Growing Up with a Sister with Diabetes

two sisters sitting on a log side by side hugging

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Sarah was 11 years old when her five-year-old sister was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I was so honored to recently connect with her about this and learn so much of the impact this had on her sister, her parents, and her personally. And I’m even more glad she was open to sharing this story with you here. Take a look.

two sisters sitting on a log side by side hugging

Sarah’s Family Includes a Sister with Diabetes

Q: Before we get too far into the diabetes discussion, can you tell me a bit about your family when you were a kid?

A: I’m one of nine kids, and I am the second oldest. I have one older brother, three younger brothers and four younger sisters. Our parents raised us as Christians. However, they unfortunately invented their own version of Christianity and chose to not attend church. We were raised on the correct basic principals of God, but most anything after that was twisted to benefit how my parents wanted to live.

Sarah’s Sister’s Diagnosis

Q: And you have a sister who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a pretty young age. What can you tell me about her diagnosis and what she experienced then?

A: Yes, my sister was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five. I remember my mom took her to the doctor because she was urinating frequently, and she thought she may have had a bladder infection. It turns out, she had type 1 diabetes. She was so young, I can’t even imagine the emotions and confusion. Trying to understand why you now have to be pricked with needles multiple times a day at five years old had to be so scary for her.

"Trying to understand why you now have to be pricked with needles multiple times a day at five years old had to be so scary for her."

Q: How old were you at the time of her diagnosis, and what was that experience like for you?

A: I was about 11 years old when she was diagnosed. I remember exactly where I was when my dad got the call from my mom saying that it wasn’t a bladder infection, and that it was type 1 diabetes. I remember being so confused; I was terrified. If I felt that way and didn’t understand at the age of 11, I just can’t imagine how scared she was at the age of five.

After The Diagnosis of her Sister with Diabetes

Q: How did your parents respond to her diagnosis?

A: I think there was a lot of fear and confusion for them as well. I don’t remember too much. My mom took the responsibility of learning her care from the doctors in the early years.

Q: How was your sister’s diabetes managed during that first year with type 1?

A: My mom learned how to care for her from the doctors. It was a lot of figuring out how and when to check blood sugar and how to regulate her blood sugar levels. She had to figure out her base line insulin levels, and how to calculate how much insulin to give her when she ate or when her sugar was high. And it was figuring out how to manage low blood sugar levels, and so much more that I probably didn’t even know or don’t remember.

A Scary First Year For HER Sister with Diabetes

Q: What was that first year with diabetes like for her and for your family?

A: It was a big adjustment. I remember my mom getting up every night to check my sister’s blood sugar while she was sleeping. And I would also get up in the night sometimes to check it as well.

"During the fall after she got diagnosed, we experienced one of the scariest moments of my childhood."

During the fall after she got diagnosed, we experienced one of the scariest moments of my childhood. I remember waking up to noises of convulsions coming from the bottom bunk. When I leapt out of my bed, I saw my sister shaking and convulsing, and she was non-responsive. I had no idea what was happening, and the only thing I thought to do was drag her into my parent’s room. She was having a diabetic seizure from low blood sugar.

Unfortunately, the doctors hadn’t instructed my mom as to what to do in this type of situation. So the only thing my mom knew to do was to feed her glucose in her mouth to get her blood sugar back up. (We learned later, you should never feed someone having a seizure anything by mouth. We should have injected her with a glucose shot. But again, no one had explained that to my mom.) It was a miracle from God that she came to and was ok. That was a scary night for all of us.

Several Years Later

Q: What was it like through the years to grow up with a sister who has type 1? What kinds of things do you remember?

A: I remember her always having to watch what she ate because insulin had to be given for most things. Everything had to be monitored for her and, after the seizure, our eyes were opened to the possibility of blood sugar crashing. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t “happening” to me, and I can never imagine just what it was like for her.

Q: Has your sister ever needed to return to the hospital for something diabetes-related since she was first diagnosed?

A: My sister was probably around 11 years old, making me about 17, when she came down with what we thought was a really bad stomach bug. She couldn’t hold anything down all day; she was really sick. It got so bad, that my parents didn’t want her sleeping alone, so she stayed on the couch and I stayed with her.

In the wee hours of the morning they took her to the hospital. As it turned out, she had DKA, Diabetic Ketoacidosis, and we were told she was close to not making it. I think I remember my sister describing a “white light” moment she had in the hospital.

I remember laying on the couch that night, I think after they left for the hospital, being so scared, just having that terrible fear in the pit of my stomach because I knew something was really wrong. Another miracle from God saved her life that time.

Looking back on growing up with a Sister with Diabetes

Q: As an adult today looking back, what kinds of challenges did your sister face as she grew up with diabetes?

A: In addition to a few near-death experiences, my sister faced a lot of hardship growing up with diabetes. She had to learn a whole new way of living, before she’d barely begun to live. One of the hardest things for her, and for me to see how it’s affected her all these years, was that she did not have loving and caring support from our parents.

My mom took the bulk of her care in the early years since she was so young, but instead of my parents lovingly teaching her how to care for herself, they made her afraid to fail. They used the disease against her, never allowing her to learn how to properly care for her health. And they didn’t support her when she sought to get the latest in medical equipment to help her manage her diabetes. She was alone.

That was so hard for her, and hard for me to see how it has affected her over the years. My parents also didn’t get involved in any type of community, whether church community or a support group or anything like that, so isolation made not having community worse, making the disease that much harder to cope with.

"Isolation made not having community worse, making the disease that much harder to cope with."

Sarah’s Sister with Diabetes today

Q: How old is your sister now, and how does she manage diabetes today?

A: My sister is 26 now, and in the last several years, she’s fought like heck to work through that trauma and prioritize her health. She has a great relationship with her doctor and is taking great care of herself!

She was able to get the continuous glucose monitor, and that has helped her so much. I can see the change in her! While nothing ever takes away from the burden this disease is for her, I can see the relief and pride in her now that she’s fought through all the trauma to prioritize herself.

Q: How does type 1 affect your relationship with your sister?

A: I think the disease has caused us to journey through some traumatic experiences you think you’ll never go through with a sister. But that’s also given us a bond that we share, having journeyed through those experiences together. And now I am just so thankful and proud to see how well she is prioritizing herself.

Q: As a sister, and as adults now, how do you see type 1 impacting your sister’s daily life?

A: It’s an everyday, all-day battle for her. Every decision she makes she has to consider how it is going to affect or be affected by her diabetes. It’s exhausting and draining for her. But she fights every day and I’m so proud of her!

"It’s exhausting and draining for her. But she fights every day and I’m so proud of her!"

The Importance of Parents to Children Diagnosed with Diabetes

Q: How do you see the importance of education for parents of type 1 kids?

A: This is so incredibly important to me! A parent of a type 1 kid has to understand that even though they aren’t the one with the disease, they have to pretend they are. They have to learn every element there is to learn about the disease, the care and the dangers. They have to ask all the questions and partner with the doctors. And, most important of all, they have to come alongside and comfort, love, support, and educate their child.

They have to understand that their child’s life has changed forever, and they are the only one with the power to make this adjustment easier for them. To love and support their child, they need to understand that their child is going to make mistakes in their care because there is so much to learn. But then you just have to come alongside them even more with love to teach and support them. Parents have the power to make this easier for their children. 

Diabetes and Faith

Q: How has your faith played a part in how you see diabetes?

A: I think people ask the question “why?” with any difficult thing that you or a loved one goes through in life. One of the hardest parts of having faith is trying to figure out the answer to that question… why does God let bad things happen? And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that unfortunate things are a result of the fallen world we live in. While I wish this disease had never come to my sister, I have seen how God has protected her in this journey and how she has grown. And for that, I am so grateful.

"I have seen how God has protected her in this journey and how she has grown. And for that, I am so grateful."

Q: Do you have specific examples from the Bible or particular verses you recall when you need to be encouraged about all of this?

A: You know, this verse just came to me when thinking about this question:

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:7

It reminds me that in the hardships of life, God asks us to give all our troubles to Him and trust that He will protect and see us through.

Sarah's story of a diabetic sister

I am a wife to an amazing husband, a stay-at-home mother to three beautiful girls, a dog mom to the world’s biggest German Shepherd baby, and I believe that Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I love singing on our worship team at church, sharing essential oils with friends and family (I sell them, too!), and finding any excuse to eat Chinese food and rewatch a show I’ve already watched a hundred times!


If you can relate to Sarah’s story, if you have a loved one who has diabetes, would you please leave a comment? I would love to hear from you!

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