete, have the talk. Over the last couple of years I have spoken with many coaching friends about this. They all agree, no one has ever prepared them for diabetes. This is where you have to come in and be the advocate. You’re not complaining about more playing time, you’re educating these people on what makes this athlete unique, but also to settle their minds on how manageable this is. I recently spoke with a couple of coaching staffs that were almost fearful when I began the conversation. By the end of our talk, I know that they understood more about how to help the player, themselves, and the impact that could happen to their team when they have a diabetic athlete. Attitudes are important to team dynamics. If your captain is having “HIGH” episodes, they need to understand that they don’t just have some crabby, almost disrespectful, player on their hands. They may have a diabetic situation, that given the proper knowledge, they will understand and manage differently. WE, as the diabetic community, don’t need special treatment. But if they don’t know what you’re dealing with, they may not handle it in the best way either.
If you’re new to diabetes, I hope you find this helpful. If this isn’t your first rodeo, I hope you find this comforting that we are all battling similar battles, with the same desire: we want our child to be as happy and healthy as possible. Diabetes should not prevent your son/daughter/athlete from doing anything and everything they choose to do. I am thankful for all that Cam has taught me, and inspired me to do. His passion for education, athletics, and to help others like himself, is truly an inspiration. My wish is for your child to be inspired to do great things as well, until we eliminate T1D.
If you’ve got questions about any of this, reach out to Cam through the website, and I’m sure you’ll get the help you need. Getting his perspective may help you with your youth athlete.