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A new year, and the perfect storm...

Diabetes, much like agriculture, is plagued with misunderstandings and misinformation.

The perfect storm. Unexpected injury.  Unique occurrences. Atypical. These are all words or phrases I heard repeatedly in 2017, from growers to crop specialists, even from my farmer. It seems a combination of so many factors from drought to late summer rain and cool temperatures, to how different varieties responded to those untimely weather patterns, to the markets and low crop prices, all came together to create the perfect storm with unexpected results creating unique occurrences, most of which was atypical and out of our control.

As we begin another farming year, January is not only filled with making plans for another growing season but also remembering the atypical on the Huguley farm.

Sixteen years ago, I was a first-time mom. I was determined to get it all “right.” I was going to do it better than my parents had done only to realize they had done a pretty stellar job (but we all know that revelation comes later when our kids are going through the terrible two’s despite our best efforts.) Everything I thought I could control, I did. My first child lived off of my milk until she was one-and-a-half, ate homemade baby food and wasn’t allowed to eat candy nor consume soft drinks. She had structured play time, “alone” time and slept in her crib—none of this cohabitation stuff. Too much snuggling might have spoiled her, right?!

In spite of my best efforts and two days away from delivering my son, my farmer and I found ourselves in an emergency room with our first child, receiving the news that she had an incurable disease. Our daughter with no family history of the diagnosis, a healthy first three years (thanks to her uptight, overly anxious mom), had a pancreas that no longer produced insulin. Something neither I nor my farmer had caused or could have prevented. According to her physicians, our daughter had a predisposition, at a common age, to a disease that was kick-started by a virus or who knows what, creating the perfect storm. She had Type I diabetes.

When our daughter was diagnosed, my farmer and I knew nothing about Type 1 diabetes; I’m talking we knew less than nothing.  Twenty-four hours prior to delivering my son and my daughter in pediatric ICU, my farmer looked at me, as if we were in a team huddle, and said, “I know how to give cows shots,” and I looked back at him and said, “I’ve been counting carbohydrates most of my adult life (good to know those days of yo-yo dieting in college were about to come in handy!).” And while there’s much more to managing diabetes than only counting carbs and giving shots, our game plan not only got us through the first week at home with a newborn baby and a newly-diagnosed 3-year-old, it’s a foundation we’ve been building on for the last 13 years.

Diabetes, much like agriculture, is plagued with misunderstandings and misinformation. So, just as many of you in 2017, have clarified facts about everything from fumonisin to bollworm issues in Bt cotton, I want take a moment to clear up some misunderstandings about Type 1 diabetes.

Myth: Type 1 (Juvenile) diabetes is the same as Type 2 (Adult-onset) diabetes.

Truth: No. Type 1 diabetes is incurable and can only be treated with insulin. It is also referred to as Juvenile diabetes, not because kids outgrow it (trust me, that was my question), but because childhood is often when they develop the disease. Type 2 diabetes, which is the diabetes you most often hear about in TV commercials, is often developed later in life and can typically be controlled and sometimes cured with oral medication, diet and exercise.

Myth: Type 1 diabetes is caused from eating too much sugar.

Truth: No. Type 1 is caused from the pancreas no longer producing insulin. Remember, I was one of those first-time moms that breastfed, made her baby food and went head-to-head with any who dared give my daughter candy or soft drinks. (I’ve since apologized...)  Type 1 diabetes is nothing I caused or could have prevented.

Myth: Someone with Type 1 diabetes can only eat “certain” foods and is limited in what they can participate.

Truth: No. Type-1 diabetics can eat the same food you and I eat but it’s all about portions. For example, instead of eating a bag of chips, they only eat 15 chips. (It’s really not a bad way for any of us to eat.)  And as far as activity, they can do anything you and I can do! Trust me, my daughter hasn’t missed a thing. In fact, she wants to take care of her blood sugars as quickly as possible so she can move on with life to the next thing on her teenage agenda.

People often ask me, “How’s your daughter’s blood sugars?” To which I reply, “No two days are the same. It’s a constant balancing act.” And much like farming, we’ll do all we can in 2018 that’s in our control to help her manage her blood sugars, but as for the unexpected, unique and the atypical, we’ll leave the results up to God!

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