Thatcher Heldring, freelance writer and author focused on Type 1 Diabetes

Thatcher Heldring

Thatcher Heldring is a freelance writer and author focused on Type 1 Diabetes, environmental education, and other issues related to children and health. He has also partnered with clients working on literacy, sustainable communities, youth leadership development, and health policy. Most recently he was the Director of Communications and Creative Services at IslandWood, the Seattle-based outdoor learning organization. He is also the author of four sports novels for young readers and the father of a seven-year old T1 and a 10-year-old T3. You can reach Thatcher through his website at www.spitballinc.com.

When type 1 diabetes (T1D) strikes, it impacts the whole family in every way imaginable, day and night, forever. 

For siblings, the changes that come when a sister or brother is diagnosed with T1D hit like an earthquake, sudden and seismic. With this new addition to the family, there is no nine-month lead-up; no special big  brother or big sister anointment; and no prospect of this unwanted arrival becoming a playmate, an ally, or a punching bag.  

There are silver linings. Call it character building, resilience training, or just life - having T1D in our family has shown us that adversity is a great teacher.  We know more about what’s in our food than we would have otherwise. Our teamwork and communication skills, always works in progress, are battle-tested. And we’ve seen our kids grow in surprising ways. 

Peter (our eight-year-old with T1D) is learning to take ownership of the disease. Meanwhile, Jack, his older brother, is figuring out that Peter and the disease are different things. Even more importantly, Jack is developing a knack for putting complex emotions into words. Here is his take on what it feels like to be jealous of a disease.

- Thatcher Heldring 

"To be Jealous of a Disease" - An Essay by Jack Heldring

My name is Jack Heldring and I’m eleven years old. When my younger brother Peter was three, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The disease has been in our family since. It feels funny to say this about a disease but sometimes I am seriously jealous of Type 1 Diabetes.

The first example is kind of obvious. Sometimes when my brother goes high or low, diabetes gets a ton of attention from my mom and dad. My parents will be in my brother’s room reading to him and I will be making myself cereal for dinner.

Other times when we are somewhere fun and I am enjoying myself, we will have to leave because Peter's blood sugar is high or low. Once we were at Flying Circus and I had just gotten up the ninja wall.  I was so excited, and I wanted my dad to see me do it again, but we had to leave because Peter was low. I remember how I felt sad and kind of mad at diabetes. It was almost like diabetes was getting what it wanted and didn’t care what anyone else thought.  Heldring-Family

There are lots of smaller things that also make me feel envious. Diabetes will sometimes stay up later than me. Diabetes sometimes gets snacks when I don’t, if Peter is low. Or it prohibits me from having a snack when I want one, like if Peter is high. Diabetes even got a phone before me!*  

I use this in life. One thing this has taught me is to not blame others for things I know they can’t control. Sometimes I want  to blame diabetes on Peter but I know that it’s not his fault. I even use this with myself. Like when I am playing soccer and I miss a difficult shot, I always tell myself that it was not my fault, and that there are just some things in life I can’t control.

*Diabetes has a phone to relay real-time blood sugar readings from a device on Peter’s body to his parents. Jack has a phone that shows YouTube videos of dudes pulling pranks.

Living With A Disease

January 18, 2019

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