Type 3 Diabetes?

I recently came across the term “type 3 diabetes.”  It’s a term apparently used for those who love and care for people with diabetes.  I like the idea of being acknowledged and appreciated for the role I play, but I’m not sure about this term.

Giving me the label of having any kind of diabetes seems odd.  I’m grateful that I don’t have diabetes.  My physical health is unimpaired by my daughter’s diabetes.  In fact, it may be positively affected by the better food choices we make, and the focus we put on regular exercise.

At the heart of the term seems to be the idea that a person living with someone with diabetes lives with diabetes too.  This is undeniably true.  We live with the highs and lows and their concurrent physical and mental swings.  We live with the pauses in the day to test, count carbohydrates, change a site or give an injection.  We often live with financial burdens of the disease.  Our homes are full of diabetes stuff.  We experience the frustration and anxiety of diabetes both through our own fears and through concern for the mental health of our loved ones. Diabetes is not ever-present in the way it is for someone diagnosed with the disease; but its’ part of the package of caring about them.

For parents of young children with diabetes, diabetes takes up an even bigger part of one’s life.  An infant or toddler with diabetes needs a parent or caregiver who can test blood sugar, recognize and treat symptoms of highs and lows, administer insulin, calculate corrections, program insulin pumps, analyze blood sugar data, count carbohydrates, plan meals and snacks, anticipate the effect of exercise, lethargy, illness or excitement , schedule and drive to doctor’s appointments, order supplies, and do every other tiny thing an adult with diabetes would do independently.  We’re not pricking our own fingers or getting the shots, but the work part of the disease belongs solely to the grownups.  A parent of an elementary aged child begins to transfer some of these responsibilities, but is still ultimately responsible for the child’s health and well being and must continue to carefully oversee these details.  The social aspects of diabetes begin to get stickier and we must begin to guide our children through situations which, I hear, get even stickier as the middle and high school years approach.  This support and care is provided out of necessity, but fueled by love; a different dynamic than self-care for a disease.

My conclusion is that the term “type 3 diabetes” is at best an awkward one.  It’s a valiant effort to describe the extent to which many people go to care for and support loved ones with diabetes.  It’s a big job and an important one.  But the term itself is confusing and not terribly accurate.

I have a bumper magnet in the shape of a JDRF sneaker, which says, “I Love A Child With Diabetes.”This phrase describes my commitment to my child’s health on a daily basis, and my wish that one day there will be a cure so that I can take a sharpie marker to the last 2 words.  It’s wordier, but I think it better describes my role.

Or, if you prefer, you can just call me supermom. 

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